SKYLAND — The A.L. Brown football team scored twice in the last 3½ minutes — on Cam Kromah’s bomb to Jose Vargas, then Jakhiry Bennett’s 14-yard run — to defeat Asheville T.C. Roberson, 56-50, in a thriller to open the Class 3AA playoffs at Ensley Memorial Stadium.
Bennett, who ran for a career-high 322 yards and four touchdowns, scored the game-winner with 1 minute, 19 seconds remaining.
The Wonders return to the mountains next week to face second-seeded Watauga (11-1) in Boone for a second-round matchup. A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome told the victors in the post-game huddle that a ground battle will be coming up next.
By contrast, the Wonders faced an aerial attack on Friday night, as T.C. Roberson quarterback Brody Whitson passed for 445 yards and six touchdowns.
Both teams had more than 520 net yards, about 135 kickoff return yards, three sacks, lefty quarterbacks, and similar time of possession (25:27 for T.C. Roberson and 22:33 for A.L. Brown).
But playoff-savvy A.L. Brown, the 10th seed, came through in the clutch. The teams exchanged touchdowns throughout the game until Kannapolis scored the final two TDs.
“Great stuff can happen” when you bear down and “play tough,” Newsome told his troops.
A.L. Brown 8-3; T.C. Roberson 5-7
THE PLAY OF THE GAME
The Rams scorched the A.L. Brown defense for most of this chilly night. But in the late going, the Wonders forced T.C. Roberson into its only turnover.
Whitson tossed to lanky receiver Cameron Phillips, who dashed down the left sideline for a 46-yard gain. Just before he headed out of bounds, the ball was poked away. It bounced inbounds and into the hands of senior cornerback Nico Harris.
Harris had been beaten by Ram receivers much of the night, as Newsome noted, but vindicated himself on that huge play.
Instead of T.C. Roberson being set up at the Wonders 25-yard line, the Wonders got the ball back with score tied, 50-50, with 3:12 to play.
The Wonders went back to their devastating ground attack. Three plays in, Bennett breezed 21 yards. Then Todd Kennedy gained 25 on a pass from Kromah.
Bennett ran for 6 yards, then Bennett scored the go-ahead TD, a 14-yard jaunt with 1:19 to go. The PAT kick missed, for the second time of the night, but A.L. Brown seized back the lead and momentum.
T.C. Roberson was down merely six points, but had barely a minute to pull it out and acted dazed. Whitson again threw to Phillips down the left side, this time on a deep route. The ball got there, but he couldn’t hang on to it. Go-to receiver Rodney McDay bobbled a fourth-down pass, as the Rams turned it over on downs. A.L. Brown ran out the clock.
-- Bennett averaged 11.5 yards per carry, and his 322 rushing yards were more than 100 yards more than the Wonders’ team average. The senior scored five of the eight A.L. Brown touchdowns, which included two receptions for 81 yards and a score.
-- Kromah played well in his first playoff game. The sophomore completed seven of 11 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yarder score to Bennett.
-- Kennedy scored twice on runs and added 63 yards.
-- Ty Woods averaged 46 yards on his two points, including one that went for 62 yards.
-- Terry Williams and Dezmond Adams had one sack apiece, while Jatarius Mason and B.J. Foster each registered a half-sack.
-- Whitson attempted 53 passes, completing 32, while posting his 445-yard, six-touchdown night. He didn’t throw any interceptions against a strong A.L. Brown secondary. His longest pass was a 49-yarder to Phillips for a score.
-- The Rams nearly had two players with 200 receiving. Phillips had 10 catches for 203 yards and three touchdowns, while McDay hauled in 16 passes for 199 yards and three scores.
-- Michael Morris had a sack for the Rams.
-- For the third year in a row, A.L. Brown opened the playoffs against a Western Mountain Athletic Conference pass-happy spread offense. The Wonders beat Erwin in 2017, lost to WMAC powerhouse Asheville A.C. Reynolds last year, and this time wore out T.C. Roberson’s defense and scoreboard.
-- The biggest lead of the night was eight points, 21-13 by the Rams.
-- Kromah’s late 41-yard touchdown pass to Vargas was a key play. The 6-foot-3 Vargas said he was overjoyed to see the spiral coming to him as he was in full stride along the sideline. He breezed into the end zone for the score, and Woods’ extra point tied the game at 50 with 3:33 left.
“That was a huge play,” Newsome said.
A.L. Brown 13 8 15 20 -- 56
T.C. Roberson 14 14 15 7 – 50
TCR – Rodney McDay 26 pass from Brody Whitson (Adam Porter kick)
ALB – Jakhiry Bennett 1 run (kick failed)
TCR – McDay 25 pass from Whitson (Porter kick)
ALB – Bennett 55 run (Ty Woods kick)
TCR – Cameron Phillips 49 pass from Whitson (Porter kick)
ALB – Bennett 75 pass from Cam Kromah (Todd Kennedy run)
TCR – Phillips 27 pass from Whitson (Porter kick)
ALB – Kennedy 1 run (Kennedy pass from Kromah)
TCR – Phillips 23 pass from Whitson (McDay pass from Whitson)
ALB – Kennedy 1 run (Woods kick)
TCR – Zharius Looper 19 run (Porter kick)
ALB -- Bennett 4 run (Woods kick)
TCR – McDay 7 pass from Whitson (Porter kick)
ALB – Jose Vargas 41 pass from Kromah (Woods kick)
ALB – Bennett 14 run (kick failed)