Middle Creek and Garner, both ranked among the top 20 high school football teams in the North Carolina Prep Football News Yearbook, will open the season against each other Aug. 23.
Garner is ranked No. 7 in the annual publication behind Charlotte Mallard Creek, Matthews Butler, New Bern, Scotland, Richmond and Fayetteville Britt.
Middle Creek, the preseason favorite in the new Southwest Wake 4A Conference, is No. 18.
Leesville Road, undefeated the past two seasons except for playoff losses to Garner, is No. 11 and Durham Hillside is No. 14.
The FNF North Carolina magazine has Garner (No. 7), Leesville (21) and Hillside (22) in its top 25.
The FNF’s top five are Mallard Creek, Scotland County, Charlotte Independence, Charlotte Independence, Matthews Butler and Havelock.
One of the biggest games of the year could be during the second week when Mallard Creek is at home against Butler.
• Cary and Garner will renew their football rivalry this season on Sept. 13. The schools once had one of Wake County’s best rivalries, but haven’t played in football since 2004. Running back Josh Adams, who went on to play at Wake Forest, led the Imps to a 27-23 regular-season victory over the Trojans and a 12-7 win in the playoffs.
• Greensboro Dudley, a projected top 20 club, will play the PAC-Six’s Person (Sept. 6), Hillside (Sept. 13) and Northern Durham (Sept. 27).
The Panthers are part of a tough schedule for Hillside. The Hornets open at New Bern, which was 15-0 in 2012, then face rival Southern Durham (7-4). Dudley visits Hillside on Sept. 13 and the Hornets play Charlotte Country Day (9-2) on Sept. 20.
• In addition to Middle Creek’s trip to Garner, the Mustangs have an assignment at home against Fayetteville E.E. Smith (11-2).
• Cleveland (12-2) will be at home when it plays Garner (14-1) for the first time on Aug. 30. That is one of three potential rivalries that Cleveland will play in the first three weeks. The Rams open against Clayton (9-4) on Aug. 23 and will play neighboring West Johnston (3-7) on Sept. 6.
Cleveland’s Two River 3A conference includes Smithfield-Selma, Erwin Triton, Corinth Holders, South Johnston and Western Harnett.
• Southeast Raleigh (6-6) would be hard pressed to schedule two more difficult opening games. The Bulldogs start with 4AA finalist Fayetteville Britt and then travel to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a game against South Carolina power Dutch Fork, which is coached by former Charlotte Independence coach Tom Knotts.
• Southern Durham will be a home against Scotland (12-2) on Sept. 13.
• North Raleigh Christian is expected to play against Davidson Day’s Will Grier, the state’s top-ranked prospect, on Aug. 30. Grier, a University of Florida recruit, passed for 5,785 yards and 69 touchdowns last year and passed for a national record 837 yards and 10 touchdowns in a playoff win over Harrells Christian.
Grier passed for 493 yards in a 42-35 victory over North Raleigh in 2012. North Raleigh’s John Cook passed for 429 yards in the loss.