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High school football preview: The players and games to watch in Week 8

The second weekend of October means a deeper dive into conference play for local high school football teams.

The weather is getting colder and the games are getting more important as the playoffs get closer. There are a few instances where a couple of teams are going head-to-head for the top spot in their leagues, and a few games where a loss could do serious damage to conference title dreams.

It’s still very early in conference play, but there are some must win games across the Triangle this week.

Game of the week

Knightdale (5-1) at Wake Forest (5-1), 7 p.m.

The Northern Athletic Conference is crowded at the top. Currently, Rolesville is the only overall undefeated team in the league. Eventually teams will start battling for the top spot and separating themselves. The contest between the Knights and the Cougars will get one team off to a good start and leave the other playing catch up.

Wake Forest has dominated the league, and the state recently, but Knightdale looks to prove that it can be a challenger for the league crown. Knightdale has lost three consecutive conference openers, including two in a row to Wake Forest, where they were outscored 97-14.

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Charlotte Country Day (6-1) at Ravenscroft (5-2), 7 p.m.

Big out-of-conference matchup, as the Ravens host the Buccaneers in a Raleigh vs. Charlotte battle for bragging rights.

The last time the two teams played (2016), Country Day edged Ravenscroft, 21-20. The Buccaneers averaged 42.5 points per game earlier in the season, but have cooled off in the last month, down to 26.8 points per outing. The Ravens’ defense has held just one opponent to 10 points or less this season, so Country Day’s offense will be quite the challenge.

Riverside (5-1) at Hillside (2-4), 7 p.m.

The power in Durham is shifting. Hillside ran the city for so long, but the other local schools have stepped up and challenged for the throne. One of those teams is Riverside. The Pirates come into the game on a four-game win streak. Riverside and Hillside have not played since 2016, when the Hornets won 34-7. The two teams are in the same conference now, and a league win over Hillside should be a big boost for the Pirates if they knock off the team that once ran the city.

Rolesville (6-0) at Wakefield (4-2), 7 p.m.

The Rams are off to their best start in school history, and Rolesville has never won more than six games since the school opened in 2013. They’ve finished 6-6 twice (2015, 2018) and are one win away from a school record for wins in a season. That alone should give them motivation against the Wolverines. The two teams have split their last two meetings.

Leesville Road (6-0) at Millbrook (4-3), 7:05 p.m.

Millbrook is one of the teams in the area that’s trending in the right direction. After an 0-2 start, the Wildcats have won three in a row, including a conference win over Southeast Raleigh last week. They share the top spot in the CAP-7 with Leesville Road, and both teams have 2-0 records in league play. The Pride has been the best team in the Triangle this season and will be a huge challenge for the Wildcats.

Week Eight players to watch

Trevion Cooley, Knightdale

Cooley just got an offer from Duke, and it’s easy to see why the Blue Devils jumped at the junior running back. Coming off a bye week, Cooley is averaging 121.0 yards per game and has rushed for 726 yards and 12 scores this season. He’ll have the attention of the Wake Forest defense.

Noah Douglas, Wake Forest

The Cougars don’t throw the ball a lot, but Douglas might be one of the best passers they’ve had in a while. He can throw on the move, which is required in the Wing-T offense, and has thrown for five touchdowns this season. He’ll keep the Knightdale defense guessing.

Jaeden Wortham, Enloe

The Eagles quarterback was a bright spot for Enloe last week, when he picked up 343 total yards and four touchdowns against Millbrook. Wortham passed for 259 against the Wildcats.

Noah Burnette, Leesville Road

The senior was a perfect 6-for-6 on extra points and also caught two passes for 29 yards. The do-it-all Burnette also returned one punt for 14 yards. He’ll be put to use plenty against Millbrook.

Owen Zalc, Green Hope

Zalc’s foot was crucial last week during a 9-5 win over Panther Creek. He’s connected on 10 of 11 extra points this season and hit his only field goal of the season, from 35-yards, against the Catamounts.

Derek Coombs, Holly Springs

The junior running back has been one of the best around this season, just ask Garner. Against the Trojans, Coombs rushed for 223 yards. He’ll look to keep it going this week against Fuquay-Varina. This season, Coombs has rushed for 825 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Shane Perry, Holly Springs

Perry, a senior linebacker, finished with 18 tackles, 17 solo, against Garner. Fuquay-Varina will without a doubt want to know where he is every play.

Darius Walker, Broughton

Caps’ senior running back averaged 8.0 yards per carry last week and rushed for one touchdown. Broughton will need a big game from Walker this week against Enloe.

Trexler Ivey, Wakefield

Ivey is quietly putting together a nice season for the Wolverines. The senior has thrown for 1,305 yards and 14 scores against just two interceptions. Wakefield plays undefeated Rolesville this week.

Skyler Locklear, Cleveland

While Omarion Hampton gets a lot of attention, Locklear has held up his end. The sophomore quarterback has passed for 1,022 yards, completing 59 percent of his passes, and 11 scores this season. Fresh off a bye week, Locklear and the Rams will look to put up big numbers against a winless East Wake team.

Friday night schedule

Apex (1-6) at Apex Friendship (5-2), 7 p.m.

Cardinal Gibbons (4-2) at Sanderson (3-4), 7 p.m.

Chapel Hill (1-5) at Cedar Ridge (0-6), 7 p.m.

Clayton (2-4) at South Johnston (2-4), 7 p.m.

Cleveland (5-1) at East Wake (0-6), 7 p.m.

Enloe (0-7) at Broughton (3-3), 7 p.m.

Fuquay-Varina (1-5) at Holly Springs (6-0), 7 p.m.

Green Hope (5-1) at Athens Drive (1-5), 7:30 p.m.

Heritage (3-3) at Corinth Holders (4-2), 7 p.m.

Middle Creek (5-2) at Garner (1-5), 7 p.m.

North Raleigh Christian (2-4) at Trinity Christian (4-1), 7 p.m.

Northern Durham (4-2) at Orange (2-4), 7 p.m.

Panther Creek (3-4) at Cary (2-5), 7 p.m.

Southern Durham (5-1) at Vance County (6-0), 7 p.m.

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