PAC-6 opens play tonight; Big Eight leaders clash
The long non-conference season for PAC-6 4-A football teams comes to an end tonight — and it couldn’t have come at a more auspicious time for a mostly-struggling half dozen, all coming off bye weeks.
In other games tonight, Big Eight 3-A Conference powers Southern and Cardinal Gibbons meet in Raleigh with a share of first place on the line. Other Big Eight matchups include Northern Vance at Chapel Hill, Cedar Ridge at co-leader Orange and Oxford Webb at Northwood.
All PAC-6 and Big Eight games begin at 7 p.m.
In the 2-A ranks, South Granville hosts Northern Carolina Conference foe Franklinton at 7:30 and Mid-State Conference action opens with Bartlett Yancey traveling to Carrboro, also at 7:30 p.m.
The area’s lone Tar-Roanoke 1-A Conference program, Granville Central, travels to Weldon at 7:30.
In the PAC-6, Riverside’s been the surprise team of the non-conference season, running up a 4-2 record that includes three straight wins, the latest by a 63-49 count at Clayton Cleveland.
Riverside running back Joel Evans rushed for a once-in-a-lifetime 419 yards on only 12 carries — almost 35 yards per touch — and scored six touchdowns in the Pirates’ win.
Riverside was an afterthought among PAC-6 followers in the preseason, when several area coaches picked Hillside as the overwhelming conference favorite followed by East Chapel Hill and promising sophomore quarterback Connor Stough to grab second place.
At 1-5, East hasn’t shown any sign of being a potential challenger to Hillside, but Riverside certainly has.
The Pirates have another chance to prove it tonight when they visit East Chapel Hill.
At Hillside, Jordan (1-5) would appear to be a lamb heading for slaughter. Don’t be misled by Hillside’s 3-2 non-conference record — it has come against some of the top teams in the state, and includes a win over perennial power New Bern.
Hillside features standout offensive and defensive talents including 4-star running back prospect Donté Thomas-Williams and 4-star wide receiver prospect Trevion Thompson.
In the final PAC-6 game of the night, 2-4 Roxboro Person visits 0-6 Northern at Durham County Memorial Stadium.
Northern finished third in the conference standings a year ago — behind No. 1 Hillside and No. 2 Southern — before the Spartans were reclassified into the 3-A ranks.
In preseason, it was apparent that the Knights had dug a deep scheduling hole. Five of the six teams on the non-conference schedule had made deep runs in the playoffs last year. The sixth, Millbrook, was a perennial state power which had fallen on hard times but featured one of the top offensive talents in the country in senior Braxton Berrios.
An 0-6 start was predicted by many — and the Knights did just that — but the thought was that Northern could use the experience to power past a weak PAC-6 and perhaps repeat the run they made to the playoffs last year.
Person has won a couple of games, but the Rockets’ schedule hasn’t been nearly as difficult as Northern’s. The Knights and rookie coach R.J. Wilson have a legitimate shot at a win tonight against Person and first-year coach David Kleine.
Here’s a glimpse at each of tonight’s other area games:
Southern (4-2, 2-0 Big Eight 3-A) at Cardinal Gibbons (5-1, 2-0 Big Eight), 7 p.m. — These are two of the toughest teams in one of, if not the most powerful 3-A leagues in the state.
Both have outstanding, balanced offenses. Southern averages some 240 passing yards and 270 rushing yards a game, leaning heavily on star QB Kendall Hinton and fleet backs/receivers Maurice Trowell, Jordan Brown and William Cameron. Gibbons counts on senior quarterback Shawn Stankavage, who also averages about 240 yards a game passing, but has a run game with several solid backs who combine for about 190 yards a game.
Neither team has been outstanding on defense, so look for the scoreboard operator to need a vacation after this one.
Northern Vance (0-6, 0-2 Big Eight) at Chapel Hill (2-4, 1-1 Big Eight), 7 p.m. — After an 0-3 start, Chapel Hill bounced back with wins over East Chapel Hill and Oxford Webb before getting shellacked 59-20 at Southern on Friday. But the Tigers are getting better. Darius Allen has rejoined the offense and given quarterback Grant DeSelm a weapon he can depend on. Northern Vance has been outscored 281-78 on the year.
Cedar Ridge (0-6, 0-2 Big Eight) at Orange (6-0, 2-0 Big Eight), 7 p.m. — Orange is ranked No. 7 statewide among 3-A programs by MaxPreps.com, the official online partner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association and that ranking might be too low for a team that tied for third in the state playoffs last year and appears to be better this year.
The Panthers have been dominant while playing three 4-A programs and a very good Northwood team without a hiccup. The Orange offense is outstanding, but its defense might be even better. The Panthers have outscored their opponents 252-43. Cross-county rival Cedar Ridge has been outscored 257-146.
Oxford Webb (2-4, 0-2 Big Eight) at Northwood (5-1, 1-1 Big Eight), 7 p.m. — Northwood’s only glitch this season has been to Orange. And that’s no insult. Webb hasn’t proven that it can play with the heavyweights and the Chargers are just that. Heavyweights.
Quarterback Ti Pinnix is a standout all-around talent. Versatile back Kadarus Rone is a star as is receiver Jalen Smith. It makes for a likely long night for the visiting Warriors.
Franklinton (5-1, 0-0 Northern Carolina 2-A) at South Granville (5-1, 0-0 Northern Carolina), 7:30 p.m. — South Granville whipped 4-A East Wake last week, not bad for a 2-A school. The Vikings will be faced with maybe even a tougher test in their Northern Carolina opener. But the Vikings are in good hands with efficient quarterback Matt McCutcheon leading an offense that averages 153 yards a game passing and 278 per game rushing. Back Sean Bowman has run for 1,126 yards. Franklinton’s lone loss came last week at 3-A Wendell Corinth Holders by a point, 33-32, when Franklinton came up short trying for a go-ahead two-point conversion with 1:17 left in the game.
Bartlett Yancey (2-4, 0-0 Mid-State 2-A) at Carrboro (3-3, 0-0 Mid-State), 7:30 p.m. — Carrboro was the state 2-A runner-up last fall and harbored thoughts of a state title this season after starting 3-0. It all came crashing down when start running back Trai Sharp injured his knee and star wideout/defensive back Marlin Johnson went down with injuries as well.
Without those two — and a couple of other key players who start both ways — the Jaguars have fallen on hard times. If the injury bug abates, the Jags have the talent to come on strong late. They’ve gotta hope it starts tonight against a mediocre visiting team from Yanceyville.
Granville Central (3-3, 0-0 Tar-Roanoke 1-A) at Weldon (2-4, 0-0 Tar-Roanoke), 7:30 p.m. — Granville Central makes its Tar-Roanoke 1-A Conference debut tonight against a program that might be a lot better than its record and current four-game losing streak might suggest.
Weldon has been outscored by a total of two points, 108-106, on the season. Granville Central is a bit of an enigma. Its three wins, all over weak competition, come by a combined score of 196-0 (56-0, 60-0, 80-0).
The three losses have been by an average of 12.3 points each, one against 2-A Franklinton, another against 3-A Oxford Webb and the third against tough 1-A program Conway Northampton County.