West Johnston (6-3, 3-2)
at Clayton (5-4, 2-3), 7 p.m.
What it means: West Johnston is right where it wanted to be at this point of the season: in control of its own playoff fate. Win out and the Wildcats are guaranteed no worse than a third place finish. Clayton, with meetings against West and Southeast remaining, can still turn the third place race in the conference into a real jumble.
The skinny: West is looking for its first win in the series since 2011. Clayton needs to find more answers on defense. And if there’s one quick fix for a struggling defense, it’s turnovers. The Comets need to find some of those Friday night on senior night.
Cleveland (7-2, 2-1)
at South Johnston (4-5, 3-0), 7:30 p.m.
What it means: It could end up with chaos for the Two Rivers 3A Conference championship race or a really simple championship path for one team. Cleveland creates the near chaos with a win, setting up the possibility of a three-way tie for the conference title. South Johnston — the only unbeaten team left in the league — gets the most direct path to the championship with a victory.
The skinny: South seems to have put it all together, grown up and figured out how good it might be since the calendar flipped to conference play. The Trojans’ first-half slow starts seem to be a thing of the past and they’re still a strong, physical, quick football team. They’ll need to be all of that to take the title away from Cleveland. The Rams caught a rare case of the turnover bug in the second half against Corinth Holders. That can’t happen again against the Trojans, who beat Corinth Holders by almost 20 points when the Pirates had turnover issues against South.
Smithfield-Selma (3-6, 2-1) at Corinth Holders (6-3, 2-1), 7:30 p.m.
What it means: Smithfield-Selma is in this conference championship race. The Spartans can win their way to a share of the Two Rivers 3A Conference championship by winning out. SSS faces Corinth Holders and South Johnston in its last two games and both are good matchups for the Spartans. Good in the sense that you can’t write off SSS’s chances to win before the game begins.
Corinth Holders’ championship hopes were renewed with the big win over Cleveland last week. The Pirates are two wins and just one South Johnston loss away from getting a share of that championship.
The skinny: Corinth Holders will need one of its best offensive efforts of the season to prevail. And that doesn’t necessarily mean just a bunch of points. SSS is a physical, well-coached, well-skilled and stingy defense. That said, you’d have to think that the Spartans need to find another touchdown or two above their normal average to have their best chance to win.
Lakewood (5-4, 2-2) at
Princeton (8-1, 3-1), 7:30 p.m.
What it means: It sure looks like Princeton is going to have to win out to finish second in the Carolina 1A Conference with Rosewood still in the race with a 4-1 record in league play, so the Bulldogs must win Friday night to keep their hopes for that finish (and the home playoff game or games that come with it) alive.
Lakewood, coming off of a bye week, is fourth in the conference right now.
The skinny: Princeton will need to help Lakewood for the Leopards to pull the upset: one filled with turnovers, penalties or an uncharacteristic defensive performance.
North Johnston (1-8, 0-3) at
Southwest Edgecombe (6-3, 2-1), 7:30 p.m.
What it means: Southwest stays in the conference championship race with a win, while North just wants to see its conference losing streak (dating back to 2012) end.
Greater Neuse River 4A
Two Rivers 3A