Sanderson improving just in time: With a showdown with Heritage looming next week, the Spartans (2-1) were strong in all facets of the game at Apex (0-3). Though coach Ben Kolstad had 18 starters back this season, it was important for the team to change some of the players’ roles from last year. He said it’s about “finding what makes us the best team, moving people around. ... We’re trying to get more depth than last year, and the only way to do that is to give them reps in the nonconference.”
Green Hope still climbing: Take away the first three quarters of the first game and the last quarter of its most recent one, and the Falcons (2-1) have done quite nicely. Green Hope jumped out to a 28-0 lead through three quarters at previously unbeaten Leesville Road (2-1).
Cary, Athens Drive could be a surprise: It’s still early, but in a Triangle 6 Conference where only two of the six teams made the playoffs last year, the 2-1 starts by Athens Drive and Cary can’t go unnoticed. They’ve won two “toss-up” games, and there’s plenty of those left on each teams’ schedule.
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Apex feels at home: It was a different setting for Apex’s home opener this year. It doesn’t have the same charm as Apex High, but the facilities at Green Level – the Cougars’ home for this season and the next – were fantastic. A few onlookers walked across Roberts Road and peered down at the field to take in the sight of the new fall scenery.
Second look at Enloe? The Eagles (2-1) have started the year 2-1 in 2016 and 2014 and both seasons ended 3-8. But here’s what’s possibly at stake next week when the Eagles host Athens Drive: The last time Enloe was 3-1, it was 2008 – the last time Enloe made the postseason.
Garner rolls: The Trojans (1-2) avoided falling to 0-3 for the first time since the 1980s in a big way, routing one of the few teams (Southeast Raleigh) that tested it in last year’s regular season.
North Johnston keeping the pace: With North Pitt playing Friday night, five of the six teams in the Eastern Plains 2A Conference are 2-1 or 3-0. Last year’s league was almost a three-way tie for first, and this year’s looks like everyone will have a shot at the crown including the North Johnston (2-1).
West Johnston to improve: Losing almost the entire starting offense and defense from the best team in school history was going to take its toll on West Johnston (1-2). The encouraging part over the last two weeks is that the defense has held its own, and that’s a positive. If you have to pick which side of the ball you’d rather have a young team playing well at the beginning of the year, you’d probably pick defense.
A good sign for Northern: A week removed from stopping a streak of 0-2 starts to the year, the Knights are 2-1 for the first time since 2010 (those wins were later forfeited as part of a 1-10 season). The second most-recent 2-1 start was in 2003, a season that ended in the final four of the state playoffs.
Air Hornets: Without Jamal Currie-Elliott, Hillside (1-2) nearly toppled 4A Pinecrest down in Southern Pines. And the Hornets nearly pulled it off thanks to its proficient passing game. Without the Oregon recruit in the backfield, quarterback Randy Trice threw for 363 yards (4 TDs, 3 INTs) with Caleb Harrington hauling in 11 of those passes for 209 yards and two scores. The more balanced Hillside becomes, the harder it gets for Big Eight Conference teams to deny them an eighth straight conference title.
Good timing: Person (1-2) needed a break from tense games after losing two games by 10 points combined. After next week, the Rockets will have to focus on a conference slate that starts with the top four Mid-State Conference teams.
Second look at Northwood?: The Chargers (2-1) started out the year with a shutout loss to Lee County – but no one has scored on Lee County all year. A win against Asheboro (0-3), which has gone 9-4 and 10-3 in the last two seasons and has two three-point losses this year, shows that maybe this year’s Northwood team is on better ground than at first sight. If the Chargers are for real, the Big Eight Conference will be an all-out battle each week.
Carrboro stops the streak: Carrboro’s (1-1) double-overtime thriller against Chapel Hill (0-3) ends a three-game losing skid in the rivalry series, which was the longest for either side. Chapel Hill leads the all-time series 5-4.
Faith moving mountains: Faith Christian in Rocky Mount is in its first season of 8-man football. The Patriots are 2-0 after rolling by second-year program Wayne Christian (0-3).
Kinston’s back: After handing 3A Fike (2-1) its first loss of the year, it looks like the Vikings (3-0) are getting back to their 2015 form, when they went all the way to the state championship game. That’ll come in handy in an Eastern Carolina Conference that features area titans like West Craven and Ayden-Grifton.
