Monday Morning QB - Alumni Game
April 7, 2014By Kevin McCloskey of Western Alamance High School
Disclaimer: If anyone from EA reads this, please keep in mind that it is writtern from a WA perspective. But please also keep in mind that I have immense respect for EA. There are no slights intended. I just happen to be a Warrior!
To be completely honest.... In the days leading up to the game, I wasn't sure quite what to expect. In all likelihood, the game would take on the following characteristics (or so I thought):
- Lots of mistakes
- Playing just for "fun"
- "Taking it easy" on each other
- Trying not to embarass yourself
- Trying not to get hurt (I expected lots of injuries). Seriously... I told several people... "Full contact??? This is NOT good. Whose idea was this???"
- Some goofing off; clowning around
- Essentially.... A glorified Flag Football game.
- And, yes... I was expecting a few clips for next year's "Cmon Man!" segment! :)
Boy was I W-R-O-N-G!!!!
All of these things permeated the atmosphere at AM Primm Stadium leading up to kickoff and throughout the game. In all sincerity, this game exceeded my wildest expectations by leaps and bounds. To say this game was a huge success would be an understatement.
As I commented on Facebook on Saturday evening.... This was more than a game. It was an "Event."
It was like taking Homecoming + multiple class reunions + a football game and rolling them all together into one incredible evening.
The turnout was amazing. WA had a deep roster. And the fans showed up to super-charge the stadium! My only disappointment was that no one from the newspaper or TV showed up to cover the game because they should have! Oh well. At least you've got us here at ihigh! :)
Some words and phrases that were being discussed on Saturday evening:
- "I never thought I would ever play on this field again..."
- "This is like 'Fantasy Football' for WA & EA"
- "I can't believe I am playing alongside of....."
- "There are so many legends here. I just can't believe it."
- "Its an honor to play with this guy."
- "I can't wait to do it again!"
Saturday night was truly a walk down memory lane. Just look at the roster; its a veritable "Who's Who" of WA football for the past 2 decades.
Memories were re-lived and memories were made!
Using the NFL as an example (but from a WA perspective), watching this game was akin to watching:
- Bret Favre throwing to Paul Warfield
- Johnny Unitas handing off to Gale Sayers
- Mean Joe Greene lining up beside Michael Strahan
- Dick Butkus teaming up with Ronnie Lott on a crunching tackle
- Anthony Munoz paving the way for Barry Sanders around the corner
YES! I AM EXAGGERATING! A LOT! I know that!
But where else are you going to see Nigel Carlton passing to Levon Curtis? Or Ricky Rose blocking for Tremaine Springfield? Or the Graves brothers (Marquis & Chris) in the same defensive backfield? Or WA coaches playing alongside their former students/players?
Simply put... It was the stuff that WA Football dreams are made of!
Now lets talk about the game itself!
Sure... Not everyone was in tip-top shape. And not everyone got in enough practice time. But all-in-all, it was a very well-played game. And make no mistake... This was a REAL game. The intensity was there. The physicality was there. And the execution was there (for the most part).
But a "major" controversy (another exaggeration) erupted during the opening coin toss and almost ruined the entire evening. WA won the toss and Captain Michael Phillips ('97) told the ref, "We want the ball."
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING MICHAEL?!?!? That was not the correct call!
Just moments before, the Warrior coaching staff had informed everyone in the locker room that we would defer and go on defense first.
So another Captain took charge. Josh Cranfill ('03) reversed the decision and order was restored to the universe! WA would go on defense to open the game. A very good omen indeed! What would we do without Coach/Captain Cranfill!
As is typically the case in an "opening" game, both defenses were way ahead of the offenses. So even with considerable starpower and firepower on the offensive side of the ball, points were scarce and difficult to come by.
The Warriors did march deep into Eagle territory to open the game. Unfortunately, the Eagles swarmed placekicker Brian Vaughn's ('04) field goal attempt; blocking the kick and sending the Eagle faithful into a frenzy. For the rest of the first quarter, it was a defensive struggle.
But early in Q2, the Warriors got on the board. QB Nigel "The Ninja" Carlton ('13) found former teammate, Quinton Richmond ('12) running free over the middle and hit Richmond in stride for a 24-yd TD strike! Vaughn's PAT was good and the Warriors jumped on top, 7-0.
That was all the points the Warriors would need as the defense was outstanding and wreaked havoc on the Eagle offense. The Eagles did get off 2 long FG attemps but both fell short to ensure the shutout.
For good measure, QB Nigel Carlton called his own number and scampered 7 yards to paydirt early in Q4 to put the game out of reach. WA was on cruise control and in full celebratory mode for the later part of Q4.
