In a starkly different set of pairings from last year, the 2015 N.C. High School Athletics Association is keeping all local football teams pretty close to home in the 2015 football playoffs’ first round.
The 3AA East features a virtual Big 8 Conference playoff. The first round has Southern Durham (8-3) seeded No. 3 and hosting No. 14 Chapel Hill (6-5). A Big 8 rival of Southern’s, Chapel Hill knocked the then-top-seeded Spartans out of the 2014 playoffs with 39-28 upset. When the two met this year in the regular season, Southern won 35-15.
Chapel Hill is looking forward to another chance against the Spartans.
“The first game this year was extremely competitive,” Chapel Hill coach Issac Marsh said. “We left several points on the field. We were in the red zone three times that we didn’t score. That’s something we definitely looked at in our coaches meeting.”
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The 3AA bracket also has No. 11 Northwood (6-5) at No. 6 Orange (10-1). Orange won 14-0 at Northwood this season. The winner of the second Northwood-Orange game gets the Southern-Chapel Hill winner in the second round.
That ensures only one Big 8 team can reach the third round and that there will be no repeat of last year’s 3AA quarterfinals, where the Big 8 comprised three of the state’s final eight teams.
“It doesn’t bother me one bit,” Marsh said. “If you look at the way the way the playoff system is set up and how the numbers fell in the seeding process, I don’t know what else the NCHSAA could have done.”
Marsh noted that all the Big 8 teams will cut down on travel times and expenses, unlike the 1A playoff that features a 196-mile trip for No. 16 South Robeson to No. 1 East Wilkes.
“We’re just hoping to go two rounds into this and win the ‘Big 8 Tournament,’” Marsh said.
In the 4A East, Hillside (8-2) also gets a rematch, hosting fellow PAC-6 member Person (6-5). The Hornets beat Person 41-0 on Nov. 6 in the last game of the season at Roxboro.
N.C. High School Athletics Association
High School Football Playoffs
(seeds in para., all games at home of higher seed.)
(1) DH Conley vs (16) New Bern;
(8) Northern Durham vs (9) East Wake.
(4) Cape Fear vs (13) Rolesville;
( 5) J.H. Rose vs (12) Overhills.
(2) New Hanover vs (15) Knightdale;
(7) West Johnston vs (10) Cardinal Gibbons.
(3) Hillside vs (14) Roxboro Person;
(6) Hoggard vs (11) Fayetteville E.E. Smith
( 1) Fayetteville Terry Sanford vs (16) West Brunswick;
(8) Hunt vs (9) Lee County.
(4) Corinth Holders vs (13) Northern Guilford;
(5) Asheboro vs (2) Triton.
(2) Cleveland vs (15) Union Pines;
(7) Gray’s Creek vs (10) Jacksonville.
(3) Southern Durham vs (14) Chapel Hill;
(6) Orange vs (11) Northwood.
Second round: 1-16 winner plays 8-9 winner; 2-15 winner plays 7-10 winner; 3-14 winner plays 6-11 winner; 4-13 winner plays 5-12 winner.