KANNAPOLIS – Cream of Cabarrus third-ranked Central Cabarrus built a four-touchdown lead, then held off a second-half comeback by fourth-ranked A.L. Brown to secure a 31-27 victory in Friday at Kannapolis Memorial Stadium.
After losing the first 25 games in this series, Central Cabarrus has now won two games in a row against the Wonders. Last year, the Vikings defeated the Wonders, 33-30, capped by an overtime touchdown run by then-sophomore DeAndre Boykins.
With the help of three interceptions Friday, including a “Pick 6” by senior Khalil Ford, the Vikings held a 28-0 advantage fewer than two minutes into the second quarter.
Central Cabarrus withstood the Wonders’ response with a serviceable ball-control offense, especially in the fourth quarter. The Vikings gained first downs four times on third down in the final period and held the ball for more than 10 minutes during that span.
“I thought our offensive line played extremely well,” said winning coach Kenneth McClamrock. “I thought Solomon Faulkner (74 yards) and DeAndre Boykins (101 yards) ran the ball extremely well.
“And I was really proud of (quarterback) Dajon Johnson, the way he led the team late in the game. He converted a first down himself late, which was a huge play.”
Senior running back Jakhiry Bennett and the combination of quarterback Cameron Kromah and receiver Jose Vargas led the A.L. Brown comeback.
Bennett scored on runs of 60 and 66 yards, and finished with 188 yards on 13 carries. Kromah and Vargas connected on two third-quarter touchdown passes.
“Too little, too late,” said A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome. “If you take away the first 14 minutes of the game, we win 27-3. That just ain’t enough to win the rest of it. We just have to figure out how to start faster. That’s killed us all year long.”
Central Cabarrus 5-2 overall, 1-0 South Piedmont 3A; A.L. Brown 4-2, 0-1 South Piedmont 3A
THE PLAY OF THE GAME
At the time, Ford’s 35-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1 minute, 44 seconds left in the second quarter seemed like just another score in Central Cabarrus’ early onslaught. It was the Vikings’ fourth touchdown, but it ended up being the game’s decisive points.
The senior defensive back scored by smothering an errant pass in a wide-open space and heading up the right sideline. He sidestepped a tackler inside the 5-yard line and escaped across the goal line.
The only points Central Cabarrus scored after Ford’s touchdown were a third-quarter field goal by Jaciel Garibo.
-- Johnson completed 15 of 20 pass attempts for 151 yards. His lone scoring toss came on a fourth-and-5 play from the Wonders’ 20 to Arthur Bailey.
-- Boykins’ interception on the second play of the game gave Central Cabarrus the ball at the A.L. Brown 10-yard line. He scored on a four-yard run two plays later. Boykins added a six-yard touchdown run on the last play of the first quarter.
-- Kevin Clerge had one of Central Cabarrus’ interceptions, and Austin Himes and Native Johnson both recovered fumbles.
-- Vargas caught four passes for 88 yards and two scores. On his 43-yard touchdown catch, he made the grab at the Central Cabarrus 32, stiffed-armed a tackler around the 20 and stumbled the rest of the way before flipping over the goal line.
-- Defensively, Josiah Cauthen, Khalil Blanton, Torren Wright, Brycen Schenck, and Terry Williams all had at least five tackles.
-- In a simple, understated homecoming ceremony, A.L. Brown still brought the spirit. Numerous musicians participated in Alumni Band night, and the varsity and junior squads fielded at least 37 cheerleaders. Fellow cheerleader Jakira Gaither was crowned homecoming queen.
-- Dajon Johnson was extremely valuable on Central Cabarrus’ final possession when it was trying to kill the clock. He gained 18 yards to the Wonders’ 16 on a third-and-7 with 2 ½ minutes left. Then he intentionally ran backward twice and took a knee, losing 24 yards just to wipe off time. On fourth down, he pooched a punt into the A.L. Brown end zone, leaving fewer than four seconds on the clock.
WHAT’S UP NEXT?
Central Cabarrus hosts top-ranked Northwest Cabarrus next Friday, while A.L. Brown plays at Cox Mill.
Central Cabarrus 21 7 3 0 -- 31
A.L. Brown 0 7 14 6 -- 27
CC – DeAndre Boykins 4 run (Jay Rodgers-Freeman run)
CC – Arthur Bailey 20 pass from Dajon Johnson (Jaciel Garibo kick)
CC – Boykins 6 run (kick failed)
CC – Khalil Ford 35 interception return (Garibo kick)
ALB – Jakhiry Bennett 60 run (Mario Carmona kick)
ALB – Jose Vargas 25 pass from Cameron Kromah (Carmona kick)
CC – Garibo 23 field goal
ALB – Vargas 43 pass from Kromah (Carmona kick)
ALB – Bennett 66 run (kick blocked)