Sunday, August 18, 2013

Legends Meet for "Rivalry Dinner"

CONCORD – Troutman’s Barbecue in south Concord was abuzz on Sunday night as past and present coaches from Concord High School and A.L. Brown High School met and talked about the history behind of the rivalry between the two schools. Concord and A.L. Brown are traditionally two of the strongest programs in North Carolina and have the longest continually played rivalry game in the state. Traditionally, the game is played during the last week of the season. This season, however, due to realignment (the Wonders are 4A, the Spiders 3A) the matchup opens the season in Week 1. The winner of the game keeps the “Victory Bell” for an entire year, painting it in their school’s colors. For many years, this game was known as the “Battle for the Bell” or simply “The Bell Game.”

Former Concord coach E.Z. Smith led off the evening and spoke about why he wanted to put on an event like this. “I’m here because of my love of the Concord-Kannapolis game” Smith mentioned as he introduced the coaches on the panel.

Roy Boyles was the first A.L. Brown coach to speak. “Nothing prepares you for what you see when you come out of the dressing room and see the crowd…there’s nothing quite like this” spoke Boyles as he talked about the relationship between the game, schools, communities, and Cannon Mills.

When Bob Boswell first got the head coaching job at A.L. Brown, he was asked by a Wonders fan at a local sandwich shop if he would rather be 9-1 with the loss being to Concord or 1-9 with the win being over the Spiders, he replied that 9-1 would be his choice. The fan quickly replied, “you ain’t gonna be here long.” Coach Boswell quickly learned about the magnitude of the rivalry game with Concord. “It’s a unique experience…fans would line the stands with towels and blankets when they got off their first shift.”

Hall of Fame coach Bruce Hardin, who took over as the coach at Kannapolis in 1989, was most proud of the sportsmanship between the two teams and fan bases. “I’m most proud that there was never an incident after a game in the eleven years I was there.”

Ron Massey, who said it was “tough following legends like Bob (Boswell) and Bruce (Hardin) at Kannapolis…I’ve coached in lots of games. Nothing compares to the Concord-Kannapolis game.”

The first Concord coach to speak was Sonny Pruette, who had the unique experience of coaching in the game in the 1960s as well as being an administrator in the 1990s during the week leading up to the game. “As time goes by, things change. What doesn’t change is the intensity and sportsmanship…two communities are coming together” Pruette recalled about the rivalry.

Gerald Cook coached the Spiders in two Bell games, winning one and losing the other. He also played in three games against A.L. Brown. One of Cook’s prized possessions, which he shared with the crowd on Sunday night, was the jersey he wore during his junior year, when Concord defeated Brown 20-19.

W.A. Cline took to the microphone next and talked about some of his memories with the games with A.L. Brown. “You have to experience it” to know the intensity and passion that the players play with, Cline commented, recalling his four games in the 1970s.

E.Z. Smith returned to the podium a second time and shared some of his fondest memories of the rivalry, including his first victory in the series, a 7-6 victory in 1981. “It becomes a part of your life” spoke Smith as he reflected on his twenty-nine regular season games as a head coach against the Wonders along with three playoff matchups in 1991, 1997, and 1999. Other coaches nodded in agreement as Smith spoke of how proud he was to watch his son play in multiple games against A.L. Brown. Coaches Boswell, Hardin, and Pruette have all had sons and/or grandsons play in the “Bell Game.”

The two current coaches were the last to speak at the event. Third-year head coach Mike Newsome spoke highly of the program at Brown: “to be the head coach at Kannapolis is a huge honor.” The former Charlotte area coach compared this rivalry game with others. “Butler and Independence at Memorial Stadium had a lot of people…but Concord and Kannapolis blow everything else out of the water…I’m so proud to be a part of the best rivalry around.”

Fourth-year Concord head coach Glen Padgett was a Concord assistant during the 1980s and 1990s. “This is such a special rivalry…I am humbled and honored to be here,” Padgett said as he spoke to the crowd. “Such a special game needs special attention…nothing matches the atmosphere when Concord and Kannapolis play each other.”

Concord and A.L. Brown play Friday night at 7:30 at Kannapolis’ Memorial Stadium. Both teams are young at key positions and the first game of the season is always a game where coaches are learning so much about their team. Fans should get there early to ensure a seat for the game. Follow us on Twitter, @NCGridiron, for updates from the game.

Standing (L-R): Ron Massey, Bruce Hardin, Mike Newsome, Glen Padgett, E.Z. Smith
Seated (L-R): Roy Boyles, Bill Watts, Bob Boswell, Gerald Cook, Sonny Pruette, W.A. Cline

Series Record
1931 Concord 13-0
1932 Kannapolis 12-0
1933 Concord 20-6
1934 Concord 20-7
1935 Concord 13-8
1936 Tie 0-0
1937 Tie 0-0
1938 Kannapolis 18-12
1939 Concord 13-6
1940 Concord 7-0
1941 Kannapolis 19-13
1942 Tie 7-7
1943 Concord 26-7
1944 Concord 25-0
1945 Concord 27-0
1946 Concord 13-0
1947 Concord 35-0
1948 Concord 23-0
1949 Concord 12-7
1950 Tie 0-0
1951 Concord 7-6 
1952 Kannapolis 27-13
1953 Kannapolis 32-0
1954 Kannapolis 7-6
1955 Kannapolis 41-0
1956 Kannapolis 20-14
1957 Concord 7-0
1958 Kannapolis 13-0
1959 Kannapolis 7-0
1960 Kannapolis 14-8
1961 Concord 14-6
1962 Concord 6-0
1963 Concord 20-19
1964 Concord 13-12
1965 Concord 12-0
1966 Concord 13-6
1967 Concord 21-11
1968 Concord 21-8
1969 Concord 33-6
1970 Concord 13-11
1971 Kannapolis 10-7
1972 Kannapolis 30-13
1973 Kannapolis 7-3
1974 Concord 14-6
1975 Concord 21-0
1976 Concord 7-3
1977 Concord 18-6
1978 Kannapolis 33-0
1979 Kannapolis 31-6
1980 Kannapolis 41-0
1981 Concord 7-6
1982 Kannapolis 14-10
1983 Concord 27-7
1984 Kannapolis 26-8
1985 Concord 7-6
1986 Concord 14-0
1987 Kannapolis 19-0
1988 Kannapolis 9-7
1989 Kannapolis 16-14
1990 Kannapolis 20-19
1991 Concord 30-20
1992 Kannapolis 27-19
1993 Kannapolis 28-6
1994 Concord 35-14
1995 Kannapolis 5-0
1996 Concord 27-0
1997 Kannapolis 33-14
1998 Kannapolis 28-10
1999 Kannapolis 10-7
2000 Kannapolis 28-0
2001 Kannapolis 1-0(Concord forfeit)
2002 Kannapolis 42-6
2003 Kannapolis 13-12 (OT)
2004 Concord 20-9
2005 Kannapolis 19-14
2006 Concord 42-20
2007 Kannapolis 45-25
2008 Kannapolis 56-6
2009 Concord 13-10
2010 Kannapolis 28-21
2011 Kannapolis 31-26 
2012 Concord 21-14