The 102nd N.C. High School Athletic Association football championships have no underdogs this year. Of the 16 teams playing for state titles on Friday and Saturday, only one has more than two losses.
The games get started on Friday, when Rocky Mount takes on Belmont’s South Point High for the 3A championship at 7:35 p.m. at North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium.
The rest of the games are slated for Saturday at N.C. State, Wake Forest and UNC.
Welcome back: Rocky Mount’s championship history dates back to runner-up finishes in 1937 and 1940, but the school is making its first appearance in the state title since 1977. The Gryphons, winners of the 1962 and 1963 championships, had undefeated regular seasons as recently as 2007 and 2004.
Rocky Mount is led by two 1,000-yard running backs: Nick Bynum and B.J. Sanders.
It hasn’t been as long for Greenville’s J.H. Rose (4A), which last made the title game in 2006. The Rampants won four straight titles, going 60-4 during that span.
Battle-tested: South Point (3A) has just two losses this year, and they came to teams also playing for state titles – Shelby (2AA) and Crest (3AA).
Tough conference: 2AA West champ Shelby lost just one game this year, and it was to conference rival Crest, the 3AA West champ. The two rivals play in a 3A/2A split conference.
Streaks: Plymouth is making its fourth straight appearance in the 1A state title while Charlotte’s Mallard Creek (4AA) and Boiling Springs’ Crest are making their third straight trips. Wallace-Rose Hill (1AA) and Charlotte Catholic (4A) are making their second consecutive appearances.
First-timers: Mitchell County (1AA) and Bunn (2AA) are the only two teams out of 16 to be playing in their first championship game.
Close calls: Some championship participants are coming off a heart-pounding East or West regional final. Seven of the 16 games were decided by five points or less. Kinston won on a two-point conversion stop, Bunn won on an overtime extra point miss and Mallard Creek won on an overtime touchdown.
History repeats: Kinston’s Bailey Blake has a chance to be the second female football player to score in a NCHSAA championship game. The first was Snow Brenner at High Point Central in 1995. Brenner played college soccer at Duke.
Rematches: Plymouth and Robbinsville will square off for the 1A title for the second straight year. Plymouth, lost 21-18 last year. Robbinsville is an incredible 13-1 in state championship games.
Crest and Southern Durham are going against each other for the second time in three years in 3AA.
What do we know?: Six teams in the state championships were unranked in the final AP poll: Bunn, Southern Durham, Rocky Mount, Rose, South Point and Greensboro’s Page.
State championship games
3A: Rocky Mount (13-2) vs. South Point (13-2), 7:35 p.m., UNC’s Kenan Stadium
3AA: Southern Durham (12-3) vs. Crest (15-0), 12:05 p.m., UNC’s Kenan Stadium
1AA: Wallace-Rose Hill (14-1) vs. Mitchell County (14-1), 12:05 p.m., Wake Forest’s BB&T Field
4AA: Page (13-2) vs. Mallard Creek (13-2), 12:05 p.m., N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium
1A: Plymouth (12-2) vs. Robbinsville (12-2), 4:05 p.m., Wake Forest’s BB&T Field
4A: J.H. Rose (12-2) vs. Charlotte Catholic (14-0), 4:05 p.m., N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium
2A: Kinston (15-0) vs. Shelby (14-1) 8:05 p.m., Wake Forest’s BB&T Field
2AA: Bunn (13-2) vs. Monroe (15-0) 8:05 p.m., N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium