Sports

It’s time for high school football. Here are the players and games to watch.

Garner’s Donovan Evans ( 2) gets tackled by Clayton’s Savion Jackson (11) in 2017. Garner vs. Clayton is Friday and will be the first big game of the season.
Garner’s Donovan Evans ( 2) gets tackled by Clayton’s Savion Jackson (11) in 2017. Garner vs. Clayton is Friday and will be the first big game of the season. newsobserver.com

Week One ticket to get

Clayton at Garner, Aug. 17: Last season Clayton beat Garner for the first time since 1985, and this season’s clash between these two traditionally dominant programs is a ticket you don’t want to miss. Tickets for the game are $7.

Watch these seniors before they play college ball

Expect to see these players on the college level next season.

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Clayton’s Savion Jackson, a 6-3, 260-pound four-star recruit in the Class of 2019 has decided on N.C. State. Johnny Johnson newsobserver.com

CB: Shyheim Battle, Rocky Mount A top recruit in North Carolina, Battle decided on N.C. State after receiving 17 offers.

RB: Taron Beauford, Southern Durham Beauford, who has committed to ECU, has done it all for Southern Durham over the years, playing quarterback, running the ball, catching passes and even seeing snaps on the defensive side of the ball.

DT: Joshua Harris, Person The No. 10 player in North Carolina, Harris is rated as a four-star recruit and has committed to N.C. State.

DE: Savion Jackson, Clayton Last season’s Greater Neuse River Conference defensive player of the year, Jackson made 20 tackles for a loss and added eight sacks. He’s a four-star recruit who has committed to N.C. State.

WR: Traevon Kenion, Wake Forest The four-star wideout transferred to Wake Forest from Monroe and has already committed to South Carolina.

RB: Zonovan Knight, Southern Nash After running for 1,877 yards and 27 touchdowns on only 142 carries, Nash was named Big East 3A Conference offensive player of the year. He committed to N.C. State after decommitting from Duke.

DE: Christian Rorie, Enloe The three-star recruit will continue his playing career at Duke after his final season at Enloe.

ATH: J.R. Walker, Clayton After transferring to Clayton over the summer, Walker joins a team that went 13-1 last season. The four-star player has narrowed his list of college choices to N.C. State, South Carolina, UNC, Duke and Clemson.

Other players to watch

Don’t miss these players this season.

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Heritage’s Drake Thomas carries the ball during a playoff game last season. Thomas will be joining his brother Thayer at N.C. State. News & Observer file

RB/LB: Xzavior Bowden, Goldsboro (Sr.) - Featured on both sides of the ball, Bowden ran for 2,105 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, averaging 8 yards per carry. As a linebacker, he contributed 97 tackles and will look to carry Goldsboro to another 2A playoff appearance.

DL: Jalen Brooks, Cardinal Gibbons (Sr.) - A terror for opposing backfields, Brooks finished with the third most sacks in the state with 24. His 74 tackles, with 27.5 of them for a loss, helped the Crusaders finish 11-1 and led to his selection as Cap-7 Conference defensive player of the year.

RB: Tyson Dew, Cleveland (Sr.) - The Cleveland running back torched opposing defenses for 2,139 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground last season, earning him Greater Neuse River Conference player of the year honors. He’ll look to take the Rams past the second round in the 3AA playoffs this year.

WR: C.J. Johnson, D.H. Conley (Sr.) - After catching 31 touchdowns -- second all-time in NCHSAA history -- last season, Johnson will look to top his 1,547 receiving yards from a year ago that led the state. He has committed to ECU.

DL: Jaden McKenzie, Wake Forest (Sr.) - Racking up 97 tackles and 23 tackles for a loss, McKenzie was the anchor of the defense for the 4AA state champs. He’ll look to improve upon last year’s nine sacks. He has more than 20 offers, including UNC, Wake Forest, Boston College, Clemson and Duke.

QB: Nolan McLean, Garner (Jr.) - After throwing for 2,707 yards and 26 TDs last season, McLean will look to make a name for himself as the quarterback of one of the better teams in the state. He hit .384 for the Garner baseball team last season and remains a prospect in both sports.

LB/RB: Drake Thomas, Heritage (Sr.) - The all-purpose star disrupted opposing offenses with 112 tackles, 3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles last season. Thomas also added 287 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, averaging 9.6 yards per carry, as well as a receiving touchdown, helping Heritage finish with an impressive 12-2 record. Thomas has committed to N.C. State, where his brother Thayer is a wide receiver.

Don’t miss games

These games have strong talent, strong teams and matchups with state playoff implications.

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Watch Rocky Mount’s Shyheim Battle, right, against DH Conley on Aug. 24. Dean Strickland newsobserver.com

Clayton @ Garner, Aug. 17: One of the biggest games of the season, the two powerhouses meet in the first week of the season. With three players from the above lists on display, this game is a rematch of last year’s opener that saw Clayton come out on top 35-14.

Wake Forest @ Millbrook, Aug. 17: The defending 4AA state champions have won 31 games in a row and 58 out of their last 60. The Cougars will face a Millbrook team that went 6-7 last year, but Wake Forest will be must-watch football until further notice.

Rocky Mount @ DH Conley, Aug. 24: Conley wide receiver C.J. Johnson could match up against N.C. State commit Shyheim Battle on the outside in a battle of strengths. Johnson torched the Rocky Mount secondary for 111 yards and two touchdowns in a 60-43 win for the Vikings last season.

Cleveland @ Cardinal Gibbons, Sept. 7: The Crusaders, who finished 11-1 last season after losing to Heritage in the first round of the state playoffs, face their first true test of the season against Cleveland in the fourth week of the season.

Southern Nash @ Wake Forest, Sept. 14: Wake Forest, hoping to repeat as 4AA champs, will be looking to pick up a big win against a Southern Nash team led by electric N.C. State commit Zonovan Knight.

Cardinal Gibbons @ Leesville Road, Sept. 21: A Leesville team that should be better than it was last year faces a tough three-game stretch that ends at home against the Crusaders.

Clayton @ Cleveland, Oct. 19: Clayton went 13-1 last season and features college talent on both sides of the ball. The Comets will have to play at Cleveland and stop running back Tyson Dew from tearing through their defense.

Wake Forest @ Heritage, Nov. 2: The rivals went a combined 27-2 last season and will meet for their final game of the 2018 regular season. Wake Forest trounced Heritage last year 38-14 and hopes to do the same.

Report and keep up with scores in real-time

Throughout the high school football season, you can keep up with scores in real time - or report them yourself - as part of The News & Observer’s partnership with ScoreStream, a crowdsourcing site that allows anyone to update scores and upload video and photos. You’ll also be able to find scores from other prep sports, too.

Here’s how to download the app.

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