Kannapolis football fans divided over Battle for the Bell

  • Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 6:25 a.m.
In 2008, A.L. Brown cheerleaders Raven Hill and Memi Simpson ring the bell after a Wonders touchdown.
In 2008, A.L. Brown cheerleaders Raven Hill and Memi Simpson ring the bell after a Wonders touchdown.

KANNAPOLIS — It’s the longest-running football rivalry in North Carolina, a game eagerly awaited by fans of Concord High School’s Spiders and the A.L. Brown Wonders.

But this year, the Battle for the Bell is happening a lot sooner than usual.

And that has some fans unhappy.

With the school’s move to the larger 4A conference, the Wonders have many new opponents in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties for the 2013 football season.

Friday’s game, which will be the 83rd meeting of the Concord and Kannapolis teams, is now a non-conference match.

Not only that, but it’ll be the opening game of the season ... four days before school even starts in Kannapolis.

By contrast, last year’s Battle for the Bell came on Oct. 26. Concord won that game 21-14.

On Sunday, A.L. Brown Coach Mike Newsome told the Post that the emphasis should be on the game, not on when it’s being played.

Newsome went on to say, “I don’t believe there will a bigger game played in this entire country this Friday.”

Even so, August is too soon for Phillip Fontenot, a junior at A. L. Brown.

“I just feel like the suspense is not there as much, and the teams haven’t had as much time to bond with each other,” Fontenot said. “It’s completely different.”

Fontenot said it would have been better to put the Concord game more toward the middle of the season.

Not just for the teams, Fontenot said, but so that students could enjoy Spirit Week.

He was one of several students who mentioned the traditional week of events leading up to the “bell game.”

“I don’t like it,” said Sandi Siharath, also a junior at A. L. Brown. “Spirit Week brings our school together. Everybody does it, everybody participates in it.”

Not to mention, Siharath said, it’s a break from wearing uniforms at school.

But other students don’t think the change is all bad.

Lauren Trull, a sophomore and a varsity cheerleader at A.L. Brown, also said Spirit Week has been fun.

“But if you think about it, this is a chance for football, cheerleading, band and everyone else to bring excitement to school starting back,” Trull said.

“The players and cheerleaders love the rivalry and are ready to play,” Trull said. “I think the competition will be as strong as it has ever been.”

“I think it’s going to be harder to get students to come, just because it’s summer,” said Hunter Patterson, a senior at Brown.

“But I don’t think it’s going to affect the outcome of the game, or the intensity,” Patterson went on. “I mean, it’s too classic of a rivalry. Everybody’s still doing the same things we always do. We still paint each other’s rock.”

“And they tried to say they stole our cannon, but they didn’t,” said his classmate Kameron Sherrill, a junior at A.L. Brown.

Sherrill said he doesn’t think the timing of the game will work against the Wonders.

“Concord’s playing their first game, so it’s not going to matter, really,” Sherrill said.

The iconic bell, a gift of Southern Railway, became the trophy of the annual contest in 1950.

And the Battle for the Bell continues to divide loyalties in both cities.

Tameika Miller, a graduate of Concord High, said in her heart she “bleeds the blood of the Spiders.”

But, she said, she’s got a reason to cheer for the Wonders.

Her nephew, Logan Miller, is on the team, she said.

“I had two (children) go to school from Concord and two from Kannapolis,” Tameika Miller said.

“I don’t really like it being the first game, but I guess they’ll be doing it from here on out,” she said. “I’m excited about it.”

The Battle for the Bell will kick off Friday at 7:30 p.m. at A.L. Brown High School.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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