Football playoffs: Chapel Hill, Northwood join 7 automatic qualifiers
The N.C. High School Athletic Association on Saturday released the seedings and matchups for Friday’s opening round of the state football playoffs in eight classifications and nine area teams made the field.
There was only one major surprise among area teams. Chapel Hill, which finished fifth in the eight-team Big Eight 3-A Conference, was rewarded for a 4-7 finish that included a series of heart-rending losses throughout the regular season.
The only other non-automatic qualifier (top three conference finishers all received automatic playoff bids) was 8-3 Northwood, also from the Big Eight. The Chargers finished fourth in conference play after a loss to Cardinal Gibbons in Raleigh Friday night, but made the 3-A field as almost all observers expected.
Northwood’s only losses on the year were to the top three teams in the Big Eight, among the deepest and best 3-A conferences in the state.
Chapel Hill is the No. 15 seed in the 16-team East Region of the Class 3-AA playoffs and will travel to Big Eight champion Southern (9-2, 7-0) for an opening round game Friday night.
In addition to Southern and Chapel Hill, the Big Eight saw runner-up Orange (10-1, 6-1) named a No. 6 3-AA seed after being beaten by Southern for the league title on Friday night.
Northwood was named a No. 10 seed in the 3-A playoffs.
Orange will host an opening round game Friday night against No. 11 Rocky Mount (8-3), while Northwood will travel to No. 7 Eastern Alamance (8-3) on Friday.
In the 4-A ranks, PAC-6 4-A champion Hillside (8-2, 5-0 PAC-6) is a No. 5 seed and will host No. 12 Clayton (7-4) Friday in the 4-A playoffs. PAC-6 third-place finisher Northern (3-8, 3-2 PAC-6) is a 10 seed and will travel to Wilmington to meet No. 7 New Hanover (8-3).
The PAC-6 runner-up, Riverside (8-3, 4-1 PAC-6), was named a No. 7 seed in the 4-AA playoff field and will host No. 10 Hope Mills South View (8-3) on Friday.
In the 2-AA playoffs, South Granville (9-2) is a No. 4 seed and will host No. 13 Hertford County (6-5) on Friday.
Granville Central (7-4) is the area’s lone 1-AA representative and the 7-4 Panthers, a 5 seed, will travel to No. 4 Princeton (8-3) on Friday.
While the state’s high school football programs compete in four attendance classifications — 1-A/2-A/3-A/4-A — during the regular season and the playoff fields are comprised of 64 teams statewide from each of those classifications, each class is then broken into two 32-team fields for state title competition in football, an AA and A class.
The AA class is the 32 teams in a classification with the largest enrollments of the 64-team overall field in the class, the A class is the lowest enrollment of that group.
CARRBORO IS OUT
Carrboro (4-7) barely missed making the 2-A field after losing a lead and the state title on a last-minute touchdown a year ago and returning its best players, running back Trai Sharp and receiver/defensive back Marlin Johnson.
The Jags started 3-0 and appeared a lock for at least a playoff berth this season, if not more, but lost Sharp for the season to injury and Johnson to long stretches to injury and finished 1-7.
Still, one more win might well have gotten Carrboro into the playoff field.
In the 2-AA and 2-A fields, 16 teams with 5-6 records got in as well as a 3-8, 4-7 and 5-5 teams. The 3-8 and 4-7 teams got in on automatic bids with top three conference finishes.