Prep Football: Previews of first-round matchups
Carson (4-7) at East Rowan (6-4)
Seeds: No. 7 Carson Cougars at No. 2 East Rowan Mustangs
Pod: 3A Midwest
Series: Tied at three wins apiece.
History: This is a rematch of the NPC contest in Granite Quarry on Sept. 14. East entered that game 1-3, but a strong 27-7 win against Carson that featured a dominating defensive performance turned the season around.
Last week: Carson qualified for the playoffs by swamping North Iredell 41-6. East had an open week, so it's had time to recover from a loss at Statesville.
Notable: East stuffed Carson's running game in the first meeting, holding the Cougars to 11 net rushing yards. Brandon Sloop had 28 yards on 17 carries. Carson has added another running threat in Tyler Reynolds since that game and the move of C.J. Cain from defense has given the offensive line more size.
Carson has a 1,000-yard receiver in K.J. Pressley, and Austin McNeill has a county-best 16 TD passes, but this game should come down to whether or not the Cougars can move the chains on the ground this time.
The first East-Carson game was closer than it sounds. It was 13-7 in the fourth quarter when the Mustangs finally broke it open on a long catch-and-run by Jordan Phillips. East's huge nose guard T.J. Jefferson is a roadblock to runs, linebacker Tyler L'Hommedieu has been one of the county's best defenders, and corner Donte Means has been a playmaker.
Fans turned out in droves for the regular-season meeting, and this one may draw an even bigger crowd. It's a very rare playoff matchup of Rowan teams. It used to happen frequently in the old WNCHSAA in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but it hasn't happened in an NCHSAA game except in 1994 when West Rowan and North Rowan met in the second round of the 2A playoffs.
Next: Winner gets Central Cabarrus or Rockingham County. East would be home against either. Carson would be on the road at either.
Cuthbertson (6-5) at Salisbury (8-2)
Seeds: No. 7 Waxhaw Cuthbertson Cavaliers at No. 2 Salisbury Hornets
Pod: 2AA Midwest
Series: First meeting
History: None in football, but the schools have had meaningful clashes in basketball and soccer.
Last week: Cuthbertson won 38-32 against Piedmont. Salisbury beat East Davidson 47-18 for an outright CCC title.
Notable: Cuthbertson plays in the 1A/2A Rocky River, where the traditional powers are 2A Forest Hills and 1A Monroe.
Cuthbertson opened in 2009, but it is already a very large 2A school and already has made a statewide impact. Cuthbertson's boys basketball team and girls soccer team were state runner-ups last spring. Andrew Jackson, seventh U.S. president, was born not far from Cuthbertson.
Cuthbertson's record doesn't mean much. Besides losing to Monroe and Forest Hills, the Cavaliers' losses are to good 3As and a talented 4A. Cuthbertson handed 10-1 SPC champ Hickory Ridge its only loss early in the season.
Cuthbertson receiver/returner Emmitt Afam is a 4.4 blazer with 45 catches and 12 TDs. Freshman QB Austin Kendall has thrown for 1,258 yards and 16 TDs. Ryan Kendall is a versatile offensive performer. Linebacker Alex Norton leads the defense.
Salisbury's playoff record under Joe Pinyan is outstanding, and the Hornets haven't lost a home playoff game since 2007. They'll have to be sharp tonight, as this isn't the sort of opponent a No. 2 seed usually draws in the first round. Brian Bauk, Justin Ruffin and Max Allen have combined for more than 2,500 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns for the Hornets. Keion Adams leads Salisbury's defense.
Cuthbertson is a passing team. Salisbury is a running team. It'll be important for the Hornets to start fast.
Next: Winner gets the Forest Hills-Central Davidson winner. Salisbury would be at home against either.
Northeast Guilford (7-3) at West Rowan (9-2)
Seeds: No. 5 Northeast Guilford Rams at No. 4 West Rowan Falcons
Pod: 3A Midwest
Series: First meeting
History: None, although coaches Tommy Pursley and Scott Young (157-42) have been around quite a while. Pursley's best-remembered encounter with a local team was a Northeast Guilford loss to Nick Maddox and A.L. Brown in the 1997 3A title game in Chapel Hill.
Last week: Northeast Guilford won 24-21 at Ledford to finish third in its league. West Rowan wiped out West Iredell 53-0.
Notable: Northeast Guilford is in McLeansville. The Rams have traditionally been strong under Pursley and are a perennial playoff team. NEG relies on an option-based running attack. QB Tyronne Hamer rushed for 100 yards last week. RB Dujuan Horne is another threat.
