ASHEBORO — It’s easy to recognize all that Southwestern Randolph’s football team has done entering the Piedmont Athletic Conference portion of the schedule.
And the opponent Friday night is the team with a No. 1 state ranking.
So Eastern Randolph has some clout, too.
“It’s a big game for the schools,” Eastern Randolph coach Burton Cates said. “It’s a great way to open conference.”
Eastern Randolph (4-0) is the top-ranked team in Class 1-A. Southwestern Randolph (5-0) has cracked the Top 25 in Class 2-A.
Southwestern Randolph coach Seth Baxter spent eight years coaching at Eastern Randolph before taking the job at his alma mater. Perhaps more attention than ever will be focused on the matchup between the teams.
“It will be (significant),” Baxter said.
Baxter’s time at Eastern Randolph came in between Cates’ coaching stints with the Wildcats. The stadium in Ramseur is named in Cates’ honor.
Southwestern Randolph won against Eastern Randolph in 2017 when neither Baxter nor Cates were on the Wildcats sideline. That was a rare victory for the Cougars in the series.
“I think we’re ready for it,” Southwestern Randolph receiver/defensive back Adam Cole said. “We definitely have the mentality that we can beat them.”
Running back Easton Clapp said the Cougars shouldn’t be intimidated by the matchup.
“We’ll punch them in the mouth,” Clapp said.
Cates said it’s clear that Southwestern Randolph will arrive with well-deserved confidence.
“The first thing you’ve got to like (for us) is you’re playing at home,” Cates said. “They’ve got probably the best team they’ve had in 20 years. They’re an explosive team.”
Part of Baxter’s message will be similar to the one he delivered to the Cougars on Friday night. They trailed Asheboro entering the fourth quarter in an eventual 17-7 victory.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself,” Baxter said.
Eastern Randolph played only two games in September because of COVID-related interruptions. Reconstructed schedules have been the norm recently for the Wildcats, who in the spring season had a stretch of three games in a 10-day period and then went more than a month with just two games.
“You could tell Friday night (in a 33-3 victory vs. West Stanly) that we hadn’t played in two weeks,” Cates said.
The Wildcats, who used two first-time starters in last week’s game, should be closer to full strength for the Southwestern Randolph game, Cates said. Meanwhile, there have been bonuses from the early roster challenges.
“We’re creating some depth that we definitely need,” Cates said. “The kids that played, they played physical.”
Southwestern Randolph at Eastern Randolph, 7:30
Trinity at Providence Grove, 7:30
Randleman at Wheatmore, 7:30
Asheboro at Oak Grove, 7:30