GAME OF THE YEAR
Orange and Southern meet in the area game of the year Friday, Nov. 8, the first meeting of the Big Eight 3-A Conference co-leaders as fellow 3-A members.
But while Friday's regular-season finale will decide the Big Eight title, it might not be the last time the two face off this season. Two of the top 3-A programs in the state, they could very well face each other again in the playoffs.
Both teams have already locked up playoff berths.
Orange (10-0, 6-0 Big Eight) will bring one of the stingiest defenses in the state to Southern at 7 Friday. The Panthers allow an average of 8.5 points per game, They’ve pitched four shutouts and allowed only seven points in three other games.
Oh, and the top 10 program — No. 7 in the Associated Press N.C. 3-A poll, No. 9 in the MaxPreps.com poll — also scores and scores big. Orange’s offense, led by quarterback Garrett Cloer and slotback Patrick Pettiford is piling up 42.2 points a game.
Both attributes will be required tonight. Southern (8-2, 6-0 Big Eight) also knows how to pile up the points. Junior quarterback Kendall Hinton — who has held a scholarship offer from Duke coach David Cutcliffe since early in his sophomore season — leads a diverse attack that’s averaging 50.2 points a game. But the key tonight could be the 24.8 points per game Southern’s defense allows.
If the game comes down to a shootout, MaxPreps.com’s No. 18-ranked Spartans could hold the trump card. They’ve been in just that situation already this season, having survived potent Northwood (8-2, 4-2 Big Eight) 56-54 last month.
The only really close game Orange has played was a 6-0 win against Chapel Hill in which the Panthers broke loose on a 55-yard scoring pass play as time expired. But that was a defensive struggle.
Hinton has a lot of weapons in future N.C. State wide receiver Maurice Trowell, running back/kick returner William Cameron and slotback Jordan Brown.
Hinton has completed 131 of 196 pass attempts for 2,526 yards, 24 touchdowns and only two interceptions, while carrying the ball 49 times for 689 yards — 14.06 yards per carry — and seven touchdowns.
He’s the team’s leading rusher, over backs Cameron and Brown.
Trowell has caught 49 of those passes, 12 for touchdowns, and has 1,006 receiving yards — 20.53 yards per grab. Brown averages 10.66 yards a carry and Cameron 11.05. Each has scored 10 times on the ground.
And kicks and punts don’t get you out of trouble with Southern’s offensive stars. Punt returner Trowell and kick returner Cameron are threats to go all the way every time they touch the ball.
Cameron holds a scholarship offer from West Virginia.
Here’s a look at tonight’s other featured games with playoff implications.
— Northwood (8-2, 4-2 Big Eight 3-A) at Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons (7-3, 4-2 Big Eight), 7 p.m. — Technically, this game will determine the third and final Big Eight automatic playoff berth. Realistically, the loser will make the playoffs as a wild card entry. Gibbons has an outstanding offense led by senior quarterback Shawn Stankavage. The Crusaders average 36.4 points a game but also allow 28.7. Northwood rides its offensive stars — quarterback Ti Pinnix, running backs Kadarus Rone and Montel Goods and wide reciever Jalen Smith — to 42.7 points a game while giving up 25.7. Look for a shootout in Raleigh.
— Northern (3-7, 3-1 PAC-6) at Riverside (7-3, 3-1 PAC-6 4-A), 7 p.m. — This one’s all about bragging rights, since both teams — they’re tied for second place in the PAC-6 — have already clinched playoff berths. Riverside brings the heavy lumber in 2,000-yard running back Joel Evans. Northern has a defense that’s gotten progressively stingier after an 0-6 season start.
— Cedar Ridge (2-8, 2-4 Big Eight 3-A) at Chapel Hill (3-7, 2-4 Big Eight), 7 p.m. — As unlikely as it sounds, a win could give Chapel Hill the magic fourth win that if a lot of things break right elsewhere tonight could grab a playoff slot. Don’t bank on it, but it’s an outside possibility. The Tigers have actually had a pretty good year. Most of the losses have been down-to-the-wire games.
— Reidsville (8-2, 4-0 Mid-State 2-A) at Carrboro (4-6, 1-3 Mid-State), 7:30 p.m. — Without Trai Sharp and Marlin Johnson much of the season, last year’s state 2-A runner-up has fallen on hard times after a 3-0 start. But Carrboro could sneak back into the playoff picture with a major upset over perennial state 2-A power Reidsville. Just don’t bet on it.
— South Granville (8-2, 3-1 Northern Carolina 2-A) at Roanoke Rapids (2-8, 0-4 N.C. 2-A), 7:30 p.m. — This one’s important because South Granville enters the night in a three-way tie for first place in the N.C. 2-A. Any seeding edge the Vikings can muster for the playoffs starts with disposing of this last-place opponent and doing it quickly.
Here’s a look at playoff tuneup games with winning being nice, but player health and fine-tuning of problem areas being more important.
— Roxboro Person (3-7, 1-3 PAC-6 4-A) at Hillside (7-2, 4-0 PAC-6), 7 p.m. — Hillside’s been waiting all season for quarterback Nas Forté-Ferguson to improve his passing accuracy and this is a perfect night to work on that. Star back Donte Thomas-Williams and standout receiver Trevion Thompson already are proven commodities for the PAC-6 champs.
— Granville Central (6-4, 3-1 Tar-Roanoke 1-A) at Northwest Halifax (1-9, 1-3 Tar-Roanoke), 7:30 p.m. — Granville Central looks to be solidly entrenched in second place in the Tar-Roanoke Conference but doesn’t want to slip tonight in Littleton.
Here’s a look at games involving teams that will hand in the helmets and pads and call it a season after tonight.
— East Chapel Hill (2-8, 1-3 PAC-6 4-A) at Jordan (1-9, 0-4 PAC-6), 7 p.m. — Disastrous seasons come to an end. Jordan hopes a win would salve the pain of a winless conference season.
— Oxford Webb (2-8, 0-6 Big Eight 3-A) at Northern Vance (0-6, 0-10 Big Eight), 7 p.m. —Northern Vance has lost 20 games in a row over two seasons. Webb can get out of the Big Eight cellar with a win.