Only 64 teams across the state will still be alive after completion of Friday’s second round of the state football playoffs.
With 11 WNC teams looking to advance, here’s a closer look at three games to watch.
No. 7 Southwest Guilford (9-3) at No. 2 Reynolds (11-1), 3AA, 7:30 p.m. – Remember the good ole days under coaches Scott Conner and Bobby Poss, when the Rockets would bulldoze teams with pounding ground games?
Coach Shane Laws, one of just two current WNC coaches with a state title (Murphy’s Da vid Gentry has seven) gets it done through the air with junior quarterback Alex Flinn.
In 300 pass attempts through 12 games, Flinn has completed 217 (75 percent) for 2,976 yards and 38 touchdowns. The WNC record for TD passes in a season is believed to be Heath Shuler’s 42 in 1990 with Swain County.
The Cowboys’ defense is solid (four shutouts, six points or less in seven games) but the offense starts a freshman and has no rusher with as many as 700 yards.
No. 7 Whiteville (11-1) at No. 2 Mountain Heritage (11-0), 2A, 7:30 – Tough second-round draw for Heritage, running into an explosive offense that is averaging 50 points a game in a nine-game winning streak.
The Cougars can put up a lot of points as well (45.6 points per game) with quarterback Trey Randolph, who needs 129 rushing yards to reach 8,000 for his career. No WNC runner has ever reached that number.
The Heritage defense has been solid all season while blowing out most opponents (average winning margin 33 ppg) but has to be wary of the big plays Whiteville has been producing all season.
The Cougars are 9-0 in home playoff games since 2008 and haven’t lost a postseason game in Burnsville since 1986.
No. 6 Murphy (10-2) at No. 3 North Stanly (10-1), 1AA, 7:30 – The Bulldogs aren’t used to road playoff battles, traveling just 10 times in 33 postseason games the past eight seasons.
Murphy is 24-0 at home in the playoffs since 2009 but just 5-5 away from home, including two neutral site defeats in state title games.
North Stanly has outscored opponents 314-47 in a seven-game winning streak, including a 49-0 win over South Stanly. Murphy beat South Stanly 44-13 last week in the first round of the playoffs.