- Specialist MVP - Brian Vaughn
- Offensive MVP - Quinton Richmond
- Defensive MVP - Mitch Mitchener
- Oldest Player - Greg McKinney ('83). The big fella got a nice workout in the trenches.
- Game MVP - Nigel Carlton
My Personal Observations (just random thoughts in no particular order)
- A couple of EA notes to get things started:
- OH MY GOODNESS! #32 for EA graduated from high school in 1972. Think about that for a moment. He had to be 59 or 60 years old! I only saw him on one play and he got nailed. But at least he did it! This guy has my respect!
- #99 (Isaac Alston) was a beast! Where did EA get that guy? He looked like he could play college football right now. #6 (Maurice Torrain) was also a very good player on both sides of the ball for the Eagles.
- I came away impressed with #9 (QB - Shannon Smith) and his post-game comments. Totally a class act!
Now for WA
- It sure was great to see former coach and Warrior legend, Hal Capps at the game along with his lovely wife, Wendy. In retrospect, the evening would not have been complete absent the presence of Coach Capps.
- Brian Vaughn kicked very well. He made both of his PAT's and his kickoffs were high & deep. WA kickers are in good hands (and feet) when instructed by Coach Vaughn.
- Levon Curtis looked really good. To me, watching Levon play is like watching a video game.... Jab; Juke; Spin; Accelerate! #35 had several nice receptions for big yardage over the middle. He's not the biggest guy on the field, but he will always be one of the toughest.
- Allen Black is still one of the biggest trashtalkers to ever wear the blue & white! I can say that because Allen knows I love him (and he's afraid of me too - just ask him)! He knows I'll go "Beast Mode" on him in a heartbeat! :) And 9 times out of 10, Allen backs up his talk with performance! On Saturday evening, AB had some nasty blocks that were absolute pancake dominations!
- I was truly amazed at how well-played the game was (especially for WA). Kudos to the Warrior coaches (Hambright and Jones) for leading this team.
- The Graves brothers were strong in run support and pass coverage. Both Chris ('05) and Marquis ('08) had beatiful PBUs that were highlight moments. Chris almost had a pick had he not been jerked down by the back of his jersey.
- Mitch Mitchener ('05) was a wildman! He was all over the field. Mitchener caused 1 fumble and very nearly returned an errant onside kick for a Warrior TD. Now wouldn't that have been something!
- Keith Poole ('03) with a pick on the goalline to thwart EAs only real scoring threat and also a near pick-6 in 1st qtr. Poole also had a big hit to help break up a long EA pass over the middle. We interviewed Keith after his interception and the emotion of playing in this game was evident. A dream come true!
- Nigel was... well... Nigel. The Ninja! A dual-threat in every sense of the word. A Field General and leader to the max! As Ricky Portela says... Nigel is like the Elon, NC version of Russell Wilson. That's high praise indeed!
- Will Johnson ('13) told me his goal was to make 1 tackle. He did much more. I thought Will played a very solid game.
- The bearded wonder, Wes Kiser ('03), played stout along the DL.
- Matt Ledbetter ('00) is still in "game shape" and loved every minute of action. He's still got wheels and showed the speed & quickness of a current player.
- Dustin "Rambo" Ramsey ('04) gets the most intense Warrior award. After one vicious hit late in the game, Rambo let out a Ric Flair like 'Wooooooooooooooo!" yell that could be heard throughout the stadium. He was playing for keeps!
- And it wouldn't be a WA defense without someone nicknamed after a piece of food. State champion Jeremy "Biscuit" Gooding played like the glory days of '07; using his low center of gravity to anchor the interior of the Warrior DL. Biscuit even collected a sack to highlight his performance!
- Tremaine Springfield ('02) was a workhorse on offense. Springfield ran and caught the ball for several nice gains. Springfield still shows a burst of speed and physicality in his play. Midway through Q3, #6 took a pass out in the flat and literally flattened a would-be Eagle defender on his way to a 10-yard gain. My introduction to Warrior Football was watching Springfield and Rod Herbin play in the early 2000's. I really wanted to interview him and get his thoughts on the game but simply ran out of time. Maybe next year.
If I missed anyone, I am sorry. Every single player on that field brought forth 100% effort and heart. You all truly exemplify what it means to be a Warrior!
In closing, let me say this....
To pull off something like this was a monumental task. And all of the planning, organization, preparation, and execution of the plan are primarily attributable to one individual.... Mitch Mitchener. I know there were others involved, but Coach Mitchener was the driving force behind this Alumni Game. Without him, this event simply would not have taken place.
Props to you Mitch! You certainly "walk-the-walk" and are a fine representative of the WA Family and its my privilege to stand beside you on the WA sideline!