Nose tackle Kendall Holmes
KANNAPOLIS — Some of A.L. Brown’s toughest battles this season have been in practice.
A.L. Brown’s center Kaleb Spry is almost 6-foot-3 and almost 270 pounds and is a Western Carolina commitment, but he has his work cut out in practice working against the Wonders’ nose tackle Kendall Holmes.
Both are enormously strong teenagers and both bench-press well over 300 pounds.
“We’ve worked hard against each other,” said Holmes, who was again named the Wonders’ Hawg of the Week after a dominating performance in a 66-14 victory against West Charlotte. “I know I’ve made Kaleb better by pushing him, and I’m sure he’d give me that same respect.”
Holmes is a 5-10, 290-pound Charles Barkley type. He’s not only as thick as a $25 steak, he has the quick feet and quick hands of a boxer.
“Holmes is not necessarily fast, but quickness and speed are two different things, and his quickness is just amazing,” Wonders offensive line coach Todd Hagler said. “His hands are extremely fast and he understands leverage. He’s a handful for us to try to block in practice, so I’m sure it’s not easy to block him on Friday nights.”
Not many schools honor a “Hawg of the Week,” but the Wonders always recognize an offensive or defensive lineman after a victory. They have enjoyed seven of them this season.
“I think that award is important because the linemen don’t always get to wow you with their stats,” A.L. Brown head coach Mike Newsome said. “We ask our defensive linemen to control their gap so our linebackers can run to the hole and run to the ball and make the tackles, so it’s easy for that defensive linemen to get overlooked. They don’t get a plaque or anything, just the recognition from the staff, but they do like being named ‘Hawg of the Week.’”
Holmes has started three years, so if he had a dollar for every time he’s been the top “Hawg,” he’d be on his way to early retirement.
“He’s very quick off the ball, a dominant defensive lineman, certainly the most dominant guy we have,” Newsome said. “He’s not blessed with inches, but if he was 6-3 instead of 5-10, he’d be an All-American. Other than his height, he’s shaped like an NFL guy.”
Holmes credits his father for his unusual skill set.
“I’ve always been a big guy and my dad always worked with me on quickness,” Holmes said. “As a shorter guy, I’ve learned to use my hands. While I don’t have a lot of inches, I can use my arms as my height.”
The Wonders had dropped two in a row before beating West Charlotte. They lost to 4A MECKA opponents Cornelius Hough and Mallard Creek, two of the state’s top teams.
“I looked at those games as an opportunity for me and my teammates,” Holmes said. “We had a great defensive performance against Hough. Mallard Creek and Hough, those are great teams, but we hung with those guys. We held our own.”
Playing against West Charlotte had to be a relief after Hough and Mallard Creek, but Holmes said the game with the WC Lions was tougher than the score.
“They were competition, they made us work, and they earned my respect,” he said. “I actually got off to kind of a slow start, but once I got my bearings, I believe I shocked some people with the quick spins I made. I was able to make some runs at the quarterback.”
Brown’s defense has been immensely improved this season, even with the move to 4A to play monsters like Mallard Creek. The Wonders’ points allowed are down from 38.6 to 21.5, and they’re controlling the line of scrimmage a lot more often — allowing 77 fewer rushing yards per contest.
“We’ve come together a lot as a defense,” Holmes said. “Going up to 4A and having a lot of people doubting us, we’ve taken a chip on our shoulder into every game.”
Tonight, the Wonders play at home at against Huntersville Hopewell.
They’ll be looking for win No. 8, third place in the MECKA, and another “Hawg of the Week.”