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We’re down to the final eight teams in each classification of the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s football playoffs, and there are a number of interesting story lines for Friday night’s games.
Winners this week advance to the regional finals next Friday.
Some of those story lines:
Familiar faces: The Hough-Vance rematch has gathered a lot of attention, with many observers calling it the Game of the Week in the state.
Vance, of course, is the defending 4AA state champion, but the Cougars finished second in the I-Meck 4A Conference, on the basis of a 29-22 loss two weeks ago to Hough.
The Huskies parlayed solid defense and exceptional special teams play into a victory that night, despite seeing their offense generally stymied by the Vance defense.
Cougars’ head coach Glenwood Ferebee told the Observer earlier this week that his team was flat in the first meeting Hough.
“We expected Hough to lay down, and they ended up beating us,” he said.
But that’s not the only meeting of familiar foes.
Butler visits Providence in the 4A quarterfinals, matching teams that have met 15 times.
Butler is 13-2 against the Panthers and has won the last five meetings, including a 34-3 regular-season decision in the 2019 season.
The Bulldogs, runners-up in the Southwestern 4A, and the Panthers, tri-champions of the SoMeck 7 4A, will be members of the same conference starting next fall.
“Now we get a chance to play that team up the road,” Providence coach Weslee Ward told his excited team last Friday, after the Panthers rallied from a 28-7 deficit to beat Hickory Ridge 44-34.
Dream matchup: Richmond Senior and Cardinal Gibbons are two of the biggest names in North Carolina high school sports, and they meet Friday night in a 4A East game Friday in Raleigh.
The teams have played only once before, with Richmond Senior winning 45-27 in a regular-season 2019 game.
Friday’s matchup provided a minor controversy earlier in the week, with Raider fans – who tend to travel in large numbers – taking to social media to voice their complaints about their ticket allotment for the game. But Cardinal Gibbons officials increased that allotment, and the complaints largely disappeared.
First meeting: Charlotte Catholic and A.C. Reynolds are two of the big names in North Carolina 3A athletics, and their inaugural football meeting is Friday in Asheville. The Cougars are trying to repeat as 3A state champions, but they’ve survived three straight narrow victories.
Friday prep football preview, schedule
(Observer’s Sweet 16 rankings included)
No. 5 Butler (7-1) at No. 9 Providence (7-1), 4A playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) These teams reached Round 2 in very different ways. Providence rallied from a 28-7 deficit against Hickory Ridge last week and won 44-34, behind the passing of Holland Stallings and the running of Jamar Price. Butler trounced Glenn 42-7, as RB Davion Nelson scored three touchdowns. Butler has won the last five meetings between these teams, including 34-3 in the 2019 regular season.
No. 8 Charlotte Catholic (6-1) at A.C. Reynolds (7-1), 3A playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) These teams are meeting for what is believed to be the first time. Both squads have been winning close games in recent weeks. The visiting Cougars have three straight nail-biting victories, including last week’s rally from a 21-7 deficit to beat Crest 28-21. The host Rockets’ only loss this season was a 23-0 blanking by Ardrey Kell. These teams thrive on defensive takeaways, so that could be a determining factor.
No. 15 Pine Lake Prep (8-0) at East Surry (7-1), 1AA playoffs, 7:30 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) East Surry ruined the Pride’s only other playoff appearance, in 2016, winning 42-0. This time it might be a bit more even. Pine Lake Prep QB Vic Garrido likes to throw the big-play pass, and his eight completions accounted for more than 300 yards last week. East Surry QB Folger Boaz, a sophomore, is averaging more than 200 passing yards a game.
No. 14 Monroe (6-2) at No. 7 Kings Mountain (8-0), 3A playoffs, 7:30 p.m. – Monroe was overshadowed by Weddington and Charlotte Catholic during the Southern Carolina 3A season, but the Cardinals are a powerhouse. Sophomore QB Khamoni Robinson has thrown for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. Kings Mountain has been aiming at a state title this season. Senior QB Ethan Reid has thrown for 1,101 yards and 12 touchdowns without an interception.
No. 12 Mount Pleasant (8-0) at Mountain Heritage (5-1), 2A playoffs, 7:30 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) The visiting Tigers will try to advance behind their strong ground game and opportunistic defense. Five of their eight victories have been a touchdown or less. Mountain Heritage also prefers to run the ball, and RB Gabe Silvers has carried for nearly 800 yards this spring.
North Rowan (5-1) at Polk County (5-1), 1AA playoffs, 7 p.m. – Sophomore RB Angus Weaver (744 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) powers the Polk County attack. The Wolverines won by forfeit last week over North Stanly, due to the Comets’ COVID-19 protocol problems. QB Kyree Sims, a two-way threat, is accounting for about 350 yards of total offense per game.
