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N&O sportswriters J. Mike Blake and Clay Best break down the high school football playoffs

News and Observer sports writers J. Mike Blake and Clay Best break down the high school football playoffs and the area teams still in action.
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News and Observer sports writers J. Mike Blake and Clay Best break down the high school football playoffs and the area teams still in action.

The dividing line between East and West in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA football playoffs has rarely been pushed as far west as it was this year when Northwest Guilford and Page High were pulled eastward.

It’s not often Wake County gets to test itself against the area, but the two teams have secured at least three games against Wake teams in this postseason.

Page, which defeated Lumberton in the first round, is a traditional power that won the 2011 4AA title game against Garner. Northwest Guilford played a tough slate of games this year and, after upsetting Garner, appears better than its 8-4 mark.

This Friday, Northwest Guilford visits Fuquay-Varina and Page goes to Wake Forest.

Northern Guilford, which sometimes gets pulled into the 3AA East just as it was this year, ran roughshod over Corinth Holders in a 40-7 win.

Northern and Northwest Guilford, both 13-seeds because they did not finish top-three in their respective leagues, are the lowest seeded teams remaining in all eight East brackets.

1st-round upsets are few

There were few upsets in the first round of the high school football playoffs. In all, eight East brackets, the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds won. In six of the eight, the No. 4 is still alive and the same goes for No. 5.

This Friday is when seeds tend to go out the window. Though it’s just the second round, it’s also the “Sweet 16” in each bracket.

The Starting 11: players of the week

(Times named to team in parentheses)

Tucker Burkinshaw, Green Hope (4): Completed 23 of 40 passes for 252 yards and three TDs with just one interception.

Caiden Norman, Cleveland (6): Completed 12 of 20 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, ran 28 times for 163 yards.

Tevin Perry, Bunn (4): Had 14 carries for 166 yards and three TDs.

Abdul Adams, Hillside (3): Ran 21 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Chauncey Caldwell, Hillside (1): Completed 9 of 13 passes for 196 yards and five touchdowns with one interception.

Daeshawn Stephens, Hillside (1): Caught six passes for 124 yards and four touchdowns.

Colten Smith, Fuquay-Varina (3): Rushed 16 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns.

Domineke McNeill, Northern Durham (2): Ran 18 times for 121 yards and one touchdown, caught two passes for 66 yards and another score.

Luke Fenlon, Northern Durham (1): Ran eight times for 35 yards, completed 8 of 13 throws for 225 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.

Tripp Harrington, East Wake (5): Ran 26 times for 193 yards and one score, completed 18 of 24 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

Bryse Wilson, Orange (3): Ran nine times for 120 yards and two touchdowns, made a 32-yard catch and blocked a punt.

3-point stance: defenses of the week

Millbrook: Forced three fumbles, had nine sacks and Nic Vinson had a pick-6 for the Wildcats in a 42-30 win against Wakefield.

Southern Durham: Allowed 79 yards of offense in a 42-0 blowout against Chapel Hill.

Ravenscroft: Didn’t allow a point through three quarters in a 38-7 win against Cannon School. Surrendered just 104 yards of offense.

Quick hits

▪ Garner’s first-round exit was the first for the school since 2004, an opening-round loss to then-rival Cary. The Trojans have gone 19-13 in the playoffs since then, which averages out to a third-round appearance every year.

▪ Hillside’s Abdul Adams decommitted from Michigan State last week. The four-star recruit by Rivals.com is reopening his recruitment.

▪ Millbrook’s win against Wakefield was the only Triangle conference rematch that was a reversal from the regular season. Hillside, Southern Durham and Orange won their rematches in more convincing fashion than before.


New Hanover’s Legion Stadium: West Johnston’s road trip this week to New Hanover means two things. First, the Wildcats are bound to win (both teams share the mascot), and second, West fans will get treated to one of the best venues in high school sports. Legion Stadium is a 6,000-seat, off-campus stadium with a turf field that was built in the 1930s and serves as home to the Wilmington Hammerheads pro soccer team as well as New Hanover sports. Jurgensen-Gabriel Field is named after the two NFL stars who played here for New Hanover, Sonny Jurgensen (Washington Redskins) and Roman Gabriel (Los Angeles), though we are told the turf field wasn’t installed until many, many year later.

J. Mike Blake: 919-460-2606, @JMBpreps