9 TEAMS, 8 GAMES
Editor’s note: This is a look at Friday, Nov. 15th's eight state playoff football games encompassing nine area football programs. Game-by-game breakdowns include playoff classification, East Region seeding and overall records.
4-A — No. 12 Clayton (7-4) at No. 5 Hillside (8-2), 7 p.m. — Hillside has won six straight games since dropping two in a row in mid-September (at Greensboro Dudley, the state’s No. 3 ranked program 24-7, and at home against Charlotte Country Day). One-dimensional Clayton is no one’s pick to end that winning streak.
The Comets have almost no passing attack. Starting quarterback Sam May has completed 37 percent of his pass attempts for 50.5 yards per game and offsets six touchdown throws with six interceptions.
But Clayton can run and run and run. Three Comet backs have at least 799 yards on their season’s résumé and each is averaging at least six yards per carry. The top back is Jace Brown (987 yards, 6.06 per carry), Eric Hoy (843, 8.52) and Rodney Rowe (799, 9.86). As a team, they’re runnning for 294.4 yards a game and have outscored the opposition 362-273 on the year.
Hillside has the defensive talent to shut down just about any run-first, run-only attack and shouldn’t have a lot of trouble putting up points against an average defense.
In the backfield, Hillside counts on star back Donté Thomas-Williams average 8.48 yards per carry (167 for 1,416 yards) and has scored 20 touchdowns, two of them receiving.
Quarterback Nas Forté-Ferguson doesn’t have to throw a lot for the Hornets to win, but his .440 passing percentage (84 of 191) needs to top 50 percent at least if the Hornets hope for a long playoff run. He has the arm to get it done and has thrown for 1,644 yards and 18 touchdowns while being picked off just twice.
His top receiver is Trevion Thompson, like Thomas-Williams a four-star college prospect on almost all the recruiting boards. Thompson can be a devastating deep threat and has caught 49 passes for 839 yards and 11 TDs.
3-AA — No. 11 Rocky Mount (8-3) at No. 6 Orange (10-1), 7 p.m. — Orange might be the enigma of this year’s playoff field. The Panthers gave up 71 points — total — in their first nine games, all wins, but gave up 69 in splitting its last two of the season to tough Cardinal Gibbons (49-28 win) and Southern (55-41 loss). Still, Orange has outscored its 11 opponents 463-140 (42.1-12.7 per game) and isn’t facing an offense as prolific as Gibbons or Southern tonight.
Versatile back Patrick Pettiford and quarterback Garrett Cloer, a sophomore with a big arm, give Orange offensive weapons to get the job done and Rocky Mount, which has outscored its opponents 250-206 hasn’t put up a lot of points, but hasn’t keeled over and died on defense, either.
Orange could learn a lot tonight. Were the Panthers as good as they appeared to be in their first nine games, especially on defense, or did the opposition finally solve that defense? If the answer is the former, Orange has a chance to meet or surpass last year’s team that lost in the state semifinals and tied for third place in the 3-AA playoffs.
3-A — No. 10 Northwood (8-3) at No. 7 Mebane Eastern Alamance (8-3), 7 p.m. — In the race for the Big Eight 3-A Conference’s three automatic bids, Northwood was the odd team out, finishing fourth behind Southern, Orange and Cardinal Gibbons — Northwood’s only losses on the year. But the Chargers were never likely to miss the playoffs either. They had an outstanding year, led by offensive stars dual-threat quarterback Ti Pinnix (27 TDs passing, 7 rushing), running back Kadarus Rone (155 for 993 yards, 6.41 per carry, 11 TDs rushing, 5 receiving) and receiver Jalen Smith (80 catches, 1,231 yards, 16 TDs) and earned the No. 10 seed, which is about as high as they could possibly go considering automatic qualifiers are seeded before wild-card entries.
This is a team that outscored the opposition 441-312. The defensive numbers probably would’ve been a lot better if the Chargers hadn’t run into three of the top 3-A teams in the state in their own conference.
Northwood can attack the passer — Brady Koenning has seven sacks, Hunter Blackmon six and Jay Williams, Elijah Washington and Jared Worley four each — and can tackle. The five aforementioned defensive stars have at least 50 tackles apiece, Blackmon leading with 85 and Worley next at 76.
But Eastern Alamance is no slouch. The Eagles hold a 468-185 scoring edge this season and are balanced on offense, running for 237.2 yards a game and adding 162 yards passing.
Quarterbacks Joey Lanier and John Lamont have split duties and ranked up very similar numbers, combining to complete 56.7 percent of their passes for 1,792 yards and 15 TDs. Lamont is the better runner, by a country mile, carrying 90 times for 739 yards and 14 TDs. Lanier’s carries have basically been sacks — 25 carries for minus-18 yards.
Malcom Summers leads the backs with 152 carries for 965 yards and 19 TDs.
Win or lose, Northwood will be better next season. Of the players mentioned above, only Williams is a senior. The rest are all juniors.
2-AA — No. 13 Hertford County (6-5) at No. 4 South Granville (9-2), 7 p.m. — South Granville gets a break as Ahoskie-based Hertford comes to town. The Bears have been average on offense (308 points in 11 games) and on defense (278). Their attack is balanced as quarterback Ryan Weaver (95 for 194, 49 percent, 1,624 yards, 5 TDs, 11 interceptions) keys a 147.6 yards per game attack.
