A guide to the high school football playoffs

cbest@newsobserver.comNovember 14, 2013 

The NCHSAA state football playoffs begin Friday and run through Dec. 13-14. The playoffs are a little later than normal this year so if your team lasts until Thanksgiving it will be playing in the third round at least. But there’s plenty of football before that and loads of playoff brackets to be analyzed, picked and pored over. D. Clay Best has done some poring over of his own and presents his thoughts about the upcoming playoffs.

Adjust your clocks: The fan-friendly 7 p.m. regular-season kickoffs are gone. The NCHSAA’s policy is all playoff games – through the regional championship round – must start at 7:30 p.m.

Where they all hope to go: The path begins Friday night with the first round of games, and teams know where their season will end if they reach a state championship game on Dec. 13 or 14:

• N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium will host three championship games on Dec. 14: The 3A at 11 a.m., the 4A at 3 p.m. and the 4AA at 7 p.m.

• On the same day, BB&T Field in Winston-Salem hosts the 1A finals at 11 a.m., the 1AA at 3 p.m. and the 3AA final at 7 p.m.

• Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill will have the 2AA finals on Friday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. and the 2A finals at 11 a.m. on Dec. 14.

Dream scenarios: Millbrook at Leesville Road, Wake Forest at Panther Creek, Holly Springs at Garner and Fuquay-Varina at Middle Creek.

Some pundits don’t like rematches of conference foes during the playoffs, but it works at the ticket gate. Who wouldn’t like to see a Millbrook and Leesville Road rematch or see Fuquay-Varina try to knock off Middle Creek again this week after a stellar effort last season?

Holly Springs challenging Garner for the first time is a golden ticket of sorts for Hawks fans. Want to make your playoff trip memorable? Why not knock off an eastern regional finalist for the past two seasons and the king of football in Garner?

Scariest 12 seeds you’ll ever see: In 4AA, it’s Wake Forest. The Cougars’ path to the eastern regional finals is far from easy but it’s doable, especially with a talented defense and a 1,500-yard back in Bryce Love. All three of their losses were by a touchdown or less.

Corinth Holders looks formidable with a big-time passing game. Until the turnover-marred effort in the season finale against Triton, it had just two losses – both by a touchdown or less – since August.

Congrats, you made the playoffs, now here’s a present you probably don’t want to open: In the 4A ranks it’s a three-way tie between Clayton, Southeast Raleigh and Heritage. Clayton meets Durham Hillside, which is widely regarded as one of the most talented teams in the state.

Southeast gets New Bern – the eastern thorn in the side of many Triangle area teams this time of year.

Heritage meets 2011 4A state champion Scotland County, which is coming off a dominating win against Richmond County.

Most intriguing but still somewhat under the radar potential regional final: 1AA eastern regional final – Tarboro (a state power in the 2A ranks until moving down a classification this season) against James Kenan (one of the most athletic teams at any level of play).

Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest

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