All of the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference playoff teams that had games Friday will head into the postseason on a win streak, with Green Hope, Fuquay-Varina and Middle Creek each picking up wins. Holly Springs had a bye week after defeating Cary 27-10 on October 30.
Middle Creek capped off its first undefeated season in school history, drubbing Apex 41-9 at home.
Unable to pull off the upset, the Cougars finished out the year at 4-6, meaning the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference will only be sending four teams to the 4AA postseason bracket: No. 1 Middle Creek, No. 5 Fuquay-Varina, No. 10 Holly Springs and No. 12 Green Hope. Last year, the SWAC saw five of its members make the playoffs.
Fuquay who had already clinched the second automatic bid, survived a scare from Cary Friday night, being outscored 21-7 in the final 25 minutes of play. Austin Pluckhorn’s 14-yard rush in the fourth quarter eventually gave the Bengals a 28-21 advantage. Fuquay has a rematch against Green Hope in round one of the playoffs, a team they were outscored by 26-6 in the second half of a 36-26 week 5 victory.
That will be the only SWAC rematch in the first round, as Middle Creek hosts the Cap-8’s Leesville Road, who are coming off a strong “win or go home” victory in its regular season finale against Wakefield.
Holly Springs, who have won seven of its last nine, make the longest trip of any SWAC team, traveling just a little more than an hour to visit powerhouse Richmond County, the second place finisher in the Southeastern Conference.
Player of the week
Dominique Shoffner, Middle Creek: Shoffner amassed 306 total yards (264 passing, 42 rushing) and three total touchdowns as the Mustangs ran all over Apex. 206 of his passing yards came in the first half, where Middle Creek scored 27 of their 41 points.
Friday night heroes
Michael Roberson, Fuquay-Varina: Roberson rattled off a big play every time he touched the ball against Cary, turning his seven touches in for 154 total all-purpose yards and notching scores off a 70-yard rush and 21-yard reception.
Isaiah Gibbons, Cary: Gibbons racked up 157 yards rushing on 21 carries, including a 71-yard burst that tied the game up in the fourth quarter.
Tucker Burkinshaw, Green Hope: Burkinshaw spoiled Athens Drive’s last game at Williams Stadium, completing 20 of his 27 passes to eight different receivers for 308 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 35-12 win.
Roderick Perry II, Cary: The 285-pound defensive tackle helped slow the Fuquay run offense for the majority of Friday night. The Bengals averaged only 3.7 yards per carry on 40 attempts after negating their big runs of 70 and 36 yards.
Jack Beistek, Cardinal Gibbons: Beistek completed three passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns while picking up 155 yards and an additional score on the ground.
Play of the week
Facing fourth down in a tie game, Fuquay coach Jeb Hall elected to run a fake punt despite being in Bengal territory. The risk paid off, as Colten Smith rumbled for 36 yards and picked up an additional 15 due to a facemask penalty, setting up Pluckhorn’s game-winning run.
They said it
“We don’t want them to know how good they think they are or how good everyone else thinks they are,” Middle Creek coach Randy Ragland said. “We try to keep them away from all that.”
▪ Panther Creek senior Dom Samson finished first in the N&O’s greater Triangle area for passing yards and touchdowns with 3,045 yards and 35 scores in 11 games. Cleveland’s Caiden Norman finished in second in yards, a sizeable 468 yards behind Samson. Green Hope’s Burkinshaw was third.
▪ Fuquay was the third highest scoring team in the SWAC, scoring 32.9 points per game while only throwing for 39.4 yards per game. The Bengals’ 3,544 yards rushing is second in the area.
▪ Cary Christian’s season came to an end in the first round of the NCISAA playoffs, falling to St. David’s 64-24.
▪ Wake Christian defeated Fayetteville’s Village Christian 41-0 in the first round of the NCISAA playoffs. John Kilpatrick caught four passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
▪ Cardinal Gibbons conceded 31-24 to Northern Durham, leaving the Crusaders with a third-place finish in the PAC-6 for their first season on 4A play.
7:30 p.m. game times
4AA - No. 1 Middle Creek vs. No. 16 Leesville Road: Beware the Pride, who can score in bunches when the offense is clicking. But is their QB Clay Vick healthy?
4AA - No. 5 Fuquay-Varina vs. No. 12 Green Hope: The Bengals’ closest win was against the Falcons. A tough first-round draw for both.
4AA - No. 7 Richmond County vs. No. 10 Holly Springs: Remember former Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano? The Raiders are his new team, and they went 9-2.
Other area games
4A: No. 7 West Johnson vs No. 10 Cardinal Gibbons, 7:30 p.m.
NCISAA D3: No. 2 Wake Christian vs No. 6 Concord First Assembly, 7 p.m.
Final SWAC standings
1. Middle Creek 11-0 (8-0)
2. Fuquay-Varina 10-1 (7-1)
3. Holly Springs 7-4 (5-2)
4. Green Hope 7-4 (4-3)
5. Apex 4-6 (3-4)
6. Panther Creek 4-7 (2-5)
7. Cary 2-8 (1-6)
8. Athens Drive 0-11 (0-7)
Fuquay-Varina 28, Cary 21
Green Hope 35, Athens Drive 12
Northern Durham 31, Cardinal Gibbons 24
Middle Creek 41, Apex 9
St. David’s 64, Cary Christian 24
Wake Christian 41, Village Christian 0