One’s quiet, the other not so much.
But Hamsah Nasirildeen and Rick Sandidge have one thing in common — the desire to lead the Concord Spiders to greater heights after coming one win short of a spot in the state football title game last season.
“We’re proud of what we did, but we should have gone farther,” said Sandidge, a 6-foot-4, 273-pound junior defensive tackle of the Spiders’ 13-2 season, which ended in a 44-6 loss to eventual state champion Crest in the 3AA West regional final.
And how about this year’s goals?
Nasirildeen, a senior wide receiver/defensive back, said, “Beat A.L. Brown (in the Aug. 18 season opener), win the conference, win the state championship.”
To get there, Concord will need to take the same route as last year’s team, which bounced back from significant losses of key seniors to put together a 9-0 South Piedmont Conference record followed by the deep playoff run.
“I think a lot of people may have looked at our team as one that overachieved,” said coach Glen Padgett, starting his eighth season at the school. “But we’re not going to rest on our laurels. We have a group of players on this team that we can count on as leaders on and off the field.”
Nasirildeen and Sandidge, both highly sought-after Division I college prospects, top the list of returning players.
“They’re both getting a lot of attention from colleges, but the biggest attribute they have is that they put team above self,” Padgett said.
Nasirildeen, who has narrowed his college choices to Alabama, Florida, Florida State and South Carolina, says it won’t be hard to focus on the business at hand instead of the future this fall.
“I’m playing in the now and you have to put all that other stuff aside,” he said. “On the weekends after we’ve played there’s plenty of time to think about it. I just want to work on getting better, speaking up more and being a more vocal leader on the field.”
The bespectacled Sandidge, who has received 20 college offers despite having two more high school seasons to play, says that’s not a problem for him.
“My teammates say I’m loud,” he says, smiling. “But I respect the seniors and my job this year is to support them any way I can. I think we’re going to be really good.”
Padgett says there are challenges in replacing key senior losses from last year. A pair of sophomore quarterbacks - Larkin Lancaster and East Rowan transfer Justin Smith - are vying to replace three-year starter Keenan Black. And the Spiders must replace more than 1,700 yards rushing from running back P.J. Hall.
Two starting wide receivers and two defensive linemen also graduated.
“You can’t replace that kind of experience,” Padgett said.
The Spiders will start the season at home Thursday, Aug. 18 against longtime area nemesis Kannapolis A.L. Brown for possession of the Southern Railroad Victory Bell.
“It’s one of the oldest high school football rivalries in North Carolina,” Padgett said of the 86th straight meeting between the teams. It will be on TV and there will be lots of atmosphere.
“It’ll be a tremendous game right out of the gate.”
And a chance to avenge last year’s 26-15 loss in Kannapolis.
“We want the bell back,” Sandidge said.
Observer Sweet 16: Concord Spiders
The Observer continues with previews of teams in its annual preseason Sweet 16 high school football preseason poll. The teams will be revealed in alphabetical order. The poll, with numerical order, will be released following the previews.
Head coach: Glen Padgett (8th season at Concord, 151-84 overall)
2015 record: 13-2 (9-0, South Piedmont conference champion)
Key returning starters: Hamsah Nasrildeen, Sr., WR/DB (6-4, 215); P.J. Hall, Sr., RB (6-0, 200); Justin Nicholson, Sr., DB (6-0, 185); Rick Sandidge, Sr., DE (6-5, 275); Isaac Cochran, Sr., OL (6-5, 280).
Returning starters: 8
Returning lettermen: 18
Outlook: The Spiders were 40-4 the past three seasons with former quarterback Keenan Black. This season, they must break in a new QB but have the playmakers - including seniors in RB P.J. Hall (1,700-plus yards rushing), WR Hamsah Nasrildeen (25 Division I scholarship offers) and DE Rick Sandidge (20 college football offers) – to be a state contender again.