Panther Creek (8-0) at No. 4 Myers Park (8-0), 4AA playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) The ball will be flying! Panther Creek sophomore QB Amari Odom ranks 11th in the state this season in passing, throwing for 1,792 yards (and 22 touchdowns). Myers Park junior QB Lucas Lenhoff has thrown for 1,272 yards, but the Mustangs also have a strong ground game, led by RB Jacob Newman (630 yards). On paper, this looks like it will be a high-scoring affair.
No. 6 Richmond Senior (4-0) at Cardinal Gibbons (8-0), 4A playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) These teams met in the 2019 regular season, with the Raiders scoring a big 45-27 victory. Richmond Senior looked strong last week, beating Middle Creek 51-27 after being idled for three weeks due to COVID issues. Something to watch: Cardinal Gibbons is averaging an interception per game, with Djuan Scott accounting for three picks.
No. 13 Salisbury (6-2) at No. 11 Burns (6-2), 2AA playoffs, 7:30 p.m. – (radio coverage on WOHS, https://tinyurl.com/532zrxkp) The visiting Hornets are playing their best football of the season, winning their last four games by a combined score of 184-27. QB Vance Honeycutt ran for three touchdowns and passed for another last week for Salisbury. But Burns has a dual-threat standout QB of its own in Camron Sweezy. He has run for 13 touchdowns and passed for nine more this season.
No. 10 Shelby (6-2) at Hendersonville (6-2), 2A playoffs, 7:30 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) Senior QB Gabe Huitt of Shelby ranks 18th statewide in passing yardage this season, having thrown for 1,520 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Golden Lions’ defense has been spotty at times this season, and that could be problems against a Hendersonville attack averaging nearly 450 yards a game. RB Jayleon Gaines has rushed for 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns.
No. 2 Vance (7-1) at No. 1 Hough (8-0), 4AA playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) Vance is the defending 4AA state champion, but Hough has beaten the Cougars in their last two meetings – including two weeks ago. In that game, won by Hough 29-22, the Huskies prevailed with their defense and special teams making big plays. In an evenly-matched game, defense and special teams are likely to make the difference again.
No. 3 Weddington (8-0) at Mount Tabor (8-0), 3AA playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) These teams met in the 3AA West finals in 2018, with Weddington winning 45-12 in a rout. But these are different lineups. Mount Tabor has steamrolled past all but two opponents this season behind a powerful and explosive running attack. But Weddington has allowed only five touchdowns and 39 points this season. It looks like a strong ground attack against a rugged defense.
Vance (7-1) at Hough (8-0), 7
Panther Creek (8-0) at Myers Park (8-0), 7
Pinecrest (6-2) at Wake Forest (6-1), 6:30
Hoggard (8-0) at Rolesville (7-0), 7
Hillside (4-2) at Grimsley (7-0), 7:30
Butler (7-1) at Providence (7-1), 7
Richmond Senior (4-0) at Cardinal Gibbons (7-0), 7
New Bern (6-1) at South View (7-1), 6:30
Dudley (7-1) at T.C. Roberson (7-1), 7
Weddington (8-0) at Mount Tabor (8-0), 7
Lee County (8-0) at Cleveland (8-0), 7
Clayton (7-1) at West Brunswick (6-1), 6:30
Charlotte Catholic (6-1) at A.C. Reynolds (7-1), 7
Monroe (6-2) at Kings Mountain (8-0), 7:30
Eastern Alamance (6-1) at Western Alamance (8-0), 7
Havelock (8-0) at Northwood (6-2), 7
Oak Grove (6-2) at North Davidson (7-1), 7:30
Salisbury (6-2) at Burns (6-2), 7:30
Croatan (7-1) at Washington (6-1), 6:30
SouthWest Edgecombe (6-2) at St. Pauls (6-0), 7
Next Friday’s quarterfinals
Shelby (6-2) at Hendersonville (6-2), 7:30
Mount Pleasant (8-0) at Mountain Heritage (5-1), 7:30
Wallace-Rose Hill (5-3) at Reidsville (7-0), 7:30
Eastern Randolph (5-1) at Northeastern (5-0), 7
Polk County (5-1) at North Rowan (5-1), 7
Pine Lake Prep (8-0) at East Surry (7-1), 7:30
John A. Holmes (6-0) at Tarboro (6-0), 7
East Carteret (6-2) at Louisburg (5-2), 7
Murphy (7-1) at Elkin (6-1), 7
Mitchell County (7-0) at Robbinsville (8-0), 7:30
Pamlico County (5-2) at Pinetown Northside (6-2)
Bear Grass Charter (4-1) at Northampton County (2-3)