A long, exciting regular season of high-school school football comes to an end Friday night in Western North Carolina, with more than half the teams readying for the postseason and about a dozen or so others ready to mouth the cliché, “Wait till next year.”
Still to be determined from a 16-game schedule are conference championships in four leagues, playoff seedings that could determine a home or away game next week in the first round of the postseason, and for two schools the start of win or go home football.
Christ School (8-1), No. 7 in the WLOS WNC Football Top 10 Poll, and Asheville School (4-6) open NC Independent Schools Athletic Association postseason play Friday night.
The Greenies travel to powerful Charlotte Christian (8-1) in the Division I playoffs, while Asheville School visits Concord First Assembly (5-5) in a Division III game.
In public school action, four teams that are undefeated in league play can wrap up outright conference championships after clinching at least ties for their crowns last week.
No. 1 Reynolds (9-1, 7-0) can secure the solo Western Mountain Athletic 3-A title with a win at Roberson (3-7, 3-4).
Ditto for No. 2 Franklin (10-0, 4-0) in the Mountain Six 2-A with a victory at Smoky Mountain (5-5, 2-2).
No. 3 Mountain Heritage (9-0, 4-0) has won at least a share of the Western Highlands 2A/1A for a third straight season but can grab its first outright title since 1993 by beating Avery County (2-8, 0-4).
There could be clarity or chaos in the Smoky Mountain 1-A Conference. No. 5 Cherokee (10-0, 5-0) has a share of the regular-season title and can win the league outright by beating No. 6 Murphy (8-2, 4-1).
A win by the Bulldogs, however, creates a three-way tie for the crown with Swain County (6-4, 5-1).
There’s also a lot on the line at Erwin (5-4, 5-2) in a WMAC battle against Tuscola (7-3, 5-2).
The winner gets third place in the conference and a guaranteed spot in the postseason, the loser is still likely to be invited to the playoffs but could drop to a lower seed and may have to go on the road in next week’s first round.
Playoff seedings and brackets will be released Saturday by the NC High School Athletic Association.
As usual, the four classes will be subdivided into A and AA divisions, meaning 224 schools across the state will make the playoffs.
The 4A and 1A classes will have 48 teams and the top four in each division will receive first-round byes; the 3A and 2A classes will feature 64 teams each.
New this year is the fact that computer rankings determined by the high school sports website MaxPreps will pick all wild-card teams (those not guaranteed spots by a high conference finish).
In the latest projections released earlier this week, the following 18 WNC schools were predicted to be in the playoffs. These are unofficial and subject to change following this week’s results.
- 3A – No. 2 Reynolds, No. 8 Asheville, No. 14 Erwin.
- 3AA – No. 6 Tuscola.
- 2A – No. 3 Franklin, No. 10 Pisgah, No. 13 Smoky Mountain.
- 2AA – No. 2 Mountain Heritage, No. 5 Hendersonville, No. 10 East Rutherford, No. 15 Brevard.
- 1A - No. 1 Mitchell, No. 2 Cherokee, No. 4 Murphy; No. 6 Robbinsville; No. 11 Rosman.
- 1AA – No. 6 Swain County, No. 8 Polk County.
Visit WLOS.com on Saturday for the complete playoff brackets, where WNC teams will play and a look at the recent postseason records of all local teams.