The Northwest Cabarrus Trojans win an epic battle against the Cox Mill Chargers to win the South Piedmont 3A Conference Championship.

Cox Mill's Christian Henry (15) is tackled by Northwest Cabarrus' Cam Saunders (4) during last year's SPC championship game. Both players will be on the field tonight when the teams meet in a what will be a non-conference game.

CONCORD — Longtime rivals Northwest Cabarrus and Cox Mill are both members of the South Piedmont 3A Conference.

The two football teams play each other Friday night.

But it will not be an SPC game.

Say what?

Originally, Northwest Cabarrus was scheduled to play the county’s newest high school, West Cabarrus, on this night. That school was set to open for the 2019-20 academic year, but construction delayed that a year, so the Trojans were left looking for an opponent on Oct. 4.

It was a struggle.

“We had trouble finding a one-year contract with folks,” Northwest coach Brandon Gentry said, “so the (athletics directors) got to together and decided to play this game (with Cox Mill) and try to make a little extra money.”

The gate at Cox Mill’s stadium should do quite well tonight. Not only do these two programs play a rivalry game called the Coddle Creek Cup on an annual basis, but they played arguably the most exciting game of the year last season — an overtime thriller that ended with backup quarterback Sam Walker throwing to Cam Saunders to give the Trojans the SPC championship.

Tonight, Northwest Cabarrus (5-0) is No. 1 in the Independent Tribune’s Cream of Cabarrus Football Rankings, while Cox Mill (3-2) comes in at No. 4.

For both teams, it doesn’t matter if this game won’t count toward the conference standings. It’s Friday night, it’s football, and it’s go time.

“We just try to stick to what we do each game, and we’re approaching this one the same way,” Gentry said. “It’s a game, and it counts. We’re trying to look at being a playoff team, so it’s going to count toward the playoffs. So we look at it as, ‘We’ve got to get this victory, and it’s as important as any other game.’”

And, well, let’s just say the Chargers haven’t exactly forgotten about that end-of-season game last year, when the Trojans won their first outright conference title in 31 years.

“It’s different because it’s a non-conference game,” Cox Mill coach Craig Stewart said, “but what we’ve talked about is that we’re getting ready to go up against a team that did beat us last year in the last game of the regular season, and it’s a team that, for the most part, is a pretty big rival to us. So whenever you play them, you’ve got to be ready to play.”

Since the series began in 2009, the Trojans hold a slight 6-4 lead in the series, but they’ve also beaten the Chargers the last two times they’ve met.

“Our kids have been really good about it,” Stewart said. “They’ve been paying attention. They know what’s going on. (The Trojans) are ranked pretty high in the state, and for us, this is a big thing.

“We’ve lost a couple (of games), and they haven’t,” Stewart continued. “So if we can get out there and play well and pull off a win, that’ll be big for us, especially going into conference. And later on, for the playoffs, that could hopefully help us with the rankings and get us up into playoff position so we can make a good run.”

After tonight, the two teams will meet again in the regular-season finale — an actual conference game — on Nov. 8, this time at Northwest Cabarrus.

Injury bug biting Spiders

CONCORD — The 2019 edition of the Concord Spiders has seen injuries all across the field. Getting healthy has been a big part of the Spiders’ attempt to gain some footing and find a win in their pre-conference schedule.

The Spiders have had cramps affect them in games, their starting quarterback (senior JoJo Bond) went down, and even star cornerback Jaden Smith has missed time this year.

Concord coach Marty Paxton knows his bunch will have to fight through it all to turn their 0-5 record around, but the collection of injuries sure doesn’t make that easy.

“Unfortunately, it’s tough to go as hard as we would like (during practices) with our injuries in the early part of the season,” said Paxton. “I asked the trainers, ‘What should we do differently to try to help?’ and they said we were doing everything fine and some of the stuff was just freak things.”

The Spiders face another physical football team on Friday when the West Rowan Falcons visit E.Z. Smith Field.

Tuned-up Tigers

MOUNT PLEASANT — Mount Pleasant coach Mike Johns has seen injuries take some key pieces off the field this season.

The Tigers have lost junior quarterback Ryan Tyson twice this season and have had plenty of losses at receiver and along the offensive line.

This week, when they travel to East Rowan, the Tigers will have most of the squad back and ready to go, with a little help from the unseasonable temperatures.

“This is definitely been the healthiest we’ve been all season,” Johns said. “We haven’t been able to practice outside with the heat, but actually it’s been a blessing because we’ve been able to heal and mend up a little bit.”

Despite their injuries, the Tigers have played well offensively the past two weeks, with a lot of help from junior running back Dalton Miller. Miller has picked up big yardage the last few weeks, gaining more than 250 yards for the Tigers.

“Dalton has played exceptional; he has really gotten hot,” Johns said. “He’s not only running hard, but he’s been making some moves and getting into open field.”

With Miller being joined by the rest of his starting offense this week and a healthy offensive line, Mount Pleasant may be on track for an offensive explosion against East Rowan.

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