The South Piedmont Conference race is coming down to the final stretch. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, many teams in the SPC are fighting for their playoff lives and trying to get the best seeding they can attain.
Two of those teams in the thick of the conference race are Concord and Hickory Ridge.
The Spiders (6-3, 4-1 in the SPC) are hoping to win out and secure a share of the conference title or at least a first round home game. They do have some precedent after winning their final five regular season games a year ago.
But first, the Spiders have to focus on a tough and talented Hickory Ridge team.
"In this league, there are no easy wins, no weeks off," said Concord football coach Glen Padgett. "Every game is a big game for us, and we can't look past anyone."
The Ragin' Bulls (4-5, 3-2 in the SPC) also have their work cut out for them, as they try to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Hickory Ridge is in direct competition with conference foes Cox Mill, Jay M. Robinson and Northwest Cabarrus for a playoff spot.
"The conference has been like a second season for us," said Hickory Ridge coach Marty Paxton. "These last few weeks are the most important games of the year. Every game is like a playoff game for us."
Concord has seen its ups and downs this season in Padgett's second year.
Sophomore quarterback B.J. Beecher is a major reason why they have been hard to predict, as he has looked great at times and puzzling at others.
But Beecher, who has thrown for more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns seems ready to explode with tailback Dominique Posey and his top wideout, Jacquise Moore, back in the fold.
Posey, who was recovering from a knee injury early on, turned in three 100-plus yard games in as many weeks. Meanwhile, Moore, who transferred to Flora MacDonald before transferring back to Concord, has more receiving yards (333) than any player on the team in just three games.
The Spider defense, led by senior linebackers Jalen Brown and Bradley Phillips, have been the glue of the team, which is allowing just 11 points per game.
If the offense can catch up, and be consistent, Concord will be hard to beat from here on out. But against Hickory Ridge, expect a low-scoring tight game. Whoever can make the most big plays, on offense, will likely come out on top.
Hickory Ridge (4-5)
Like Concord, the Ragin' Bulls have struggled with consistency all year long. But Hickory Ridge has a lot to play for the final two weeks with their playoff hopes on the line.
Senior tailback Brian Baltimore, who has rushed for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns, has been the Hickory Ridge offense for the most part this year, as the passing game has gone through rough times. Senior wing back Cody Cothren has provided a threat opposite Baltimore and will need to continue to do so.
Junior quarterback Jason Eury needs to step up in the passing game and will look for D.J. Barnes and Cothren first, to try and turn what has been a one-dimension offense into something more.
The Ragin' Bulls defense, led by tackling machine Dillon Burdette, also will have to be better this week against Concord as the game looks like a tight, low scoring battle on paper.
Hickory Ridge needs to put some points on the board and put the pressure on the Spiders to follow. If they can have early success with Baltimore, setting up play action, this game could be decided late in the fourth quarter.