When A.L. Brown and Concord go head-to-head on the football field for the 80th "Battle for the Bell" on Friday, the game will be about more than just the final score.
It will be about tradition, family and, most important, about pride.
"It means a lot to both schools - to both communities," said Concord coach Glen Padgett. "Bragging rights are at stake."
Neither team will want to leave Concord's Robert C. Bailey Stadium without the coveted bell, which the loser will have to present to the winner at the 50-yard line at the conclusion of the game.
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"It's the goal of whoever doesn't have (the bell) to get it, and it's the goal of whoever has it to keep it," said Padgett.
Kannapolis coach Ron Massey said the football rivalry between the programs, the oldest in the state, is unmatched.
"It's a tradition that I don't think anybody in the state of North Carolina has," he said.
A 'family' affair
Wayne Morris, Ron Riley and Dean Mullinax were sitting on their lawn chairs last week watching A.L. Brown practice.
Mullinax, an all-conference kicker for the Wonders' 1984 state runner-up team, knows what the rivalry is all about.
"It's very emotional because of the significance of the game," he said, adding that his brother and father also played in Bell Games. "To me, it was personal."
Mullinax was back at his alma mater watching his son, Zach, a freshman JV player. Being on active military duty and stationed in Virginia, Mullinax said he doesn't get the chance to do that often.
But Riley and Morris are there every day. Morris goes to practice to watch his son, Hunter, while Riley watches his grandson, Travis, an all-conference running back who was sidelined earlier this year because of a knee injury.
"You have to support your children and grandchildren and your team," said the elder Riley, who's been around the A.L. Brown program since 1982.
Padgett said he also has many players whose fathers - and even grandfathers - have played in the rivalry.
Assistant coaches at both schools also have experienced Bell Games of their own and can relate to the players as they prepare the biggest regular season game of the year.
Faculty and staff at both schools have also grown up with the Bell Game. Concord High principal Carla Black, a 1987 Concord graduate and the school's 1986 homecoming queen, said she's proud of the rivalry - not only because of the communities' pride in their respective teams, but also because of the respect that has developed between the two schools and towns.
"It's nice for two communities to come together in the spirit of football," said the former Spider cheerleader.
All of the tradition - and the thousands of students, alumni, fans and family who will gather Friday - adds to the game's significance.
The football rivalry
The two schools have been playing continuously since 1931.
Traditionally the schools have closed out the season with the Bell Game, although there have been periods as recent as 2007 that this hasn't been the case.
Concord leads the all-time series 39-36-4, but the rivalry has been lopsided in the last few decades, as Kannapolis has won 14 of the last 20 games.
Unlike the last few seasons, this game can have conference implications, as both the Spiders and Wonders are among the top teams in the South Piedmont Conference.
A.L. Brown also wants payback after being upset by the Spiders last season 13-10.
The Wonders, led by quarterback Martel Campbell and linebacker Andrew Leslie, want to not only finish out the season strong heading into playoffs, but also to return the bell to Kannapolis and repaint it in the "right" colors.
"We really want it back," said Massey.
The Spiders, however, hope to keep the bell on their campus. Concord will be led by sophomore quarterback B.J. Beecher, as well as seniors Jacquise Moore, the team's leading receiver who has reinvigorated the Spiders in the last month, and Jalen Brown, the team's top tackler.
Throughout the week, both schools will hold events, such as bonfires and pep rallies, to get the schools and the teams excited for the big game.
The players, however, won't need much motivation.
"You know the kids are excited about this game," said Padgett.
"There are kids who go on to play college football in Division III or II and even at the Division IAA level who will never play in front of a crowd as large and as enthusiastic as these fans will be Friday night. ... So few people have the opportunity to play in a game of this magnitude in so many ways."