Cary News: Sports

First-round football playoff previews in southwestern Wake

Holly Springs’ Nehemiah Harris (3) runs in for a touchdown during a football game played at Holly Springs Golden Hawks in Holly Springs, N.C. on Friday, November 7, 2014.
Holly Springs’ Nehemiah Harris (3) runs in for a touchdown during a football game played at Holly Springs Golden Hawks in Holly Springs, N.C. on Friday, November 7, 2014.

Friday’s football games:

Welcome to the postseason. Six teams from the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference made the playoffs, and all of them are in the large-schools division – the 4AA bracket. Wake County’s rapid growth even affects high school football’s postseason. Ten of the 11 Wake schools who made the playoffs are in the 16-team 4AA East bracket, which led to four rematches. In our area, Holly Springs travels to Panther Creek for the second time this year while Apex does the same at Green Hope. The winner of each will play the other.

Holly Springs at Panther Creek

This game was played just two weeks ago, and Holly Springs lost 24-7 on the day before Halloween. The Golden Hawks fumbled too many times in that contest to make it close, despite holding Panther Creek to just two yards per carry. Even with last week’s loss, only two teams have scored more than 17 points on the Catamounts.

Apex at Green Hope

Also two weeks ago, Apex traveled to Green Hope and lost 42-23. The Falcons rolled up 484 yards of offense in that game. Apex wished it could have had a do-over, and now it does. Although much has been made of Green Hope’s first conference title in a decade (and rightfully so) last weekend also meant a lot to Apex. The Cougars are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Middle Creek at Pinecrest

This game looks like the best on paper in the 4AA East. It’s the 8-versus-9-seed game, and both sides are 9-2. Both teams have enough talent to become this year’s version of 2013 Wake Forest – a team that stumbled a few times in the regular season but went to the title game. Pinecrest’s two losses are to Top 10 Richmond and Scotland County.

Fuquay-Varina at Richmond County

Richmond went from No. 1 in the state to the 5-seed in the 4AA playoffs with a loss to rival Scotland County to end the season. The Bengals also opened the 2012 playoffs at Richmond, which was former coach Ryan Habich’s last with the Bengals. Senior Damarus Williams scored a touchdown in that 34-14 loss.

Cardinal Gibbons at Southern Durham

Gibbons is getting used to making the trip to Southern Durham as this is its third trip in the last four years and the second straight postseason where the Crusaders will meet their Big Eight Conference foes in the 3AA East. Gibbons lost last year’s second-round playoff game 33-28 after an incomplete pass to the end zone on a final play that many players thought was blown dead. Southern has won 24 straight games, including three against the Crusaders.

Wake Christian at Victory Christian

After the first playoff win in school history last week, the Bulldogs travel to Charlotte to play No. 1 Victory Christian. If the name sounds familiar, the school made a bit of news this summer when former NFL star Randy Moss became an assistant coach. His son is on the team.

All game times are 7:30 p.m.

Player of the Week

Nehemiah Harris, Holly Springs: He ran for his team’s playoff life on Friday, going for 226 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries in a 45-39 win against Apex.

Final SWAC standings

1. Green Hope, 9-2 (6-1)

2. Panther Creek, 9-2 (6-1)

3. Middle Creek, 9-2 (5-2)

4. Fuquay-Varina, 5-6 (3-4)

5. Athens Drive, 4-7 (3-4)

6. Holly Springs, 6-5 (3-4)

7. Apex 5-5 (2-4)

8. Cary, 0-11 (0-7)

4AA East bracket

1-Wake Forest vs 16-Leesville Road

8-Pinecrest vs 9-Middle Creek

4-Millbrook vs 13-Jack Britt

5-Richmond vs 12-Fuquay-Varina

3-Green Hope vs 14-Apex

6-Panther Creek vs 11-Holly Springs

2-Garner vs 15-Laney

7-Heritage vs 10-Wakefield