CONCORD — On Friday night, Cabarrus County has its first rendition of “The Game of the Year” on its hands.
Cream of Cabarrus No. 2-ranked Hickory Ridge visits No. 1 Northwest Cabarrus, and the pre-game excitement from fans has been palpable this week.
Trojan Stadium is expected to be filled to capacity, or beyond, but one major person will be missing from the field: Trojans star running back Tyrese Blake.
Blake suffered a broken leg in last week’s home game against Marvin Ridge, and the senior who ran for more than 2,300 yards and 30-plus touchdowns last year will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.
Here's an idea of just what Blake has meant to the Trojans:
In 30 career games, he's rushed for 3,921 yards and 48 touchdowns. That's an average of 130.7 yards per game and nearly eight yards each carry.
Blake’s eye-popping skills can’t be replaced by any running back in the county, but the Trojans (4-0) won’t exactly be lacking talent at the position Friday night, either. Seniors L.J. Currie and George Miller-Duncan are above-average replacements; each could be a starting running back at most schools in the area.
Two years ago as a sophomore at Concord High, for instance, Currie rushed for more than 1,000 yards and earned all-conference honors as a running back.
Miller-Duncan, meanwhile had the distinction, at one point, of being the Trojans' leading rusher. In 2016, he gained more than 700 yards in eight games -- as a freshman. Then Blake got promoted to the varsity the next year, and, well.
Look for both Currie and Miller-Duncan to see their share of carries Friday, along with senior dual-threat quarterback Nick Wilds-Lawing.
And if you’re fortunate enough to be in the crowd, expect to hear a lot of thuds, because these are two of the biggest and hardest-hitting clubs in Cabarrus County.
“They’re a big physical ball club, and they want to pound you,” Northwest Cabarrus coach Brandon Gentry said. “Their coach (Jupiter Wilson) is a former offensive lineman, so they’re definitely going to have that mentality.
“But I think the matchups are good, to be honest with you,” Gentry added. “They have skill guys on the outside, and they have some big linemen. It’s going to be an interesting matchup.”
This likely will be the first big test of the season for the Trojans. They’ve scored at least 40 points in every game but one — last week, they “only” had 39 — and their closest margin of victory this year has been 29 points.
Hickory Ridge (3-0), on the other hand, is battled-tested. The Ragin’ Bulls had to overcome a 20-point deficit in their season opener at Central Cabarrus, and last week they had to stave off Cox Mill in the final minutes.
“We haven’t punted since the first game of the year,” Gentry said, “and I know that’s going to end; you can’t go through a whole season like that. We know that. But the key is when those guys face a little bit of adversity, how will they respond after that?”
Warriors finally make their home debut
CONCORD — Also on Friday, Cannon School’s Randy Marion Field will get to host its “home” team, the Cabarrus Warriors, in a regular-season varsity football game for the first time.
The Cabarrus Warriors (0-4, 0-0 NCISAA Piedmont Conference), a new assembled team featuring players from Cannon School and cfa Academy, will take the field against Community School of Davidson.
The Warriors are coming off a well-deserved week off after four consecutive losses to open the season, all as the visiting team. They’re looking to turn the momentum of their season, this time with a home crowd.
“It’s exciting to be at home and not be on the road,” said Warriors coach Brad Hoover. “It’ll be nice to be in front of our home fans and families. I’m not sure what size crowd to expect, but I think there’ll be a lot of support, with us bringing together two programs.”
There should be lots of action. CSD (2-1 overall, 1-1 Southern Piedmont 1A Conference) have an explosive offense that features junior quarterback Davis Pharr, who has already passed for 572 yards, and senior running back Baker Westmoreland, who has 403 rushing yards.
The Warriors have struggled to get on the scoreboard — they’ve scored just 14 points all season — but have one of the most talented running backs in the county in senior Fred Peace Jr.
The Warriors have a challenge ahead, but Hoover thinks a win could give them the boost they need to fight through their last six games.
“All we need is one (win) to get this thing going,” Hoover said. “Confidence does a lot, and a win gives you that.”
Bulldogs head to Anson looking for answers
CONCORD — Jay M. Robinson has been searching for answers offensively for a few weeks now.
Over the past three games, all losses, the Bulldogs have scored a total of 21 points. That includes a 56-0 defeat to Marvin Ridge on Aug. 30.
Bulldogs coach Rich Williams said the team saw at least a spark a week ago against Cuthbertson and is hoping that it’s a sign of good things to come.
“Last week, we found a few bright spots in the offense,” said Williams. “If we can build on that this week, we feel good.”
Anson has some weapons on offense, but its biggest opportunities are a product of its speed at the skill positions. Bearcats senior quarterback Wesley Lear has 546 passing yards, and senior running back Dequan Sturdivant has 596 yards through their first four games.
“We can’t make mistakes,” Williams said. “We have to tackle well, offensively we have to stay on the field to keep their athletes off, and (we have to) score some touchdowns.”