Game of the week: Hickory Ridge at Cox Mill

A surprising Cox Mill team hosts Hickory Ridge on Friday to face a team that has struggled at times this season.

Both teams are hoping to win the game in order to gain some momentum for the rest of the South Piedmont Conference schedule.

Last season, the inaugural version of the Chargers struggled against a Ragin' Bulls team that went on to finish tied for second in the conference. Cox Mill was blown out 56-13.

But both teams are much changed. Hickory Ridge lost a lot of talent over the summer, and the Chargers have a more experienced squad that isn't finding moral victories in simply competing any more.

The game will be won on the ground, as two of the conference's top running backs - Cox Mill's Jhaquille Hankerson and Hickory Ridge's Brian Baltimore - will come head-to-head.

Cox Mill (4-1)

After only winning one game last season, the Chargers have impressed, already defeating four opponents - Parkwood, South Stanly, East Rowan and Mount Pleasant.

Cox Mill has outscored their opponents 137-104, an impressive stat considering that the Chargers only scored 98 points all of last season.

Coach Greg Neuendorf has attributed his team's improvement to their growth, explaining that the team is not only bigger physically but is also more mature. Having a senior class this year also gives the Chargers the leadership that it lacked at times last fall.

Hankerson is a big part of the Chargers' success, having rushed for 801 yards in the first four games of the season. During the Chargers' first three wins, the senior rushed for more than 200 yards, including a 269-yard performance against Parkwood. Hankerson is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry and had nine touchdowns going into last week's 35-20 win at Mount Pleasant.

Hickory Ridge (2-3)

The Ragin' Bulls are coming off a bye-week after falling 47-6 to Porter Ridge. Hickory Ridge is looking to rebound against Cox Mill.

That effort will have to start on the defense, which has given up 45 points or more twice this season and is allowing 26.6 points per game.

Defensively, the Bulls are led by senior Dillon Burdette. The linebacker leads Hickory Ridge in tackles with 55 total.

The Bulls will also need a big night from Baltimore, who's rushed for 738 yards and eight touchdowns this year.

Baltimore will be key in an offense that has struggled to pass, only averaging about 30 passing yards per game and failing to score a passing touchdown this season.