Spencer runs wild on Wonders
KANNAPOLIS — A.L. Brown probably would’ve beaten Vance on Saturday if running back Donnavan Spencer had missed the bus, but Spencer was not only present, he was on a mission.
The junior speedster had a career game that he dedicated to his late grandfather and crushed the Wonders with 405 rushing yards on 30 carries. Spencer sped to the end zone four times and led his team to a 48-35 Mecka road victory.
Spencer isn’t large (5-10, 180), but he has 4.5 speed and is strong for his size. He had 200 yards for the Cougars (5-1, 2-0) before the end of the first quarter, and it was clear history was taking place. Even in a stadium where Nick Maddox ran wild in the late 1990s, no one had ever seen anything like it. Charlotte media declared Spencer’s rushing total a Mecklenburg County single-game record.
Spencer broke three long touchdown runs and added a 70-yard jaunt to the 1-yard line. His final TD with 42 seconds left in the game came from the Brown 3.
“I’ve never had a game anything like that,” Spencer said. “It was an amazing night for me, but most of the credit goes to my offensive line. And I credit my coach (Aaron Brand). He told me to go get it. He told me to go get 500 if I could.”
Vance’s mammoth offensive line, anchored by 6-foot-6, 315 pound right tackle Tierre Clyburn, outweighed the Wonders by 100 pounds in some matchups. A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome saw size as the biggest factor.
“I can’t tell you how hard our kids fought,” Newsome said. “Some of our kids fought so hard on every down they could barely walk off that field. Vance is big, they’re fast, and they’re very good.”
Vance overwhelmed the Wonders early, forcing punts and scoring at will. Spencer had touchdown dashes of 56 and 58 yards in the books midway through the first quarter. Then he went 70 yards to the 1 to set up a sneak by QB Omar Baker Jr. to make it 20-0.
“Our kids wanted the challenge of playing A.L. Brown in Kannapolis, a very tough environment against a well-coached team with a very good gameplan,” Brand said. “Even at 6 o’clock on a Saturday, our kids had their heads straight, they had good focus and they were ready to play.”
It was a game Brand aptly described as “topsy-turvy.” Down 20-0, the Wonders scored 21 straight.
The rally started quietly with a fourth-down stop by Christian Neal and Denzel Sherer, and QB Damon Johnson scrambled around right end for the TD that cut Vance’s lead to 20-7.
The Wonders had a chance to go the locker room down 20-14, but Johnson threw a first-down pick with his team driving at the Vance 28.
“Damon had a lot of heat on him because we missed a block and he made his only bad decision all night,” Newsome said. “He played really well. He grew a lot, and this game will boost his confidence.”
The Wonders took over the game temporarily in the third quarter.
“We’re a second-half team.” running back Jayln Cagle said. “And it’s not like we’re gonna let anyone come in here and stomp us.”
After Johnson hit Brylan Weaks with a the first of his three TD passes and Sandon McCoy powered into the end zone from the 5, the surging Wonders led 21-20 late in the third quarter.
“It was like we got disinterested after we got the big lead, and then we’re down in the third quarter on the road,” Brand said. “I challenged our guys. They answered the bell, took control of the game back.”
Baker became more assertive and drove his team 68 yards with his strong arm and quick legs for the pivotal, go-ahead score. After a 75-yard scoring run by Spencer and a TD pass from Baker to Jeremiah Hall, Vance was back on top 42-21 with just 5:00 left.
“Coach said we had to step on the gas pedal if we were going to get the win,” Spencer said. “We did.”
The Wonders (3-3, 1-1) didn’t go quietly. Johnson threw scoring passes to Daveon Perry and Weaks to cut Vance’s lead to 42-35 with 2:33 left, but it was over after the Wonders failed to recover the onside kick.
Johnson threw for 200 yards and Cagle and McCoy teamed for 146 rushing yards, but the night belonged to a visitor who wanted to honor his grandfather.
“He’d kind of trained me to be a basketball star,” Spencer said with a smile. “But I’m not very tall.”
Brand’s team has a chance to make some noise.
“We had a kid have a great game tonight, but Donnavan is in shape, he works hard, and he deserves it,” Brand said. “Why not Donnavan — and why not Vance?”
Follow Mike London on Twitter at @mikelondonpost3.