Regular-season play wraps up for 33 WNC football teams on Friday night, and then they will scatter in different directions.
About half or more will begin preparations for the playoffs that don’t begin until Nov. 16, a week later than originally planned due to Hurricane Florence that caused so many postponements for schools east of WNC.
The rest of the schools will pack up their equipment, say good-bye to their seniors and start that familiar refrain – ‘Wait till next year.’
There is plenty at stake on Friday night, including the opportunity for five schools to earn outright conference championships.
Reynolds (Western Mountain Athletic 3A), Pisgah (Mountain Six 2A), Mountain Heritage (Western Highlands 2A/1A), Murphy (Smoky Mountain 1A) and Thomas Jefferson (Southern Piedmont 1A) have already clinched at least a share of league titles, but by winning Friday night each can finish conference play undefeated and as the sole champion.
Erwin, Brevard, Mitchell, Owen, Robbinsville and Bessemer City can earn shares of conference crowns if they win and the first-place teams in their leagues falter.
Brevard is the only team in that category that controls its fate – the second-place Blue Devils (8-2, 3-1) host first-place Pisgah (9-1, 4-0).
The other four league leaders are heavy favorites in their games – Reynolds (9-1, 7-0) hosts Roberson (3-7, 3-4), Mountain Heritage (8-1, 4-0) is at home vs. Avery County (2-8, 1-3), Murphy (8-1, 5-0) hosts Cherokee (6-4, 3-2) and Thomas Jefferson (10-0, 6-0) plays at home vs. Union Academy (3-7, 1-5).
While a dozen or more WNC teams have already clinched playoff spots, several teams who hope to get at-large berths after guaranteed spots are awarded need wins in Week 12 to keep postseason hopes alive.
For those teams, it will be a long week of waiting until playoff brackets are released on Nov. 10, following a lot of make-ups games on Nov. 9.
And one WNC school will begin its quest for a state title Friday night.
No. 3 seed Christ School (9-1) travels to Fayetteville to play No. 2 Trinity Christian (9-0) in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I playoffs.
With just four postseason teams in the NCISAA’s highest classification, the Greenies will advance to the state title game with a victory.
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