Close early, but A.L. Brown pulls away from West Rowan

Published 12:55 am Thursday, September 13, 2018

By David Shaw

KANNAPOLIS —If West Rowan was looking for trouble, it came to the right place Wednesday night.

Eighteen years after beating A.L. Brown for the first time in a memorable South Piedmont Conference showdown, the Falcons are still looking to do it again. Last night at Memorial Stadium — where West has never prevailed —the host Wonders delivered a spirited punch in the mouth.

“I think we came out sluggish and were never into it,” defensive end Levontae Jacobs said, after the Falcons dropped a 42-13 non-league decision. “That’s part of it. They were also a lot better tonight.”

The scoreboard testified as much. Playing mid-week due to an imminent hurricane, West (2-2) looked unprepared for Brown’s damn-the-torpedoes offense that featured a circus of big plays.

“Their defense was giving us the short, easy plays,” winning quarterback Jordan Medley said after the Wonders improved to 3-2. “That just opened up bigger plays for me to run and throw.”

Medley had a field day at West’s expense, passing for 260 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for two additional scores. Brown’s well-oiled offense amassed 481 total yards and scored on five consecutive possessions to crack open what had been a tight, scoreless first quarter. The Wonders recorded 11 plays that gained at least 15 yards and two that topped 40.

“They came out, they executed and they made plays when we didn’t,” said disappointed West coach Joe Nixon. “We didn’t do enough.”

West didn’t do much, particularly on defense. It was a 7-7 match midway through the second period before Brown scored three touchdowns in less than four minutes. Medley launched the pivotal sequence with a 6-yard TD pass to 6-3 junior Jose Vargas on the left side with 3:45 remaining in the half. Following a quick three-and-out, Jaron Cooper took a handoff and scored on a 27-yard sweep to the left, again attacking the spongy right side of West’s defense. And when Brown regained possession with 59.2 seconds on the clock, Medley directed a 69-yard scoring drive capped by Nick Lyerly’s 9-yard touchdown catch — on a left-side lob — with 0:00 remaining.

“Scoring with no time left, that was a big play,” Medley said. “It took the soul out of them. Up 28-7 at the half, I ain’t saying that’s comfortable. But it sure felt pretty good.”

Brown’s dagger-in-the-heart scoring drive included Medley’s 45-yard sideline completion to receiver Antonio Knight (6 catches/108 yards). A horse-collar penalty against the Falcons — one of their 15 infractions — moved the ball to the nine with just seconds to go.

“Mainly, it was just blown assignments,” said West linebacker Daniel Durham. “We couldn’t get lined up right and kept getting plays wrong. They were good at blocking us and using their speed to get to the outside. Once they got around the corner, it was basically an open field.”

There was some good news for West. Quarterback Payne Stolsworth and wideout Jalen Houston remain the county’s hottest combo after connecting four times for 88 yards — including a 37-yard touchdown play early in the second half. Stolsworth finished with 176 passing yards and two touchdown throws, but he spent much of the night running from the surge of hungry defenders.

“We knew we were facing adversity this week,” said Knight, who joined Lyerly (7 catches/117 yards) as a 100-yard receiver. “Everyone’s up against the storm. We’ve known since Monday we could be playing tonight. Whoever dealt with that adversity best, they would win the game.”

West may have sealed its fate late in the first quarter, when Stolsworth marched his unit to Brown 3-yard line following a fumble recovery by Jacobs deep in enemy territory. But on first-and-goal, a false start backed the Falcons up five yards. On second-and-goal, an illegal-man-downfield penalty moved the ball to the 15. Then came two incompletions and a fourth-down sack, ending the threat.

“Yeah, it was tight early,” Nixon said. “And we had some chances, but didn’t finish a couple drives. After that we were just trying to hold on until halftime.”

Brown extended its lead to 35-13 on Medley’s 10-yard bootleg early in the third quarter and added a rub-it-in touchdown when Knight scored on an 11-yard reception with 10:47 to play.

“We can’t hang our heads and blame each other,” Durham said. “We’ve been working four weeks to win this game. We’ve just got to go back to practice and work even harder.”

NOTES: Stolsworth completed 14 of 31 passes without throwing an interception. He was sacked three times and lost a fourth-quarter fumble that Brown’s Alante Johnson recovered. … West’s running game never found its legs (44 yards rushing), but senior Jaden Perry had 76 on 16 carries. … Ty’kese Warren scored West’s first touchdown on a first-quarter pass from Stolsworth. … Both teams return to action on Sept. 21. The Falcons host Concord and Brown entertains Davie County.