Hillside hosts undefeated Northern for Durham bragging rights, as high school football reaches Week 10:
Week 10 ticket to get
Northern Durham (7-0) @ Hillside (5-2) - 7 p.m. -- The Northern Knights will travel across town to Hillside tonight, with the rights to the label of “best high school football team in Durham” on the line. Both teams are undefeated against Durham competition this season. The winner will also move into sole possession of first place in the Big 8-3A conference. Last year, with first-year head coach John Hammett at the helm, Northern posted its first winning record since 2012. Led by an unwavering defense, and a senior quarterback in Brycen Jackson who is playing his best football yet, the Knights have cruised to a 7-0 start in Hammett’s follow-up act. They will face their toughest test yet Friday night in their crosstown rival. The Hornets have won three in a row, thanks in part to its reliable rushing attack of junior quarterback Damian Harris and senior running back Antonio Davis.
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Players to watch this week
QB: Brycen Jackson, Northern (Sr.) -- Jackson’s third year as the Knights starter has been his most consistent one, and he’s an important part of the team’s success. He’s on pace for a career high in touchdowns and a career low in interceptions. He’ll surely be scanning the field for wide receiver Alon Fallen Friday night. The duo has already connected for 380 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
DE: Philip Foster, Northern (Sr.) -- The senior has been an on-the-field leader for Northern’s dominant defense. He’s averaging seven tackles a game, to go along with a career high of eight sacks. His talents will be called upon to stop the run tonight, as Hillside does most of its offensive damage on the ground.
QB: Damian Harris, Hillside (Jr.) -- Harris quarterbacks the Hornets’ run-heavy offense. He’s been most productive as a runner, racking up 343 yards and seven touchdowns this season. His passing game is a bit shaky. Harris has only thrown one touchdown since week one, and his completion percentage hovers just around 40 percent.
QB: Darius Ocean, Cleveland (Jr.) -- Ocean has been one of the state’s top passers this season across all high school divisions. His 266.3 passing yards per game is good enough for sixth in North Carolina. He’s done it efficiently, too, with a completion percentage of 67.2 percent. Though Clayton’s defense is stout — allowing over 20 points just once this season — Ocean has not shied away against top competition. His 379 passing yards and two touchdowns propelled the Rams to a 44-35 road win at Cardinal Gibbons on September 7.
CB/RB: Tyrese Davis, Fuquay-Varina (Sr.) -- Fifty-four might be Davis’ lucky number. The senior found the end zone for the Bengals twice in the first half of last week’s 56-0 win over Apex; once on offense, and once on defense. Both touchdowns came from 54 yards out. The senior pushed Fuquay-Varina’s lead to 14-0 early with a 54-yard pick-six. He followed up that play on the Bengals next offensive possession with a 54-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0.
MLB: Drake Thomas, Heritage (Sr.) -- “Drizz,” as his friends call him, will be making tackles for the Wolfpack next year. He also sat down for an on-the-road interview with The News & Observer earlier this month. On the field, he’s been a menace for opposing offenses this season, posting double-digit tackles in five of the Huskies seven games so far. Watch for him on offense in goal-line situations, too. Thomas has five rushing touchdowns this season, on just 15 total carries.
WR: Traevon Kenion, Wake Forest (Sr.) -- Kenion showed off his versatility two weeks ago in a dominant win over Knightdale. The South Carolina commit threw — yes, you read that correctly — for two touchdowns. We’ll see if Reggie Lucas continues the trickery this week. If he doesn’t, though, Kenion is also a bit of a threat at receiver. He has eight receiving scores to his name this year.
Other top games to watch
Clayton (6-1) @ Cleveland (6-1) - 7 p.m. -- This year’s version of the battle of Clayton finds both the Comets and Rams sitting at 6-1, in an almost dead heat at the top of the Greater Neuse-3A conference. After dropping its season opener at Garner, Clayton has reeled off six straight victories. Cleveland dropped its week three matchup at Fayetteville Terry Sanford in overtime, but has been dominant since then. The Rams handed Cardinal Gibbons its only loss of the season so far, by a score of 44-35, the very next week — on the road, no less.
Fuquay-Varina (5-2) @ Garner (4-3) - 7 p.m. -- Fuquay-Varina and Garner are both coming off bounce-back blowouts of Apex teams — the Bengals pitching a 56-0 shutout over Apex High, and the Trojans with a 35-6 win over Apex Friendship. Since there’s no clear favorite in the South Wake-4A conference this year, this game could be a consequential one when the season wraps up. Fuquay-Varina currently sits at 1-1 in conference play, while Garner is 1-0.
Knightdale (4-3) @ Heritage (6-1) - 7 p.m. -- It’s another week, another tough matchup for the Knightdale Knights. After rallying on the road to stun then-undefeated Fuquay-Varina on September 21, the Knights faced powerhouse Wake Forest at home and Rolesville on the road. Last week’s loss was especially heartbreaking, with the Knights leading for most of the game, before losing on a Rams touchdown with 1:08 remaining. The Heritage Huskies are also loaded with talent. Apart from a surprise home loss to Middle Creek back in week two, that talent has shown out week after week this season, leading the Huskies to a 6-1 mark.
Wake Forest (6-0) @ Rolesville (5-3) - 7 p.m. -- Due to Hurricane Michael, the Cougars had an extra week to rest up for the road test in Rolesville. The Rams showed resolve last week, rallying from a second-half deficit to down Knightdale at home 21-14. Wake Forest’s most recent game was also against Knightdale, with a slightly larger margin of victory. The Cougars routed the Knights 55-14 two weeks ago. If the Cougars can leave Rolesville with a victory, it will be their program’s 38th in a row — a winning streak that stretches all the way back to November 2015.
Other Wake County games of note
Apex (0-7) @ Middle Creek (5-3) - 7 p.m.
Broughton (4-3) @ Cardinal Gibbons (6-1) - 7 p.m.
Cary (3-4) @ Athens Drive (2-7) - 7 p.m.
Cary Christian (0-6) @ Rocky Mount Academy (3-3) - 7 p.m.
Harrells Christian (3-3) @ Wake Christian (2-4) - 7 p.m.
Holly Springs (3-4) @ Apex Friendship (1-6) - 7 p.m.
Millbrook (1-7) @ Sanderson (2-5) - 7 p.m.
North Wake Saints (7-0) @ North Raleigh Christian Academy (1-7) - 7 p.m.
Quality Education Academy (0-6) @ Grace Christian (1-5) - 7 p.m.
Southeast Raleigh (0-8) @ Leesville (6-2) - 7 p.m.
Village Christian Academy (8-0) @ Ravenscroft (4-4) - 7 p.m.
Wakefield (2-5) @ Corinth Holders (3-4) - 7 p.m.
West Johnston (1-7) @ East Wake (2-5) - 7 p.m.
Other Durham games of note
Green Hope (5-3) @ Riverside-Durham (3-2) - 7 p.m.
Panther Creek (3-4) @ Jordan (2-5) - 7 p.m.
Other Chapel Hill-Carrboro games of note
Carrboro (4-2) @ Graham (0-8) - 7:30 p.m.
Other Chatham games of note
Orange (2-5) @ Northwood (4-3) - 7 p.m.