HARRISBURG, N.C. – The Hickory Ridge Ragin' Bulls will take on the Julius Chambers Cougars on Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Hickory Ridge High School to kick off the Carolina Panthers' 2022 Big Friday High School Football Series.
Last year, the Panthers Big Friday program hosted a series of high-profile high school match-ups at American Legion Memorial Stadium.
The new on-campus format will provide greater opportunity to serve the two-state region. Throughout the 2022 high school season, the Panthers will spotlight select high school football games in North and South Carolina.
Selected games will receive pre- and post-game coverage on Panthers.com, promotion and engagement through the team's new youth and high school football Twitter account (@PanthersYouthFB), in-game enhancements including honorary coin toss captains from the team's active roster and Legends community, appearances by Panthers personalities, grant funding to support high school athletic departments and other game day elements and social media interaction.
"The Carolina Panthers are thrilled to support high school football through the team's Big Friday series," said Panthers director of community relations Riley Fields. "The opportunity to engage with the high school football community in this new on-campus Big Friday format is exciting, as is the ability to immerse in the unique energy that Friday nights on campus deliver. We look forward to amplifying and celebrating the important role high school football plays in communities across our region."
Hickory Ridge (2-1) is coming off a commanding 37-14 victory at Porter Ridge last week. Its sole loss was an overtime thriller at home to Charlotte Catholic.
The Chambers Cougars (2-1) bring in a No. 3 state ranking and are seeking their fifth-straight state championship game appearance. The Cougars are fresh off a dominant performance in a 40-0 victory at Glenn, with their lone loss coming from Highland Springs (VA).
Revenge was sweet for Chambers as it opened its 2022 season with a 28-14 victory over the Cardinal Gibbons Crusaders. The Crusaders claimed the 4A state title last year with a 14-2 victory over the Cougars in a game which quickly turned into a mud bowl as heavy rain came down late in the first quarter.
This week, the Ragin' Bulls are seeking revenge. Hickory Ridge was bested twice last season by Chambers. The 4A state runner-ups defeated the Ragin' Bulls by one score in a week four battle last year, and defeated them again by three scores in the second round of the 2021 NCHSAA 4A playoffs.
Hickory Ridge is looking for a signature win.
"If we want to be considered a great team, we've to go out and beat the best teams," Hickory Ridge head coach Jupiter Wilson said in an interview with Observer Preps.
A victory over the third-ranked team in the state's highest classification would help that cause.
"I am looking forward to Friday night," Wilson said. "It's going to be a big-time atmosphere, and I know our kids will be ready to play."
As for Chambers, head coach Brandon Wiggins told Observer Preps he is locked in on key position matchups this week, as both teams have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.
"We are who we are," Wiggins said. "We're going to be gritty. We're going to be hard-nosed. We're going to be Chambers tough."
Players to Watch
- WR Kevin Concepcion (Senior) – The NC State commit has hauled in 10 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns, along with 53 yards rushing and one touchdown through three games.
- QB Anshon "Bubba" Camp (Senior) – Camp has completed 73 percent of his passes this season, totaling 651 yards and four touchdowns. The Old Dominion commit also has 24 rushes for 235 yards and one touchdown.
- DL Zairion Jackson-Bass (Senior) – The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Yale commit is a force inside. Jackson-Bass accounted for three sacks, 9.0 total tackles, and 1.0 TFL in last week's win over Glenn.
Hickory Ridge Ragin' Bulls
- WR Christian Hamilton (Senior) – The UNC commit has 12 catches for 242 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot, 180-pound receiver is the playmaker of the Ragin' Bulls offense.
- WR Jalen Harris (Junior) – Harris averages five catches and 96 receiving yards per game to go along with three touchdowns. He has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in two games this year, with 150 yards against Charlotte Catholic and 101 yards last week against Porter Ridge.
- QB Caden Haywood (Junior) – Haywood has completed 67 percent of his passes on the year for 751 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound three-sport athlete can also be a threat in the run game and has accounted for 59 yards rushing on the year.
Chambers Keys to Victory
- Limit Christian Hamilton
- Win the turnover battle
- Control the run, both offensively and defensively
Hickory Ridge Keys to Victory
- Create turnovers
- Play disciplined football
- Continued strong special teams play