We’re down to the final eight teams in each classification of the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s football playoffs, and there are a number of interesting story lines for Friday night’s games.
Winners this week advance to the regional finals next Friday.
Some of those story lines:
Hoped-for rematches: Potential rematches of big regular-season games are possible next week, but it depends on Friday night’s results.
Wake Forest is itching for another shot at neighborhood rival Rolesville, after the Rams posted a lopsided 36-3 victory several weeks ago.
For that to happen, though, Wake Forest must beat visiting Pinecrest, while Rolesville downs Hoggard in a battle of unbeatens.
Pinecrest owns a regular-season victory this season over perennial power Scotland County and took Richmond Senior into overtime before losing last month.
Another potential rematch is in the 3AA division, where Greater Neuse 3A powers Cleveland and Clayton are still alive.
Cleveland beat the Comets 34-27 in a regular-season classic, and the two Johnston County powerhouses could meet again next Friday – if, Cleveland can handle undefeated Lee County, and Clayton wins on the road against West Brunswick. Lee County beat Cleveland in their last playoff meeting, in November 2019.
A collision of big-name programs: Richmond Senior and Cardinal Gibbons are two of the biggest names in North Carolina high school sports, and they meet Friday night in a 4A East game Friday in Raleigh.
The teams have played only once before, with Richmond Senior winning 45-27 in a regular-season 2019 game.
Friday’s matchup provided a minor controversy earlier in the week, with Raider fans – who tend to travel in large numbers – taking to social media to voice their complaints about their ticket allotment for the game. But Cardinal Gibbons officials increased that allotment, and the complaints largely disappeared.
Quarterback bonanza: Panther Creek sophomore Amari Odom and Myers Park junior Lucas Lenhoff are two of the best underclassmen quarterbacks in the state. Their teams meet Friday in Charlotte in a 4AA West regional semifinal. Each team is unbeaten, and the two quarterbacks have accounted for nearly 3,000 passing yards in this abbreviated 2021 spring season.
Friday prep football preview, schedule
(News & Observer’s Sweet 16 rankings included)
No. 7 Hillside (4-2) at Grimsley (7-0), 4A playoffs, 7:30 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) Alonza Barnett III leads a powerful Grimsley attack, passing for 1,262 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Hillside’s defense gave up 26 points to a 3-2 South Caldwell team last week and will need to be much tougher to reach the third round. A reminder: Hillside is playing in the West Region.
Hoggard (8-0) at No. 1 Rolesville (7-0), 4AA playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) The host Rams overwhelmed Holly Springs last week, with QB Byrum Brown throwing for three touchdowns. It gets tougher this week. Hoggard blew through its Mideastern 3A-4A schedule but hasn’t played in two weeks. The Vikings advanced via forfeit last week, due to Leesville Road’s issues with COVID-19 protocols.
Lee County (8-0) at No. 3 Cleveland (8-0), 3AA playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) This game has the makings of a touchdown marathon, as Lee County is averaging 48 points a game behind QB Will Patterson (1,819 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, just one interception). And Cleveland is averaging 48 points a contest, with QB Skyler Locklear throwing for 1,510 yards and 16 touchdowns. That is the 19th-best passing yardage figure in the state this season. These teams met in Round 3 of the 2019 playoffs, with Hampton running for 122 yards and three touchdowns, but Lee County winning 34-27.
No. 4 Panther Creek (8-0) at Myers Park (8-0), 4AA playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) Panther Creek sophomore QB Amari Odom and Myers Park junior QB Lucas Lenhoff are among the state’s best, but both of these high-scoring teams also have superb defensive units. The Catamounts’ Jeff McKnight (20 tackles for losses, seven sacks) could be a key to slowing down the Myers Park attack. Odom ranks 11th in passing yardage statewide this season, throwing for 1,792 yards (and 22 touchdowns). This is a West Region game.
Pinecrest (6-2) at No. 5 Wake Forest (6-1), 4AA playoffs, 6:30 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) Pinecrest knocked off previously unbeaten Apex Friendship this week and took 4A power Richmond Senior into overtime this season. But the Cougars’ defense has been playing better in recent weeks. Sophomore LB Jeremiah Bethel had three tackles for losses and two sacks last week. Pinecrest can eat up the clock behind RB O.J. Pemberton. This is a rematch of the 2019 East Regional final, which Wake Forest won 49-7.
Richmond Senior (4-0) at No. 2 Cardinal Gibbons (7-0), 4A playoffs, 7 p.m. – (coverage on NFHS Network) The Raiders scored a 45-28 victory at Cardinal Gibbons in September 2019 in the schools’ only meeting. Jaron Coleman (239 rushing yards) and C.Q. Tillman Jr. (115 yards) led Richmond Senior last week in its impressive 51-27 trouncing of Middle Creek. The Cardinal Gibbons defense, led by LB Carter Scearce (30-plus tackles, four sacks) faces its toughest test of the season here.
No. 6 Clayton (7-1) at West Brunswick (6-1), 3AA playoffs, 6:30 p.m. – (video coverage at www.facebook.com/ATMCconnect) Senior QB Monzelle Campbell, a run-pass threat, leads a West Brunswick offense that scored 42 points last week on Chapel Hill. RB Dashawn Hinton scored three times last week for Clayton, and the Rams have the ability to score quickly or to run time off the clock. A victory here could earn Clayton a rematch with Cleveland in the state semifinals next week.
Vance (7-1) at Hough (8-0), 7
Panther Creek (8-0) at Myers Park (8-0), 7
Pinecrest (6-2) at Wake Forest (6-1), 6:30
Hoggard (8-0) at Rolesville (7-0), 7
Hillside (4-2) at Grimsley (7-0), 7:30
Butler (7-1) at Providence (7-1), 7
Richmond Senior (4-0) at Cardinal Gibbons (7-0), 7
New Bern (6-1) at South View (7-1), 6:30
Dudley (7-1) at T.C. Roberson (7-1), 7
Weddington (8-0) at Mount Tabor (8-0), 7
Lee County (8-0) at Cleveland (8-0), 7
Clayton (7-1) at West Brunswick (6-1), 6:30
Charlotte Catholic (6-1) at A.C. Reynolds (7-1), 7
Monroe (6-2) at Kings Mountain (8-0), 7:30
Eastern Alamance (6-1) at Western Alamance (8-0), 7
Havelock (8-0) at Northwood (6-2), 7
Oak Grove (6-2) at North Davidson (7-1), 7:30
Salisbury (6-2) at Burns (6-2), 7:30
Croatan (7-1) at Washington (6-1), 6:30
SouthWest Edgecombe (6-2) at St. Pauls (6-0), 7
Next Friday’s quarterfinals
Shelby (6-2) at Hendersonville (6-2), 7:30
Mount Pleasant (8-0) at Mountain Heritage (5-1), 7:30
Wallace-Rose Hill (5-3) at Reidsville (7-0), 7:30
Eastern Randolph (5-1) at Northeastern (5-0), 7
Polk County (5-1) at North Rowan (5-1), 7
Pine Lake Prep (8-0) at East Surry (7-1), 7:30
John A. Holmes (6-0) at Tarboro (6-0), 7
East Carteret (6-2) at Louisburg (5-2), 7
Murphy (7-1) at Elkin (6-1), 7
Mitchell County (7-0) at Robbinsville (8-0), 7:30
Pamlico County (5-2) at Pinetown Northside (6-2)
Bear Grass Charter (4-1) at Northampton County (2-3)