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Beyond the Scoreboard: A look back, look ahead at 2018 WNC football season

V PISGAH-FRANKLIN.transfer_frame_2359.jpg
Photo credit: WLOS Staff

And now we wait.

After 12 straight weeks of high school football, there will be no Friday Night Lights this weekend, unless playoff-bound teams are practicing.

For some WNC teams, losing records mean the end of their seasons.

For the others, it's a week to rest up and re-energize and prepare for an opponent that won't be known until Saturday.

This Friday marks the end of the NC High School Athletic Association regular season in the state, a season extended by a week due to the many postponements of games east of the mountains due to Hurricane Florence's destruction.

That moved the start of postseason play for 256 teams to Nov. 16, and the brackets broken up into eight 32-team fields will be released on Saturday.

Until then, all teams have to wait and see who they play, all have to wait to see where they play, and some have the agonizing few days to find out if they play in the postseason.

While conference champions, second-place finishers and even some that finished lower are assured of playoff berths, the postseason selection season also allows for at-large picks that are determined by computer rankings of MaxPreps, a website that tracks records and stats and provides rankings for high-school sports.

That leaves schools like North Buncombe wondering if the news on Saturday will be joyful or sad.

The Black Hawks are on the bubble, a 6-5 team that finished 4-4 and in fifth place in the nine-team Western Mountain Athletic Conference.

Without a signature win - four victories against teams that finished in the second half of their league and triumphs against 2A Madison (1-10) and 1A Cherokee (6-5) - the Black Hawks will be left hanging until Saturday's decision.

West Henderson finished in that same spot last season - 6-5, 4-4 and fifth in the WMAC - and didn't make the postseason field.

The WMAC has four guaranteed spots, taken in order by Reynolds, Erwin, Asheville and Tuscola, the same four teams that earned postseason berths last season.

Among the trends of the 2018 season of mountain football was a clear division of the haves and have nots.

In the WMAC, the teams finished in descending order of 8-0 first-place Reynolds to 0-8 last-place North Henderson, and each of the eight teams below the champion Rockets lost only to the teams that that finished above them.

Second-place Erwin (7-1) lost only to Reynolds, third-place Asheville (6-2) lost only to Reynolds and Erwin, all the way down to North Henderson losing to everyone.

That trend also held true in the Western Highlands and Smoky Mountain conferences, meaning in three of the four WNC leagues, there were in effect no upsets in conference play - a very odd occurrence.

Only in the Mountain Six - where below champion Pisgah there was a tie for second (Brevard and Smoky Mountain) and a tie for fourth (Franklin and Hendersonville) - was there close competition and battles week to week.

That pattern of domination included all four leagues being won by teams that didn't lose a conference game, something that has happened just four times in the past 20 seasons.

And now we wait a few agonizing days, to see when, where and against whom the chase for state titles begins.

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