Preps Now

It’s Week One of high school football. Here are previews, top games and top players.

Desmond Evans is a top-ranked high school football player in North Carolina

Sixteen-year-old Desmond Evans, a senior at Lee County High School is considered one of the top-ranked football players in North Carolina.
Up Next
Sixteen-year-old Desmond Evans, a senior at Lee County High School is considered one of the top-ranked football players in North Carolina.

The 2019 high school football season kicks off this week, with some high-profile matchups to start things off.

A slate of games were moved to Thursday, but the bulk of the area’s high school contests will take place Friday.

Here’s what you need to know about Week One.

Game of the week

Cardinal Gibbons at Wake Forest, 7 PM

Wake Forest has been the best team in the state the past three seasons, winners of 45 straight games and three 4AA titles. Cardinal Gibbons has emerged as one of the top teams in Wake County, averaging 10 wins per season under head coach Steven Wright. This is a Week One clash of the titans years in the making. Wake Forest is known for its defense, while Cardinal Gibbons has one of the best offenses in the area. Which one will start the season 0-1?

Leesville Road junior Noah Burnette and the Pride knocked off previously unbeaten Enloe.

You also don’t want to miss

Wakefield at Leesville Road, 7 p.m.

Leesville Road has the talent to be the team to beat in the Triangle this year. Loaded with seniors and plenty of college talent, all eyes will be on the Pride to see if they are contenders or pretenders.

Cleveland at Southern Durham, 7 p.m.

Cleveland was one game away from the 3AA state championship game a year ago, and while it must replace its quarterback, running back and top receiver, it has plenty of firepower. Southern Durham wants to be a top contender once again, and this is a big time early season 3A showdown.

Rocky Mount at Tarboro, 8 p.m., Thursday

Nash County meets Edgecombe County when Rocky Mount takes the short trip to neighbor Tarboro. The Vikings have won the last two 1AA titles, while the Gryphons have been one of the best 3A teams in Eastern North Carolina.

RAL_DESMONDEVANS-SP-080319-(2) (2)
Lee County’s Desmond Evans (10) runs sprints with his teammates during practice on Saturday, August 3, 2019 at Lee County High School in Sanford, N.C. Robert Willett

Week One players to watch

Desmond Evans, Lee County, defensive end

One of the top defensive players in the country, senior Desmond Evans has more than 20 Division I offers, and finished last season with 12 sacks. At 6-6 and 240 pounds, Evans will also spend some time at wide receiver this season.

Davin Vann, Cary, defensive end

Davin Vann, an N.C. State commit and a three-sport star, had 13 sacks as a junior to go along with 26 tackles for loss.

Khalil Watson, Wake Forest, defensive back

A two-sport athlete (also a standout baseball player), Khalil Watson roamed the secondary for the state champs last year, but he’ll also play wide receiver in 2019. Last year, Watson finished with 54 tackles and six interceptions as a sophomore.

Noah Burnette, Leesville Road, kicker, wide receiver, defensive back

Noah Burnette might never leave the field for the Pride. The senior is the leading returning receiver (70 catches, 1,353 yards, 12 touchdowns), had 25 tackles on defense and hit 34 out of 35 PATs last season. He also connected on a 52-yard field goal.

Get Sports Pass for high school sports

Follow Jonas Pope.
Sign up for The N&O's digital sports-only subscription for only $30 per year.

Sean Brown, Middle Creek, quarterback

Senior Sean Brown returns to lead the Mustangs after passing for 2,004 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Jacob Gill, Cardinal Gibbons, wide receiver

Jacob Gill, a junior, is one of the best wideouts in the state. Last year for the Crusaders, he caught 74 passes for 1,170 yards and 18 scores.

Zay Peterson, Clayton, linebacker, defensive back

Zay Peterson is a transfer from Hartsville High School in South Carolina. He can play in the secondary or close to the line of scrimmage for the Comets. He’s already committed to Louisville.

Zach Johnson, Apex Friendship, defensive end

Senior Zach Johnson (6-4, 235 pounds) racked up 67 tackles (4.5 for loss) and six sacks as a junior for Apex Friendship.

Derek Coombs, Holly Springs, running back, defensive back

Junior Derek Coombs emerged as a serious threat all over the field for Holly Springs last season. On offense he rushed for 846 yards and 10 scores. He also had 115 yards receiving for the Golden Hawks.

Joshua Crabtree, Heritage, wide receiver

Joshua Crabtree, a senior three-star prospect, is a big target at 6-3, 185 pounds. He led the Huskies in catches (45), receiving yards (590) and receiving touchdowns (5) in 2018.

Cary High School's defensive tackle Davin Vann talks about why he committed to the N.C State football team.


South Granville at Knightdale, 7 PM (Thursday)

Enloe at South Garner, 7:30 PM (Thursday)

Northwood at Apex Friendship, 7 PM (Thursday)

Apex at Broughton, 7 PM (Thursday)

Athens Drive at Holly Springs, 7 PM (Thursday)

Franklinton at Rolesville, 7 PM (Thursday)

Heritage at Middle Creek, 7 PM

Cary at Southeast Raleigh, 7 PM

Chapel Hill at Riverside, 7 PM

Clayton at Richmond County, 7 PM

Corinth Holders at Millbrook, 7 PM

Carrboro at Cedar Ridge, 7 PM

Fuquay-Varina at Panther Creek, 7 PM

E.E. Smith at Lee County, 7 PM

Garner at Sanderson, 7 PM

Green Hope at Ashbrook, 7 PM

Hillside at Northern Durham, 7:30 PM

Jordan at Person, 7 PM

Ravenscroft at Granville Central, 7 PM

Southeast Raleigh football coach JeVar Bransome talks about the importance of having a full summer with his team.

High school football previews

Millbrook football will depend heavily on offense early in the 2019 season:

Can Spartans’ fans expect a return to glory from Southern Durham football team?:

Forty-five and counting: Wake Forest hopes to keep winning streak alive in 2019:

Why a dominant Cardinal Gibbons football team is ‘excited about the challenge’ of 2019:

Leesville Road’s football team is ‘talented.’ Is this the year it can win the Cap-7?:

Can Cary football become a playoff team in 2019?:

Enloe football had it s best season ever last year. Why the team now has to move on.:

How Cleveland football plans to rebuild its offense, which was one of the best in 2018:

After sharing Tri-6 title last year, Jordan football expects to be better in 2019:

JeVar Bransome expects much improvement in year two from Southeast Raleigh Bulldogs:

Here are the top class of 2020 football recruits in the Triangle:

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.