Cabarrus

Wonders adjust to new coach

Since coach Mike Newsome's hiring at A.L. Brown in May, the Wonders have had to quickly adjust to a new system.

The first-year Kannapolis coach said how fast his players master his schemes will determine how far his team can go this season.

The Wonders move to a variable spread offense that Newsome has perfected the last few seasons at Butler. He explained that his players are still in the process of grasping his system.

"We just threw a whole lot of information at them, and now we're trying to polish things up before we play our first game," said Newsome. "Right now, we're not where we need to be... but once it starts clicking we could be really, really good."

Newsome's offense usually runs out of a one-back formation, although it's not rare to see them go to two tight ends or backs without changing personnel on the field.

"We get defenses so many different looks that it gives those defenses fits," said Newsome.

A.L. Brown will be led by senior Damien Washington, who will start as the team's half-back but will move around and see time at receiver and even quarterback. Newsome has been impressed by the recent North Carolina commit.

"He's one of our best players," said Newsome. "He's a huge part of our offense. .... It'll be a lot of 'get (the ball) in Damien Washington's hands.' "

Keeon Johnson and Donte Pinkston have also stood out for Newsome as wide receivers.

Who will throw them the ball is still up in the air. Quarterbacks Keenan Medley and Brandon Eppinger are battling for the starting position. Newsome said Medley is better able to run the ball, while Eppinger may have a better arm.

"They both fit into our offense," said Newsome. "We might have packages for both of them."

A big blow to the Wonder offense was losing center Hunter Morris to a leg injury. Massey, who's hopeful to have Morris back late in the season, hopes the rest of the line steps up in his absence.

Defensively, players are further along, keeping the same 4-3 scheme they have run in the past.

"We're going to rely on them heavily probably the first couple of weeks while we go through some growing pains offensively," said Newsome.

Seniors Gerald Holt, Darius Rice and Jericho Rivers will show the way on the line, a unit Newsome has high expectations for, even saying it's "unbelievable."

The Wonders will also have experience in the secondary, where Kaleel Hollis, who Newsome said might be the toughest guy on the team, will lead the way.

Juniors J.P. Lott and Kalif Phillips, who should also see time at running back, will also help the secondary.

Newsome said the linebackers will be the team's most inexperienced group.

Coming off two 4AA state titles at Butler, Newsome said continuing to win state titles in Kannapolis will be his goal each and every season - even as his team is still adjusting to him and his play book.

"All the pieces of the puzzle are there to do that, but we're going to have to do some things as coaches to put pieces in the right spot," he said.

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