Wakefield (11-1) at Garner (12-0)
Why Garner will win: Garner has proven over the past five years that these are just the type of games the Trojans win – big home games against Triangle opponents. Garner is on a 10-game home winning streak in the playoffs with wins over Leesville Road (2011), Middle Creek (2010), Wakefield (2009) and Millbrook (2008).
The Trojans’ run game with Raevon Smith and Nyheim Hines will match the Wolverines’ big play potential in the passing game. Garner’s last home playoff loss came under similar circumstances: in the second round against a Cap Eight team in a 2007 loss to Millbrook. D. Clay Best, sports editor of the Garner-Cleveland Record
Why Wakefield will win: At times, Wakefield’s high-powered offense seems unstoppable. Quarterback Connor Mitch is one of the area’s top passers when the offense is in a rhythm, exhibited in his record-breaking nine-touchdown showing last month, but the Wolverines have also used the ground to move the ball lately. Running back Kelton Whitehead is elusive and fast, causing trouble for defenders and giving Wakefield another weapon.
The Wolverines defense will have a test against Garner’s run game, but Wakefield was twice able to outlast a Wake Forest-Rolesville team that likes to run the ball, including making a crucial goal line stand late in last week’s game. Caryn Grant, sports editor of the North Raleigh News
PA , 25.7, 11.5
Rushing ,121.3, 283.4
Passing, 328.7, 141.8
PF: Points for; PA: Points against; Margin: Winning margin; Rushing: Rushing yards per game; Passing: Passing yards per game. Total: Total yards per game.
Leesville Road (11-0) at Middle Creek (11-1)
Why Leesville will win: The Pride hasn’t showed much weakness this season, bulldozing most opponents by a margin of 28 points. Leesville’s biggest scare was a 17-14 win over Heritage in conference play, but the undefeated Pride made the necessary changes to convincingly top the Huskies in round one last week.
Senior quarterback Evan Parker and junior Braxton Berrios lead a dangerous offensive attack, and the Pride’s defense has done its part by holding teams to 14 points per game. Caryn Grant, sports editor of the North Raleigh News
Why Middle Creek will win: Middle Creek missed out on hype this year when it lost 46-29 in Week 4 to Garner. From then on, most of the focus has been on the Triangle’s undefeated teams.
But the Mustangs are one bad quarter away from saying the same about themselves. Two turnovers and an allowed punt return for touchdown created a 26-point avalanche by Garner in that game, which Middle Creek led 21-20 going into the fourth quarter.
When the Mustangs don’t turn the ball over a lot – which has been the case in 11 of the 12 games they’ve played – they don’t lose.
Leesville Road’s numbers have been impressive, but the Pride has faced half as many playoff-bound teams (four) than Middle Creek (eight). The Pride has stood tall against run-oriented Heritage and Wake Forest-Rolesville and again versus pass-happy Wakefield, but Middle Creek owns the most balanced attack in the Triangle.
David Salmon has 34 passing touchdowns – to just five interceptions – and 2,978 yards passing. His running backs Devone Johnson and Naylaan Lopez have combined for 21 rushing touchdowns and more than 2,100 rushing yards. J. Mike Blake, sports editor of the Cary News
PF: 40.6, 37.8
PA: 14.5, 23.9
Rushing: 327.0, 205.2
Passing: 82.9, 248.1