Young will coach his 200th game at West tonight. It's a tough first-round game for West, but it's also a tough first-round matchup for Northeast Guilford, as West Rowan has to be one of the few third-place teams in the state with nine wins. West hasn't missed the playoffs since 2001 and hasn't lost in the first round since 2003.
West's dominance in Mount Ulla is well-documented. The Falcons lost to South Pointe, S.C., in 2011, but they've won 62 straight home games against North Carolina opponents.
West's defense, led by linebacker Logan Stoodley, usually handles option teams well. West tailbacks Desmond Jackson and Daisean Reddick have combined for nearly 2,100 rushing yards, and West has rushed for 300-plus yards three straight games.
Next: Winner can make plans for a trip to No. 1 seed Concord.
West Montgomery (6-5) at North Rowan (8-3)
Seeds: No. 5 West Montgomery Warriors at No. 4 North Rowan Cavaliers
Pod: 1AA Midwest
Series: North leads 6-4
History: There's plenty, especially lately. West Montgomery knocked North out of the playoffs in 2010 and 2011. The teams are YVC rivals. North won this year's regular-season meeting 20-14 in overtime.
Last week: West Montgomery beat rival East Montgomery 27-7. North Rowan set records in a 74-0 romp against South Davidson.
Notable: This will be the seventh meeting between the Warriors and Cavaliers in the last four years. When they met two weeks ago, West Montgomery had the edge in yardage, but North had a 2-0 advantage in turnovers. North won on Alexis Archie's pass to Oshon West in OT.
Archie, North's sophomore QB, has thrown for 1,208 yards and 12 TDs. Soph Jareke Chambers has 857 rushing yards, 212 receiving yards and 18 TDs. Kasuan Coney has scored four times on returns - twice on punts, once on a kickoff and once on fumble.
Next: Winner can count on a trip to No. 1 seed Mount Airy (10-1). Monroe, one of the most talented and largest 1A schools, is the No. 2 seed in this pod.
North Forsyth (6-4) at A.L. Brown (8-3)
Seeds: No. 5 North Forsyth Vikings at No. 4 A.L. Brown Wonders
Pod: 3AA Midwest
Series: First meeting
History: These programs have never crossed paths, largely because North Forsyth was 4A for 20 years before moving down to the 3A Mid-Piedmont for the 2009 season.
Last week: North Forsyth crushed Southwestern Randolph 62-0. The Wonders lost 21-14 in an emotional game with Concord.
Notable: North Forsyth alums include former N.C. State hoops hero Brian Howard and Seattle Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley.
North Forsyth's principal is former North Rowan principal Rodney Bass.
North Forsyth went 1-3 against the 4A CPC, losing competitive games to Mount Tabor, West Forsyth and Reagan and blowing out CPC cellar-dweller R.J. Reynolds.
North Forsyth beat Northeast Guilford, West Rowan's first-round opponent, two weeks ago.
North Forsyth has won four straight road games.
A.L. Brown has been in the playoffs every year since missing out in 1996 and hasn't lost a first-round game since it fell to Kernersville Glenn in 1993.
Kalif Phillips and Ricky Sherrill have combined for more than 2,100 rushing yards, and the Wonders average 42 points per game.
Next week: Winner gets the Hickory Ridge-Ledford winner. Wonders would host Ledford, but it's a lot more likely they'll be at Hickory Ridge.
Ragsdale (7-3) at Davie County (8-3)
Seeds: No. 6 Jamestown Ragsdale Tigers at No. 3 Davie War Eagles
Pod: 4A West
Series: First meeting
History: Never met, mostly because Ragsdale has spent a lot of time in the 3A ranks.
Last week: Ragsdale lost 27-9 to High Point Central. Davie lost 34-24 to unbeaten North Davidson.
Notable: Pat McCrory, Republican nominee for governor, is a Ragsdale alum. Ragsdale is in Guilford County, between High Point and Greensboro.
Ragsdale's QB is named Colson Herndon. Carson Herndon was Davie's QB when the War Eagles made a run to the 4A title game in 2010.Marquez Eleazer leads the Tigers' ground game with 827 rushing yards, half as many as Davie freshman Cade Carney has.
Ragsdale is 3-2 on the road. The teams have a common opponent - Greensboro Page. Both beat Page by similar scores.
Next week: Winner gets the Mount Tabor-High Point Central winner. Davie would host Mount Tabor but would travel to face the Bison.