Cody Clanton and Shaun Warren have more in common than agitating defensive coaches.
The China Grove Carson seniors had no reason to believe they would attend high school together in Rowan County when they were battling on the middle school football fields of Cabarrus County.
The first time they showed up at a Carson practice as freshmen, Clanton was wearing his old Concord Middle School apparel and Warren had on Kannapolis Middle garb. Their similar backgrounds stoked a friendship that has lasted.
Clanton, a wide receiver, and Warren, a running back, had breakout seasons as juniors. They helped the Cougars to their first playoff victory in the school's four-year history and now are attracting big-time college recruiters.
Growing up, Clanton and Warren thought they would become part of the great traditions established at Concord High and Kannapolis Brown. Those schools played their first football games in the 1920s, and each has won a couple of state championships over the past 20 years.
When their families moved prior to their freshman years, Clanton and Warren were excited about starting new. They quickly replaced their middle school football attire with Cougars gear and became part of Carson's second-year program.
Both players started the season on the junior varsity, but Warren got called up in the varsity's second game, against Salisbury.
The game will always have a place in Warren's memory for two reasons: He remembers Carson losing 48-14, and getting blindsided by a Salisbury defender when he turned to watch Dustin Craft turn the corner on a quarterback option keeper. "I started looking out for everything after that," Warren says.
Clanton got a varsity start in the Cougars next-to-last game, against Statesville. He had no catches and admits he felt terribly out of place.
"I felt that I needed to grow up," he said. "I was too young. I did not know what I was doing."
As a sophomore, Warren broke 100 yards rushing in six games and totaled 1,089 for the season as Carson won its first games after two winless seasons and finished 3-8. Clanton spent the year with a better-than-average junior varsity team and established a chemistry with quarterback Zack Gragg.
That relationship blossomed last year when Clanton caught 48 passes for 1,118 yards and 11 touchdowns and built a reputation as a good receiver. Warren had 11 100-yard games and fell 35 yards short of 2,000 for the season.
Carson had its first winning season and reached the second round of the state playoffs. Coach Mark Woody started fielding phone calls from college coaches about his two offensive prizes.
Clanton's height (6-foot-2) and speed (4.53 second in the 40-yard dash) have caught recruiters' eyes. He took an unofficial visit to Arkansas, attended a camp at Florida and has drawn interest from Wisconsin and West Virginia.
Warren's height, on the other hand, has been partly detrimental to his recruiting; he's 5-foot-8, 180 pounds. Woody says Elon, Appalachian State and Wofford have shown the most interest.
Neither player has received any offers. Woody says colleges are taking a "wait-and-see" approach during their senior season.