CONCORD - When it comes to rematches, the losing team usually doesn’t get to pick which game it wants to revenge against a rival.
By facing Cream of Cabarrus top-ranked Northwest Cabarrus next Friday, fifth-ranked Cox Mill is uniquely in that position.
Should the Chargers focus on the matchup it had with the Trojans earlier this season, when a scheduling glitch allowed the South Piedmont 3A Conference rivals to play a game that was considered to be out of conference? Or should Cox Mill zone in on last year’s singular showdown against Northwest Cabarrus, when both teams entered their regular-season finale with undefeated league records?
The Chargers might just select “all of the above,” considering they lost both of those games.
After toppling second-ranked Central Cabarrus Friday, 31-6, Cox Mill sits alone in second place to SPC frontrunner Northwest Cabarrus, a 42-13 winner over Concord.
Should the Chargers beat the Trojans next week, the teams would be conference co-champs, but Cox Mill would earn the league’s No. 1 seed going into the state playoffs.
“We have a shot at a championship,” said Cox Mill coach Craig Stewart, whose program is still looking for its first conference title. “It comes down to that game (next week). It was the same thing we did last year. We just have to be ready.
“We’ve had a chance to see them up close (earlier this season), and they’ve seen us. Hopefully, we’ll play better than we did the last time and have a shot at it.”
The Chargers fell in what amounted to be the conference championship game last year, 33-30, in overtime. Cox Mill dropped this season’s non-conference matchup on Oct. 4, 37-7.
Stewart and his players feel they are a different team since then, especially defensively. In its last four games, Cox Mill’s defense has surrendered just 28 points, a seven points-per-game average, and posted two shutouts.
The Chargers’ defensive prowess continued against Central Cabarrus Friday when they allowed just 153 yards. Thirty-five of those yards came on a pass play in the third quarter that yielded the Vikings’ only points.
Cox Mill allowed three first downs on Central Cabarrus’ opening drive of the game. But the Chargers buckled down after that, surrendering zero first downs the rest of the first half.
Over the Vikings’ other first-half possessions, Cox Mill gave up just 8 yards and prevented the Vikings from completing a pass.
“We worked real hard in practice,” said senior defensive lineman DeNorris Hunsucker, playing in his final regular-season home game. “Our chemistry was there tonight. The linebackers were scraping over top. The defensive line was doing what we had to do and played a good game.”
Hunsucker’s fumble recovery and return to the Central Cabarrus 18-yard line set up Cox Mill’s final score, a 33-yard Sam Weber field goal in the fourth quarter.
Cox Mill’s offense also had a slow opening possession before it got clicking. On the second play of its second drive, wide receiver Christian Henry got free behind the Central Cabarrus defense and caught a 67-yard touchdown pass from Varney Farhnbullah.
The junior quarterback connected with Barry Robertson for a pair of 12-yard scoring passes in the second quarter. Robertson finished with six catches for 65 yards.
“It’s pretty much all about trust,” said Robertson, a senior. “Varney puts (the ball) on a line for us. He’s not afraid to put it out there. He trusts us receivers to make big plays.”
Stewart admits that Friday was a rebound game for Farhnbullah, who’s thrown for 21 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards. He’s had only two games in which he’s completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts: an Oct. 25 win over Jay M. Robinson and against Northwest Cabarrus three weeks before.
“We had just not found our stride yet (entering the first Northwest game),” said Stewart. “We’d play a half of a game. We hadn’t played a whole game. Even though we lost to (A.L. Brown on Oct. 18), I thought we played pretty well defensively, and then these last couple weeks I think we played really well defensively. I think we’re a lot better than we were.”