If you’re hoping to attend one of two N.C. High School Athletic Association third-round football playoff games in Wake County you’ll need to get there early. Seats, parking spaces and tickets may be hard to come by.
The third round, long considered the measuring stick for upper-echelon programs, is no stranger to standing-room-only games, but that becomes magnified when there are rivalry bragging rights at stake.
Garner will take a 13-mile bus ride to play rival Middle Creek on Friday. The two attendance zones border each other. Many players from the Trojans and Mustangs (13-0) once played on the same North Garner Middle School team.
Middle Creek won the regular-season showdown 30-10 over Labor Day weekend to give the Trojans (12-1) their only loss. Garner has won 10 straight.
Heritage (11-2) goes less than five miles away to play crosstown foe Wake Forest (13-0). The attendance zone also border each other, and once had a strange overlap where the Wake Forest High building was in the Heritage district. Players have been playing with and against each other since pee wee football.
Wake Forest won the regular-season game 26-13. At the time both teams were undefeated.
Parking is limited at Wake Forest, but town officers will be helping people park on Stadium Drive.
“With this crowd, if you’re getting there at 7:10 p.m. hoping to see kickoff, it might not happen,” Wake Forest AD Mike Joyner said of the 7:30 Friday game.
Middle Creek sold advance tickets – $7, just like it will be at the gate – on Tuesday. Garner is selling advanced tickets at its South Garner High campus Wednesday during lunch and from 4-6 p.m. in the front lobby.
Wake Forest is selling tickets Wednesday and Thursday during lunch hours (10:45-12:45 p.m.).
Heritage is selling tickets Wednesday and Thursday during school hours and before and after school on Friday. Tickets can also be bought Wednesday at its home wrestling match.
The right call
West Johnston football coach Jimmy Williams went for the win in the first overtime at Cape Fear (13-0) on Friday. Running back Tony Mack was stopped about a foot short and Cape Fear won 35-34.
Just because the outcome didn’t go the Wildcats’ way doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right call.
West (10-2) played the percentage and decided to use its opportunity as the second team to go in the OT period to put the Colts away rather than prolong the game and hope Cape Fear blinked first.
Cape Fear dual-threat quarterback Justice Galloway-Velasquez, who plays Cardinal Gibbons (12-1) on Friday, is hard enough to stop on a normal drive. In high school, the ball is placed at the 10.
“We felt good about the call. We had already decided we were going to do it. We just called the timeout there to make sure it was the play we wanted,” Williams said. “We knew we weren’t going to stop their quarterback from 10 yards out all night long.”
Losing two of the best
Two of the best football coaches in the Triangle - Bunn’s David Howle and Orange’s Pat Moser - retired on Friday night following second-round losses. Both had announced plans that this was it.
Moser and Howle are easily the best coaches in their respective schools’ history.
Moser went 72-31 at the school (142-57 in his career) and has five of the six double-digit-win seasons in school history.
Howle went 215-89 (the school is 90-126 without him) and took the Wildcats to their only state title game in school history.
Both meant a lot to their communities, especially Howle. He became one of the most important fixtures in the tiny town over the years and when Bunn reached the title game last year, most of the outpouring of support was directed at him.
The Starting 11: players of the week
(Times named to The Starting 11 this season in parentheses.)
Braxton Brokenborough, Garner (1): Completed 19 of 26 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns; ran five times for 20 yards and one touchdown.
Juane Daniel-Sanders, Rocky Mount (1): Ran 17 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Collin Eaddy, Garner (2): Ran 23 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan Goodwin, J.H. Rose (2): Completed 22 of 44 passes for 361 yards and five touchdowns.
Devon Lawrence, Wake Forest (3): Ran 26 times for 151 yards and one touchdown; also caught a 12-yard pass.
Tony Mack, West Johnston (3): Ran 19 times for 92 yards and four touchdowns.
Caiden Norman, Cleveland (9): Completed 23 of 40 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns.
Dominique Shoffner, Middle Creek (5): Completed 24 of 26 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns; ran 13 times for 47 yards and one touchdown.
Dalen Spruill, Cardinal Gibbons (3): Ran 29 times for 212 yards and a touchdown.
Modica Whitehurst, Ayden-Grifton (1): Ran 22 times for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
Andre Wilson, West Johnston (2): Ran 24 times for 126 yards and one touchdown; completed 10 of 19 passes for 104 yards.
4-point stance: top defenses
Cardinal Gibbons: Held New Hanover to one offensive touchdown (67 yards rushing, 150 passing) in a 31-13 win.
Heritage: Scored on a safety and fumble return in a 25-21 win at Pinecrest, allowing the Patriots 233 yards rushing and 140 passing.
Middle Creek: Held Sanderson to 153 yards rushing and 72 passing in a 45-7 win. Daniel Jackson had a 22-yard interception return.
Wake Forest: Held Laney to 71 yards rushing (on 41 carries) and 118 passing in a 7-6 win.
▪ Garner’s Collin Eaddy has extended the school’s streak of 1,000-yard rushers to 33 consecutive seasons.
▪ Northern Vance football coach Cory Lea has resigned after two seasons to take a job at another school in the Triangle, but he wouldn’t say which one. The Vikings were 10-12 over the last two seasons
▪ Lee County is two wins away from coach Burton Cates winning his 300th game, which would make him only the third active coach in N.C. to reach that mark and 11th all-time. To do that would mean the Yellow Jackets would have to beat Jacksonville on Friday an either Western Alamance or Eastern Guilford on the road the following week to earn Lee’s first spot in the title since it was known as Sanford Central in 1974.
▪ Should Middle Creek and Wake Forest each win on Friday, Middle Creek would host the 4AA East final on the last of four NCHSAA tiebreakers – MaxPreps ranking. Middle Creek is one spot ahead of Wake Forest in the mathematical formula, 10th versus 11th. The first tiebreakers are head-to-head, 10-game record and overall records.
▪ The NCHSAA has changed its football championship lineup. The Friday, Dec. 16 championship at North Carolina is now reserved for the 1AA title at 7:35 p.m., followed the next day at 11:05 a.m. by the 1A title. The Dec. 17 games at Wake Forest are 3A (11:05 a.m.), 3AA (3:05 p.m.) and 2A (7:05 p.m.) and the ones at N.C. State are 2AA (11:05 a.m.), 4AA (3:05 p.m.) and 4A (7:05 p.m.).
Note: Teams are seeded into East and Mideast subregions.
4AA EAST: 1E-Wake Forest vs 3E-Heritage; 1ME-Middle Creek vs 2E-Garner
4A EAST: 2ME-Cape Fear vs 4ME-Cardinal Gibbons; 1ME-Scotland County vs 6E-Hoggard
3AA EAST: 2ME-Lee County vs 5E-Jacksonville; 1ME-Eastern Guilford vs 3ME-Western Alamance
3A EAST: 1E-West Craven vs 3E-Havelock; 3ME-Southern Guilford vs 4E-Rocky Mount
2AA EAST: 1E-East Duplin vs 3E-Hertford County; 1ME-Clinton vs 6E-Northside (Jacksonville)
2A EAST: 1E-Northeastern vs 3E-Edenton Holmes; 1ME-South Columbus vs 3ME-East Bladen
1AA EAST: 1E-East Carteret vs 3E-Tarboro; 1ME-Lakewood vs 2E-Wallace-Rose Hill
1A EAST: 1E-Plymouth vs 2ME-North Edgecombe; 2E-Southside vs 5ME-Northampton County
J. Mike Blake: @JMBpreps