N&O sportswriters J. Mike Blake and Clay Best break down the high school football playoffs
After one round in the N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs, there are four new teams in The News & Observer’s greater Triangle high school rankings.
Losses by Green Hope, Holly Springs and Corinth Holders left the door open for West Johnston, Northern Durham and South Johnston.
St. David’s loss in the N.C. Independent Athletic Association 2A 8-man title game allowed Ravenscroft, which is playing for the NCISAA Division II 11-man title this Friday, to make a rare appearance.
The only area team still playing and still unranked is Granville Central. The 9-3 Panthers travel to 10-2 East Carteret in the 1AA playoffs.
1. Wake Forest (12-0, No. 1 last week): Bracket: 4AA. Seed: Third. This week: vs. 6-Page (10-2).
This is when the playoffs get good. Greensboro’s Page is a traditional power with just two losses – both to undefeated teams.
2. Middle Creek (12-0, No. 2): Bracket: 4AA. Seed: First. This week: vs. 9-Millbrook (9-3).
After dominating Leesville Road, the Mustangs will see if they can go 3-0 against Cap-8 schools on the year.
3. Fuquay-Varina (11-1, No. 3): Bracket: 4AA. Seed: Fifth. This week: vs. 14-Northwest Guilford (8-4).
A victory here gives the Bengals 12 wins for the first time since 1996.
4. Orange (11-1, No. 4): Bracket: 3AA. Seed: Sixth. This week: at 3-Southern Durham (9-3).
The Panthers have been wanting a do-over against Southern. In a 34-16 loss earlier this year, Orange lost running back Eryk Brandon-Dean and caused them to move players around.
5. Southern Durham (9-3, No. 6): Bracket: 3AA. Seed: Third. This week: vs. 6-Orange (11-1).
This is the fifth time in the last three seasons that the Spartans have played Orange with either a conference title or playoff win on the line.
6. Hillside (9-2, No. 7): Bracket: 4A. Seed: Third This week: vs. 6-Hoggard (8-4).
The Hornets would like to go back to the third round for the first time since 2011.
7. Cleveland (9-3, No. 8): Bracket: 3AA. Seed: Second. This week: vs. 7-Gray’s Creek (9-3).
Giving up 31 points to Union Pines is concerning, given Gray’s Creek, which finished two games ahead of the Vikings, just scored 69 points in defeating Jacksonville.
8. Millbrook (9-3, No. 10): Bracket: 4AA. Seed: Ninth. This week: at 1-Middle Creek (11-0).
As the running game goes, so do the Wildcats. If it’s working again this week, Millbrook could pull off an upset.
9. Garner (9-3, No. 5): Done for the season.
A string of five straight years with 10-plus wins came to a close on that final-minute two-point conversion in a 29-28 loss to Northwest Guilford.
10. Wakefield (8-4, No. 9): Done for the season.
The Wolverines picked a bad time to catch the turnover bug and ended the year on a two-game skid.
11. Bunn (10-2, No. 14): Bracket: 2AA. Seed: Second. This week: vs. 10-Cummings (5-7).
The Wildcats have made it to the third round in recent years, but a win this week means they would host a third-round game for the first time since 2006.
12. West Johnston (7-5, NR): Bracket: 4A. Seed: Seventh. This week: at 2-New Hanover (10-2).
The Wildcats have won six of their last seven and three of its five losses came to conference champs ranked ahead of them (Middle Creek, Cleveland, Garner).
13. Northern Durham (6-6, NR): Bracket: 4A. Seed: Eighth. This week: at 1-D.H. Conley (10-2).
At least the Knights won’t be intimidated. Northern’s tough nonconference gave five losses, but also preparation for this trip. Its last second-round win was in 2003.
14. Ravenscroft (8-3, NR): Bracket: NCISAA Division II. Seed: First. This week: vs. 2-Christ School (10-2).
The Ravens have earned this spot by winning their last six games heading into this week’s championship.
15. South Johnston (8-4, NR): Bracket: 3A. Seed: 11th. This week: at 3-Rocky Mount (10-2).
Rocky Mount won a very good Big East 3A Conference title and nearly beat Middle Creek earlier this season.