Eastern Plains power: SouthWest Edgecombe (3-0) toppled a previously undefeated 4A team, Beddingfield (3-0) had no trouble with its third straight opponent, Farmville Central (2-1) dominated its second straight opponent and Nash Central (2-1) also has a pair of blowout wins. North Pitt (1-1) was picked last in the conference but almost beat a 3-0 Kinston team. Add that in with North Johnston, and this league is for real.
Franklinton’s defense: In three games, the Red Rams (3-0) have two shutouts and are allowing seven points per contest.
No worries for Bunn: There’s a reason Bunn (1-2) keeps a nearby 3A power like Southern Nash (3-0) on the schedule, and it’s certainly not to get an automatic win. The Wildcats’ last two opponents are two 3A that are now 6-0 combined.
Three games, no points: Lee County (3-0) has had a good defense in recent years, but three straight shutouts including two over 4A teams puts this year’s team on another level. The only defense that seems capable of stopping Notre Dame running back recruit Jahmir Smith wears the same jersey as him.
Pinecrest’s fortitude: The Patriots (3-0) have been tested already this year and it looks like Pinecrest may have what it takes to compete for a conference championship against the likes of Richmond, Scotland and Seventy-First.
Transitive property: Union Pines (2-1) scored 63 points on a team that just held Western Harnett, one of the Vikings’ conference opponents who has given Union Pines fits over the years, to nine points. That has to mean something, right?
Running by a rival: With its conference play starting next week, Overhills (2-0) took care of business at rival Western Harnett (0-3) to tilt the all-time series 11-2 in the Jaguars’ favor. Western Harnett has lost the last seven in the series. The Eagles’ scoring woes finally went away in the fourth quarter, scoring more points (28) than it had all season to date (17).
PrepsNow ranking included
No. 3 Sanderson (won 48-0) at Apex
Knightdale at Athens Drive (won 31-28, OT)
East Duplin (won 58-6) at Ayden-Grifton
Broughton at Cary (won 29-18)
Eastern Wayne (won 19-6) at C.B. Aycock
Carrboro (won 21-20, 2OT) at Chapel Hill
No. 9 Clayton (won 42-7) at Corinth Holders
Washington at No. 17 D.H. Conley (won 62-20)
Apex Friendship at Enloe (won 14-7)
Wayne Christian at Faith Christian Rocky Mount (won 55-26)
Princeton at Farmville Central (won 41-12)
Kinston (won 21-18) at No. 22 Fike
KIPP Pride at Granville Central (won 33-8)
Southeast Raleigh at No. 18 Garner (won 47-14)
No. 19 Rocky Mount (won 47-21) at Hertford County
Wakefield at No. 5 Lee County (won 39-0)
No. 16 Green Hope (won 28-21) at No. 20 Leesville Road
No. 24 Franklinton (won 46-0) at Louisburg
Northern Durham (won 23-14) at Jordan
South Lenoir at North Duplin (won 42-6)
Hobbton at North Johnston (won 48-0)
Southern Vance at North Lenoir (won 50-36)
East Montgomery (won 29-7) at North Moore
Beddingfield (won 28-12) at Northern Vance
Asheboro at Northwood (won 27-18)
Holly Springs (won 41-23) at Panther Creek
Bartlett Yancey at Person (40-14)
No. 10 Hillside at No. 6 Pinecrest (won 42-39)
Union Pines (won 62-35) at Providence Grove
Spring Creek at Rosewood (won 27-6)
Nash Central (won 56-7) at Smithfield-Selma
Triton (won 21-0) at South Johnston
Jordan-Matthews at South Stanly (won 32-20)
West Johnston at Southern Lee (won 31-0)
Bunn at No. 4 Southern Nash (won 55-7)
No. 21 South Central at SouthWest Edgecombe (won 28-26)
Northern Nash at No. 13 Tarboro (won 42-7)
Fayetteville Christian at Wake Christian (won 55-9)
Northampton County (won 22-17) at Warren County
Roanoke Rapids (won 42-6) at Weldon
Overhills (won 48-28) at Western Harnett