CONCORD – The Cabarrus Warriors – a football team comprised of players from Cannon School and cfa Academy – was the county’s first program to take the gridiron for the 2019 season Friday night.
Unfortunately, for the Warriors, the walk off the field that night was pretty tough after they fell to North Raleigh Christian Academy on the road, 14-8, in overtime at Knights Stadium.
The Warriors are 0-1 after a performance riddled with mistakes, while North Raleigh is 1-0 on the young season.
Warriors coach Brad Hoover said he didn’t feel particularly good going into the team’s maiden game. But the former Carolina Panthers fullback added that that’s typical of his approach to the sport overall.
“I never feel good going into it,” Hoover said. “I’m one of these guys who’d rather be surprised than disappointed. You come into it with optimism of what it’s going to be like, how we’re going to play, how we’re going to react as a team when not everybody has played together as one unit before. Those were my concerns.
“I wouldn’t say we played badly, but we also didn’t play very well,” he added. “From turnovers to missed opportunities, that’s what cost us the game.”
North Raleigh got on the board in the first quarter and added a two-point conversion to go up, 8-0, on the Warriors. Neither team managed much for the rest of the first half, and Cabarrus went into halftime with the eight-point deficit.
In the locker room, Hoover spoke to his players from the heart.
“I told our guys, ‘We haven’t played the best game, and we’ve shot ourselves in the foot a lot of different ways. We’ve got two choices: We can either step up and fight, or we can just keep doing what we’re doing.’
“I feel like our kids kind of met that challenge.”
The Warrior defense -- led by Chase Love (13 tackles), Nasir Roberts (two sacks) and Payton Collins and Austin Blackwelder (nine tackles apiece) -- locked North Raleigh down in the second half. Meanwhile, the Cabarrus offense finally got on the scoreboard midway through the fourth quarter when quarterback Michael Dickens hit Jevon Meyers for a 5-yard touchdown.
Moments later, senior running back Fred Peace Jr. scored the two-point conversion, and the game was tied, 8-8, setting the stage for overtime.
In the extra period, North Raleigh had the ball first and scored on its third play. However, the Knights missed the extra point attempt, and the Warriors had not only a chance to tie but to win on its series.
But the Warriors were halted on their four tries, and the Knights escaped with the victory.
“Naturally, I think everybody’s disappointed -- players and coaches,” Hoover said. “But what I told them after the game was, ‘The one thing I’ll give you credit for is you found a way to crawl back in it and fight. If there’s anything to hang you heads on, it’s that.’
“We’re going to get better as the season goes along,” Hoover added. “The more we’re working with each other, things will get ironed out. This is Game 1. We wanted to get out of the starting blocks with a win, but we didn’t. But what’s going to be the true definition of this is how we respond to it. And I think our kids, deep in my gut, are going to respond to this.”
In addition to his touchdown pass, Dickens completed nine of his 17 passes for 102 yards with an interception. Meyers hauled in five passes for 91 yards and his score, while Peace Jr. finished with 68 yards on the ground.
The Cabarrus defense also received a boost from Zach Reulbach (eight tackles) and Alex Rodriguez (six). Blackwelder and Myles Stradford each tallied a sack. Zach Kellman and Jadon Williams had three pass deflections apiece.
The Warriors travel to High Point Christian (1-0) this Friday, which will be the second of four consecutive road games to start the season.
“Our schedule doesn’t get any easier,” Hoover said, “but how we play is only going to get better.”