CONCORD — With less than a minute to go and Cream of Cabarrus fourth-ranked A.L. Brown’s lead seemingly slipping away with every Cox Mill pass completion that gained a first down, it became likely that the only thing that would save the Wonders was an expiration of the clock or something heroic.
The fifth-ranked Chargers had covered 67 yards in fewer than two minutes on seven plays and an A.L. Brown roughing-the-passer penalty. On second down from the Wonders’ 16-yard line, A.L. Brown junior defensive back Jacob Booker waited on an errant Cox Mill pass just a few yards downfield and returned his interception 90 yards up the left sideline for a score.
Booker’s “Pick-6” clinched a 29-19 victory, allowing the A.L. Brown football team to complete a comeback from a nine-point deficit it faced late in the third quarter.
“I saw that the linebackers got pressure (on the quarterback) and my man (I was covering) slowed down, so I just saw the ball and picked it off,” said Booker. “I saw green grass from there.”
Jakhiry Bennett, who rushed for a career-high 270 yards on 28 carries, scored from five yards with 6 minutes, 4 seconds left in the game to give A.L. Brown a 23-19 advantage, its first lead of the game.
After an exchange of possessions, Cox Mill took over at its 17 with 2:40 remaining. Pass completions from quarterback Varney Farhnbullah to Jelynn Barnett, Wesley Poindexter and Luke Sutton all gained first downs and led to the Chargers’ scoring threat before Booker’s interception.
“At that point and time, (A.L. Brown) can kind of pin their ears back and come get us and get a shot at it,” said Cox Mill coach Craig Stewart of the fate-sealing interception. “You kind of hope you can get rid of the football in time. I think (Farhnbullah) was right in the middle of his throw and got hit, and they made a good play.”
A.L. Brown 5-2, 1-1 South Piedmont 3A Conference; Cox Mill 4-4, 1-1 South Piedmont 3A
THE PLAY OF THE GAME
The most admirable part of Booker’s long interception return was how the play ended. Booker was noticeably exhausted after scampering 90 yards for the game-clinching touchdown, but he kept his cool.
After being swarmed by all of his teammates who were on the field during the play, Booker, who was still holding on to the ball, went well out of his way to seek out a referee so that he could gently flip it to him. Booker was visibly stumbling with fatigue as he then made his way to the Wonders’ bench.
“I was about to fall out on the field,” said Booker. “That was a show of respect. I didn’t want to showboat.”
» Todd Kennedy, Jr. scored two short touchdowns but had only 17 yards rushing on five carries.
» Josiah Cauthen, Khalil Blanton, Dezmond Adams, Booker, Brycen Schenck and Jatarius Mason all had at least five tackles. Adams also had an interception, and Blanton recovered a fumble.
» Sam Weber kicked field goals of 26 and 25 yards.
» Farhnbullah completed 20 of 39 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown.
» In the first half, Christian Henry caught nine Farhnbullah completions in a row for 157 yards but did not make a reception after halftime.
» Sutton had all three of his receptions in the second half for 120 yards, including a 68-yard catch-and-run to the A.L. Brown 8-yard line that set up one of Weber’s field goals.
» Cox Mill intercepted A.L. Brown’s last pass of the second half and its first pass of the second half. The second one was returned 45 yards for a touchdown by Cameron Webb.
» The Chargers’ first interception came with 13 seconds left in the second quarter. Cox Mill completed two quick passes, and a third attempt was ruled incomplete in the end zone, even though it appeared the Chargers’ receiver was blatantly pushed out of bounds by a defender well before the ball arrived.
» The game was delayed almost 30 minutes in the fourth quarter when Cox Mill receiver Kendrick Caldwell was injured on a catch and was taken from the field by ambulance.
“The doctors and the trainers were sitting down there (on the field with Caldwell), and they were talking low so I’m not quite sure what (the injury) was,” said Stewart. “More or less, it seemed like it was precautionary just to send him to the hospital.”
WHAT’S UP NEXT?
A.L. Brown visits top-ranked Northwest Cabarrus next week, while Cox Mill travels to Jay M. Robinson.
A.L. Brown 0 10 6 13 — 29
Cox Mill Mill 0 10 9 0 — 19
CM — Christian Henry 35 pass from Varney Farhnbullah (Sam Weber kick)
ALB — Mario Carmona 25 field goal
ALB — Todd Kennedy Jr. 4 run (Carmona kick)
CM — Weber 26 field goal
CM — Weber 25 field goal
CM — Cameron Webb 45 interception return (kick failed)
ALB — Kennedy, Jr. 1 run (kick blocked)
ALB — Jakhiry Bennett 5 run (Carmona kick)
ALB — Jacob Booker 90 interception return (kick failed)