A total of 11 WNC football teams are among the 128 schools still playing as the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs enter second-round play on Friday night.
A closer look at the 10 games involving area teams in the West brackets.
No. 7 Southwest Guilford (9-3) at No. 2 Reynolds (11-1) – One of the state’s top defensive units butts heads with one of the best offenses. The Cowboys have four shutouts and held seven teams to six points or less. They are seven points away from an undefeated season, including a three-point loss to 3AA No. 1 seed Mount Tabor.
The Rockets are averaging 45 points a game and have been unstoppable most of the season.
The Southwest Guilford offense doesn’t have impressive numbers, and the Rockets’ defense has almost been as stingy as the Cowboys in points allowed (114 for SW Guilford, 141 for Reynolds). Reynolds by 8.
No. 11 Pisgah (7-5) at No. 3 Franklin (12-0) – Based on the final score, no one came closer to beating Franklin than the Bears, who dropped a 17-13 decision at home two weeks ago.
But Franklin dominated the first half (274 yards to 104) and Pisgah’s second touchdown came on the final play of the game.
The Bears did limit the Panthers’ pounding ground game to 188 yards, but quarterback Andrew Moore threw for 157 yards and a score. Franklin by 9.
No. 7 Whiteville (11-1) at No. 2 Mountain Heritage (11-0) – An explosive, big-play offense meets a pounding running game. The high-flying Wolfpack have averaged 50 points per outing in a nine-game winning streak and are very athletic.
Heritage keeps it simple with two guys named Robinson in the backfield, and either quarterback Trey (2,242 yards rushing, 30 TDs) or running back Dothan (1,038 yards, 10 scores) is going to run it.
It works so well that the Cougars average 361 yards per game on the ground. Mountain Heritage by 4.
No. 11 Red Springs (9-3) at No. 3 Hendersonville (9-3) – The Bearcats have come together in the second half of the season, turning a ho-hum 4-3 team into a beast no one wants to play.
How many high school teams have game-breaking wideouts on each side of the line? Tykel Landrum (55 catches, 1,096 yards, 7 TDs) and Kalin Ensley (53-1,036-16) are explosive.
The Red Devils depend heavily on a pair of sophomores – quarterback Denym McKeithian (948 yards passing, 12 TDs) and tailback Lee McLean (1,514 yards rushing). Hendersonville by 10.
No. 5 Swain County (8-4) at No. 4 Bessemer City (10-1) – The Maroon Devils revived their season with a six-game winning streak in which the offense has averaged 38 points a game. Quarterback Brodie Bowman is a dual threat (1,148 yards passing, 1,037 yards rushing, 27 combined touchdowns).
Bessemer City features a strong running game, gaining more than 3,000 yards on the ground. Three backs have rushed for more than 550 yards and combined to score 27 TDs. Bessemer City by 2.
No. 6 Murphy (10-2) at No. 3 North Stanly (10-1) – The Bulldogs haven’t lost a playoff game to a team outside WNC since 2012, a span in which they have posted a 16-3 record and reached the state title game three times, winning twice.
Murphy has a nice blend offensively, with quarterback Joey Curry (1,852 yards passing, 25 TDs) and four running backs who have rushed for 532 to 610 yards and have combined for 36 touchdowns.
The Comets depend heavily on tailback Cameron Davis (2,379 yards, 34 scores), who as a junior has already rushed for 4,539 yards and 65 TDs. Murphy by 3.
No. 8 Polk County (8-4) at No. 1 Mount Airy (11-0) – After a 4-0 start, Polk County is 4-4 and hasn’t had any luck beating WNC’s better teams on its schedule.
The Granite Bears are a traditional power, having averaged double-digit wins over more than a decade. Their balanced offense has 2,809 rushing yards and 1,725 passing. Mount Airy by 13.
No. 9 Community School of Davidson (6-6) at No. 1 Mitchell (10-1) – Another WNC team with impressive balance, the Mountaineers can throw the ball with senior quarterback Ben Young (1,536 yards, 21 TDs) and four runners who have gained between 457 and 730 yards and teamed to score 30 touchdowns.
The Spartans look too shaky on defense (30 or more points allowed in eight games) to compete. Mitchell by 24.
No. 7 Union Academy (8-4) at No. 2 Cherokee (10-1) – Over the past year and a half, the Braves have been one of WNC’s most successful teams, with a 16-2 mark.
Quarterback Tye Mintz (8,829 yards) is likely to become the sixth WNC player in history to surpass 9,000 yards of total offense.
This is the first winning season for Union Academy, which won its third straight game last week, a 42-14 victory over Alleghany in first-round play. Cherokee by 14.
No. 5 Robbinsville (8-4) at No. 4 Mountain Island Charter (8-3) – Robbinsville has gotten a big year from sophomore running back Rylee Anderson (1,368 yards, 10 TDs).
The Spartans almost beat Murphy in the playoff last season (they lost 35-34) and have a big play offense (48 or more points in six games). Mountain Island Charter by 1.