Prior to last week's win over Piedmont, many had challenged the Spiders' offensive abilities when facing a top notch defense. Those concerns evaporated after a stellar performance by senior standout QB Tommy Beecher, a Scout.com rated prospect. Beecher comes into the game among the state's most prolific passers for the 2004 season and armed with an array of capable targets in WRs Mike Mulligan, Lance Lewis, and Darius Cauthen.
The Spider running game is much improved with senior Richard Williams and junior Brandon Brown finding their stride, though they were severely tested by a stout Piedmont defense in last week's contest. Protected by a veteran offensive line composed of seniors Bryan Shuping, Ques Cagler, C.J. Redfern, Jared Rooks, and Ben Robinson, Beecher has propelled the Spiders to #12 in our NCPrepReport.com poll.
The Spider secondary is considered by many to be a strength, but after giving up more than 250 yards to Piedmont last week, S Jamie Talbert and CBs Chris Aldridge and Keiwanus Robinson may be facing an uphill battle against the seasoned Brett Clay, another Scout.com rated quarterback.
A strong Bulldog rushing attack will face fierce opposition in a Spider defensive line and linebackers led by freshman Norman Young and senior Blair Troutman, respectively.
As difficult as the task may seem, the Bulldogs have reason to be confident in their chances. QB Brett Clay leads an experienced offense that has many three year starters, among them the versatile Hunter White, Taris Williams, and QB/WR Fenn Allen.
The preseason departure of WR Freddie Brown may have hindered Robinson's passing game, but that hasn't stopped Clay establishing perhaps the SPC's most underrated aerial attack, compiling 1,166 yards through the air in a run-oriented offense. Clay's success comes in spite of unfortunate, season-ending injuries his past two seasons.
Filling in for Clay then was Fenn Allen, who has since rotated into a receiver's role in Brown's absence. Allen has quickly become Clay's favorite target, with 662 yards and 7TDs.
Defensively, Robinson excels. DE Allen Shellenbarger and LB Major Burton anchor a defense that has allowed fewer than 12 points per contest. DB Trent Caldwell's play has also been noteworthy, but will be every bit as tested the Spider secondary in a contest between teams led by two stellar quarterbacks.
The size and speed of the Bulldog line will be another tremendous asset for Robinson, and should test Concord's veteran front.
KEYS TO THE GAME
While the Spiders come into this contest favored, a large part of their success will be determined once again by Beecher's ability to connect on down field passes in what largely a "big play" offense. If the Bulldogs can breach the Spider line, Beecher will be severely tested as he was last week at Piedmont. The real question is whether or not the Bulldogs can transform this pressure into results. Thus far, no team has capitalized on pressure applied to Beecher.
Robinson must establish a viable running game against a Concord defense that surrenders a considerable number of rushing yards, though seldom breaks for touchdowns. A passing attack will help, but as Piedmont learned last week, the Spider secondary possesses a keen ability to produce turnovers from the air.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With the playoffs fast approaching, both teams need this win for the purposes of playoff seeding. Recently released ADM figures indicate that the Robinson is more than likely headed for 3AA while the Spiders have a chance to grab the top slot in 3A. The intense rivalry between the two schools makes this a toss-up and perhaps the marquee matchup in the SPC this week.