RALEIGH – Concord coach Glen Padgett would not venture to say his team holds any animosity over last year’s 55-21 loss to Havelock in the 3A state championship game in Winston-Salem.
The Spiders lost 16 starters from that team, including 6-foot-7 quarterback B.J. Beecher.
Instead, they are embracing the challenge of playing Havelock, winners of the last two championship games.
“I will put it this way – we are playing in a 3A state championship game against a prolific opponent who has won the last two state championships, and hasn’t lost but one game in three years,” Padgett said. “If that doesn’t get you ready to play, nothing will.
“They are excited to be here and play a great program.”
Concord (15-0) returns just six starters from last year’s squad, yet it is having an even better season.
The Spiders will look to avenge last year’s defeat with a rematch against the Rams at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
“We are excited about the opportunity, and the challenge, of playing a good Havelock team again in a state championship,” Padgett said. “Havelock is kind of a bench-mark for a great many people in the state. They’ve lost one game in three years, and they’ve dominated their opponents.
“We are going to have to play great football.”
Quarterback Keenan Black has picked up the offense nicely. The 6-foot-3 sophomore has passed for 1,391 yards with 20 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Black completed four touchdown passes in Concord’s 35-14 victory over Gastonia Forestview in last week’s western regional championship game.
With a new signal-caller under center, the Spiders have had to change some personnel on offense.
“In the high school ranks, it’s different than college in terms of, in college, you can recruit to your philosophy. In high school, as a coach, you have to build your philosophy around the talent of the players you have,” Padgett said. “We are more of a run-dominant team. We’ve run the ball a good bit, but we’ve passed the ball for 1,400 yards.
“Our kids have bought into what we are doing on both sides of the ball, and because of that, we have had a bit of success.”
Junior running back Rocky Reid has gained more than 3,100 rushing yards with 38 touchdowns, a touchdown reception and a kickoff return for a score.
Reid, who is averaging 210 yards per game, gained 175 yards in the state semifinal.
“Rocky is a special football player. I’ve never been blessed to have a 3,000-yard running back,” Padgett said. “Not only is he a good football player, he is a finer young man.”
While Concord’s offense is putting up more than 38 points per game, the defense is limiting opponents to 16 points per game.
The Spiders will look to slow down a Havelock offense led by running backs Derrell Scott and Taylor Woods, wide receivers Micheal and Kyran Bowman and Matthew Boykin, and quarterback Travis Sabdo.
Concord has three first-year starters on the defensive line and in the secondary. However, the linebackers are the strength.
Jerry Burk leads the Spiders with 115 tackles, 22 for loss, and four sacks. Logan Sedergren has 92 tackles, two sacks, four fumble recoveries and an interception.
“Schematically, we are doing the same things we’ve always done,” Padgett said. “We have two three-year starters at linebacker in Jerry Burk and Logan Sedergren.
“Not only have they had outstanding years, but they’ve had outstanding careers. Our kids play hard from snap to whistle.”
Adam Thompson is a reporter for the Sun Journal.