Hertford uses five ballcarriers to rush for 205.9 yards a night. All five have run for at least 240 yards and Tyus Leary (117 for 723, 9 TDs) leads the way.
But South Granville has a lot of answers.
The Vikings have outscored their opposition 455-219 on the year and while averaging a remarkable 297.1 yards per game rushing, also pass for 143.8.
Running back Sean Bowman leads the ground raiders with 261 carries for 2,204 yards and 21 touchdowns. Quarterback Matt McCutcheon (111 of 194, 57.2 percent, 17 TDs, 7 INTs) lends balance.
The receiving corps is led by 6-4 tight end Abraham Barron’s 25 catches for 399 yards and five TDs.
3-AA — No. 15 Chapel Hill (4-7) at No. 2 Southern (9-2), 7 p.m. — These Big Eight rivals are no strangers to each other, and conference champ Southern, coming off a 59-20 win over the fifth-placeTigers in the regular season, is the prohibitive favorite. Chapel Hill has battled injuries and bad luck all year, losing a pair of home games (17-15 to Riverside, 29-28 to Carrboro) it could easily have won.
Still, the Tigers don’t have the manpower to match up with the offensive juggernaut Southern projects. The Tigers have given up around 30 points a game (316 in all), while scoring 257.
Chapel Hill’s offense has produced some balance. The Tigers average 172.2 yards through the air, 127.9 on the ground and have scored 15 touchdowns in each phase.
But Southern’s numbers dwarf those. The Spartans average 540.1 yards total offense (279.9 passing, 259.2 rushing) and have scored 81 times this season — 50.6 points per game, actually.
Quarterback Kendall Hinton has a big arm and has passed for 2,978 yards (159 of 236), an average of 18.73 yards per completion and his TD-to-interception ration of 29 to 2 is phenomenal.
On the ground, Hinton leads a group of four with at least 464 yards rushing. He’s got 784, Will Cameron is next with 674, Jordan Brown has 588 and Toney Bass 464.
Receivers Maurice Trowell (59 catches, 1,179 yards, 14 TDs) and Derrick Mason (50-909, 11 TDs) each average more than 18 yards per grab, Trowell a remarkable 19.98.
Southern’s defense has been suspect at times, but with the Spartans offense clicking, it usually doesn’t matter.
4-A — No. 10 Northern (3-8) at No. 7 Wilmington New Hanover (8-3), 7 p.m. — Northern had a remarkable recovery from an 0-6 start this season just to get to the playoffs with a 3-2 that landed third place in a weak PAC-6. But the Knights never pulled an upset and will be hard-pressed to stay with a New Hanover team that’s outscored its opponents 357 to 192. Northern’s numbers are almost an exact opposite. The Knights have scored 192 while giving up 354 and average only 154.7 yards per game (35.3 passing, 129.4 rushing) total offense.
First-year Northern coach R.J. Wilson said he’s impressed with what he’s seen of New Hanover’s passing game, athleticism and defense.
“They’s had some success throwing the ball and they run an unorthodox defense, very aggressive,” Wilson said.
A Northern win tonight would be an upset for the ages, but the road playoff experience should prove a boost to the learning curve of the young Knights, whose roster was decimated by graduation a year ago and whose egos somehow survived the awful start to the 2013 season.
4-AA — No. 10 South View (8-3) at No. 7 Riverside (8-3), 7 p.m. — These teams’ records are not the only mirror images fans will be looking at tonight. Like Riverside, which relies for most of its offense on 2,000-plus yard rusher Joel Evans, South View eschews the pass for the most part as well, although the Tigers do spread around the ground burden more.
Junior Jeremy Cox averages 7.71 yards a carry and has 1,211 yards on the season, including 16 touchdowns for a team that averages 267.2 yards rushing and only about 68.2 passing.
If the Tigers are going to escape with a win, it will be on the ground. South View quarterbacks have completed only .348 percent of their pass attempts (40 of 115) for 750 yards, eight interceptions and four scores.
Defensively, South View has given up 209 points while scoring 280. Riverside has scored a lot more points — 376 — but has given up more —293 — as well.
1-AA — No. 5 Granville Central (7-4) at No. 4 Princeton (8-3), 7 p.m. — Two of the state’s better 1-AA teams will meet in this one. Granville Central has outscored its opponents 491-228 and Princeton likewise dominated the scoreboard 462-227.
There the comparisons end. The visiting Vikings of Stem have a balanced attack that’s produced an average of 422.5 yards per game (227.6 passing, 194.9 rushing). Princeton runs the football. And runs and runs and runs. Of the Bulldogs’ 437.3 yards a game, 308.2 come on the ground — 2,404 from back Johnny Frasier, who averages 11.78 yards per carry and has scored 35 TDs rushing.
The Bulldogs’ Michael Wooten has had some success passing, clinging on 92 of 172 attempts for 1,420 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Granville Central’s Jay Parker is hitting on .611 percent of his pass attempts (135 of 221, 2,359 yards, 29 TDs, 9 INTs). Corey Evans, a former Oxford Webb quarterback, leads the team with 149 carries for 1,086 yards on the ground, but two-way star Bryce Parrott makes the Vikings go.
In addition to playing a starring role on defense, he has 636 rushing yards and 13 TDs on 91 carries and is the second leading receiver (41 for 728, 11 TDs) as well. Dylan Beckwith has 42 catches for 811 yards and four TDs.