High school football: Wonders to rely on explosive offense, strong defense
Fifth in a series of reports on local high schools …
A.L. BROWN FOOTBALL
Coach: Mike Newsome (10th year, 78-37 at A.L. Brown, overall record 172-54)
2019 record: 8-4 overall (3-2 3A South Piedmont Conference, tied, 3rd)
2019 ranking in state: 77th out of 410
2019 ranking in 3A: 29th out of 109
Playoffs: Beat TC Roberson, lost to Watauga
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — A.L. Brown’s football program righted the ship to some extent in 2019, boosting the total of wins from six to eight.
But unusual things still happened.
There was a second straight loss to Northwest Cabarrus and a second straight loss to Central Cabarrus.
There were 105 points allowed in two playoff outings — a 56-50 victory and a 55-28 loss.
Heading into this shortened COVID season, there are expectations inside and outside the program that the Wonders are primed for an upward move. With an offense that should be as explosive as it was in 2019 and a defense that figures to be stingier, many prognosticators see the Wonders as the team to beat in the South Piedmont Conference.
“That’s the plan — that’s always the plan,” head coach Mike Newsome said. “But we’ve still got to go out and make it a reality. We’ve got a lot of strong, fast guys, but we’d always like them to be even faster and stronger than they are.”
The Wonders lost Jakhiry Bennett, who produced eight 100-yard rushing games, but they return quarterback Cam Kromah, who threw for 1,685 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore.
“I’ve coached a lot of good quarterbacks, and he’s got a chance to be as good as any of them,” Newsome said.
Even without Bennett, running back won’t be much of an issue.
Jamison Flowe was actually ahead of Bennett on the depth chart when he was injured and lost for the entire 2019 season. Now he’s back 100%.
“Bennett got close to 2,000 yards last season and Flowe could’ve been that guy,” Newsome said.
Todd Kennedy was strong as the second running back last season (82 carries, 531 yards). He’s also back. A host of other hopefuls, such as sophomore Jamaree Robinson, Jamel Cosby and blazer Amareon Plummer, are touchdowns waiting to happen. They just need carries, and there’s a waiting list.
“We’ve got a very talented group of backs,” Newsome said. “That’s our deepest position.”
The receiving corps is led by Isaiah Black, who has just reported full-time from basketball. Black caught five TD passes in 2019. He’s also the backup QB.
Others who figure to be on the receiving end of Kromah’s aerials are Jackson Coward, a great route-runner, Jacob Booker and JJ Guin. Jaden Johnson figures to be in the H-back role.
“It’s another group we feel good about,” Newsome said. “We’re in very good shape as far as the skill guys on offense.”
The offensive line causes a bit of concern, not because of quality, but because of depth.
“We’re a little thin there, but we’ve got some big guys,” Newsome said. “We’ll be bigger than we’ve been in a while.”
Junior Erwil Anthony is 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. Junior Javaryon Bruton is 6-4, 295. Veterans Nathan Baucom (5-11, 280) and Luke Stone (6-3, 255) aren’t small.
Noah Rich will play some center on offense and some nose guard on defense.
“Defense is where we’ve had the most change, as far as personnel and as far as coaches,” Newsome said.
Torren Wright, an impressive junior linebacker who has Division I offers, figures to be a leader.
A name to know is Antarron Turner, who moved to Kannapolis from Florida a year ago, but hasn’t had a chance to play football yet. He’s 6-2 and 210.
“He looks like Torren Wright’s twin brother,” Newsome said. “And that’s a good thing.”
Brycen Schenck is an undersized linebacker, but he gets people on the ground. He led the Wonders in tackles in 2019.
“He’s a sideline to sideline tackler,” Newsome said.
Running backs Kennedy and Robinson can play some linebacker.
Booker has been a three-year starter in the defensive secondary and has played both corner and safety. Trent Thompson, Keidren Lott, CJ Wilson, Justin Morgan and Braden White have a good grasp of the scheme.
Ja’Lan Chambers and sophomore Teddy Russell are impressive athletes. They’ll play somewhere, probably in the secondary.
The defensive line isn’t as deep as some of the other position groups, but Malik Morrison makes up for some of that. He’s 6-1, 340.
“He’s a big hole-plugger,” Newsome said.
Kevin Nava is an experienced defensive end. Defensive end Jaleel Pemberton relies on quickness.
“He’s been unblockable,” Newsome said. “He’s too quick off the ball.”
Anthony will help out some on defense.
Ty Woods is back to handle kicking and punting duties.
“He’s been winning a lot of camp awards,” Newsome said. “He’s not kicking off quite to the end zone yet, but he’s really accurate. He’s got a chance to be a Division I kicker.”
It sounds like the Wonders are in fine shape, although Newsome cautions that it’s been a challenge following all the COVID protocols.
The Wonders thrive on outworking everyone else in the off-season, and they couldn’t have their standard spring and summer.
The majority of Cabarrus schools now have turf fields. Newsome said those turf fields have been in great demand during a soggy February. He’s gotten calls from as far away as Winston-Salem wanting to practice or play on the Wonders’ turf that was installed in 2019.
“Lacrosse is big in Winston-Salem, so they’ve got soccer now on Monday and Wednesday, boys lacrosse on Tuesday and girls lacrosse on Thursday,” Newsome said. “Then football on Friday. Grass fields can’t hold up to that kind of use. We’re helping out as many people as we can for a small fee. With only 100 fans being allowed at the football games, we can use the income.”
South Rowan has played two soccer matches at A.L. Brown, while Carson’s football team has practiced on the Wonders’ turf.
COVID uncertainty and other factors have reduced the Wonders’ numbers.
There are only 45 varsity players, instead of the normal 55 to 60. Newsome said there are 35 to 40 jayvees. Under normal conditions, the Wonders might have 65 kids in uniform on Thursday nights.
“Our quantity is down, but our quality is up,” Newsome said. “We’ve got a chance to be good.”
That’s the plan. That’s always the plan.
The Wonders will head to the 4A ranks in the fall of 2021, although it should be a positive. They’ll be in a league with Iredell and Cabarrus schools, not Charlotte schools.
A.L. Brown schedule
Feb. 26 … NW Cabarrus
March 5 … at Central Cabarrus
March 12 … Cox Mill
March 19 … West Cabarrus
March 26 … South Meck
April 1 … at Robinson
April 9 … at Concord
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