Lee County hosts Brick City Bowl tonight
Lee County and Southern Lee clash for the first time as conference rivals on the gridiron tonight, with kickoff for Brick City Bowl VIII set for 7:30 p.m., at Paul B. Gay Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets (8-2, 4-1) will be attempting to keep the brick, having won four straight games against their county rivals, including a 49-0 win on the opening night of the 2012 season at Cavalier Stadium. Lee County leads the all-time series 5-2.
While Lee County's already securely in the state playoffs in its first season in class 3A and the Cape Fear Valley Conference, playing the season's big rivalry game to conclude the regular season makes for a challenge says Lee County head coach Burton Cates.
"We know Southern Lee will play its best game and we want to play our best game. That's what we're shooting for," Cates said.
The Yellow Jackets have won three straight, including a 39-2 win at Westover last Friday which was shortened by a quarter due to the weather.
The Cavaliers (3-7, 2-3) have improved by one win, in their overall mark and CFVC mark, in head coach Don Simon's first season as head coach. The Cavs played competitive contests against tough non-conference opponents early in the season and were playing their best football in back-to-back wins, over Union Pines and Westover, before Terry Sanford handed the Cavs a 34-7 loss last Friday.
"Last week, turnovers got us again," Simon said. "We're still playing good football. We're playing good defense and putting points up on the board, but it's still a building process."
"We're making strides,' he said, "and this can be a very good game for us to take into the offseason."
Saying he'd give his returning football players, who aren't going on to winter sports, about one week off between Friday's Brick City Bowl and offseason weightlifting and conditioning, Simon is already looking toward his second season.
Motivation for the Jackets vs. Cavaliers is easy to come by.
"If you can't get up for a game like this, then something's wrong with you," said Simon. "The game means so much to [our players] and to the town."
"It doesn't matter when we play it, it'll always be an exciting game," Cates said, "but the interest is at a higher pitch than in years past. That's for sure."
"(Southern Lee) is a very explosive team and they have some very good athletes. Coach Simon has done a good job over there and it's going to be a challenge for us," Cates said.
Junior quarterback Emond Caldwell has passed for 1,902 yards and 18 touchdowns with senior receiver Aaron Blockmon having 60 catches for 1,452 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior Monte McLean leads the Cavalier running game with 573 yards and two touchdowns.
Terry Sanford was the first foe to hold the Cavaliers in single digits.
"Lee County has a very well-balanced attack, with how they can run and throw," Simon said.
"We know (Lee County) is a very solid team, so we're going to have to play a solid game to beat them," he said.
Senior running back Jerry Pullum tallied five touchdowns at Westover and took his season totals with 1,610 yards and 26 touchdowns on the ground for the Jackets.
Junior quarterback Duane' Bland is a dual threat, having thrown for 966 yards, with a 53.3 percent completion rate, and eight touchdowns, while rushing for 461 yards and 10 touchdowns.
If the county-rivalry game was enough on its own, Lee County will be holding its Senior Night, with the football seniors recognized before the game and the band, cheerleading and other fall sports seniors recognized at halftime.
Cates, who will be the North Carolina head coach in December's 77th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, will be presented with a traditional green jacket, for being a Shrine Bowl coach, prior to the game.