DURHAM, N.C. - They have passed each other on the streets, played catch and ran routes together in the summer, some even frequent the same barber shop. The conversation, since the 2009 football schedule was announced, has been about the Sept. 26 matchup between Duke and N.C. Central.
Both campuses rest in Durham. The familiarity between the players, coaches and fans will bring a heightened level of energy to Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday.
"This is a great thing for Durham and the community of Durham," Abraham Kromah, who is from Staten Island, N.Y., said. "I know a lot of people are looking forward to it in the barbershops and the malls and everywhere we go. Everybody is definitely looking forward to it and it's a great thing for Durham."
"A game like this makes you feel part of the Durham community," Brett Huffman, who is from Massillon, Ohio, said. "This game is going to be a high energy game."
Saturday's 7:00 p.m. kickoff will be the first time the two local area schools have squared off. The Blue Devils are hoping shake off their 44-16 loss at No. 22 ranked Kansas, while the Eagles are searching for their first win of the season.
"You only get 12 chances to compete," Kromah said. "Every opportunity you get you have to take advantage of it. I feel like it is an opportunity to go out there and compete and an opportunity to get better."
One are that Duke must improve on is third down conversions. Last week, the Blue Devils were a pedestrian 4-of-18 (.182). They have converted just nine total third downs in three games this season.
Fixing the third down inefficiencies starts with better execution on first and second downs.
"We all tend to focus on third down, and I'm looking at a lack of first and second down production causing too many third and longs," head coach David Cutcliffe said. "What we're capable of doing is being better in creating more favorable downs and distances. When you do that, your numbers are going to be that much better. Third and three, third and four and third and five are much easier than third and eight, third and 10 and third and 11. It has as much to do with first and second down as it does with third down."
Because of his hard in practice, and maybe also in an effort to create more yards on first and second down, local running back Desmond Scott is expected to see his first game action of the season this week.
Scott, a Durham, N.C. native and four-year letterman at Hillside, was charted as the top running back in North Carolina and the 23rd-best running back in the country by ESPN.com.
"We are going to play Desmond Scott in this game," Cutcliffe said. "He is a local player. He worked with the first and second units today. Expect him to play from this point on. He has gotten a lot better as a young player."
No matter who is on the field Saturday the energy level should be high and the fans should expect to see good football from two local universities.
"I expect to see a very motivated N.C. Central team," Cutcliffe said. "I expect to see a very motivated Duke team. I think it is a great opportunity for Durham to come out and see good football. I think the atmosphere at Wallace Wade Stadium should be and will be the best it has been since we have been here. It will be a fantastic Saturday night in Wallace Wade."
For the second year in a row, Duke's David Cutcliffe will join thousands of football coaches nationwide to raise awareness and research funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most prolific genetic killer diagnosed in childhood.
This Saturday in Duke's game against N.C. Central, Cutcliffe will wear a "Coach to Cure MD" logo patch on the sideline. Fans may donate to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research online at www.CoachtoCureMD.org.
To purchase tickets for Saturday's game go to www.goduke.com/tickets or call (919) 681-BLUE (2853).