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N&O football rankings: Wake Forest almost jumps Southern Durham

Wake Forest was, in my mind, the No. 1 team in the area for about 48 hours. Nobody saw that list, but me.

As I was writing Monday morning about why I moved Wake Forest ahead of Southern in The News & Observer high school poll, I convinced myself to keep Southern on top.

Southern Durham is undefeated, won the 2013 state 3A title, has been the area’s top-ranked team since the preseason, is ranked No. 1 in the state 3A poll, provided the area’s most impressive victory of the season with a 34-28 victory against Scotland County, plays in the strong Big Eight 3A and claimed a hard-earned 33-25 victory against Pittsboro Northwood last week.

What’s not to like about that?

But I think Wake Forest has played well enough to be No. 1. The Cougars reached the state 4AA championship game in 2013. No one has been able to run against them. They have easily handled the toughest games on their schedule, including a 23-6 victory against Panther Creek, which has emerged as the top team in the Southwest Wake Athletic 4A.

I kept Southern Durham on top because of Spartans quarterback Kendall Hinton. The senior has produced game-winning plays against Shelby Crest in the 2013 state final and in a 16-13 victory against Hillside, the victory against Scotland and in the win against Northwood this season.

Hinton, a Wake Forest University recruit, reminds me of former Durham Hillside quarterback Vad Lee, who led the unbeaten Hornets to the 4A crown in 2010, and tight end/defensive end/fullback/quarterback Weslye Saunders, who carried Durham Riverside to the 4AA title game in 2006.

Hinton has a knack for being at his best at the most crucial moments of the biggest games.

Despite not changing the No. 1 team, there is a big change in the rankings this week.

East Wake breaks into the poll at No. 9. The Warriors’ resume is impressive. Their losses are to No. 2 Wake Forest and No. 4 Garner. East Wake owns victories against No. 10 Heritage and No. 12 Millbrook.

No. 13 Middle Creek’s 42-35 loss to Holly Springs last week is the only loss among the top 14 teams that came against a team not in the N&O rankings.

No. 15 Princeton, a 1A team, lost Warsaw Kenan, which is not eligible for the N&O rankings.