Prep football: North, Carson get to enjoy home field in first round of playoffs

Someone had to say it, and that someone was Carson coach Joe Pinyan.

“It’s a new season now,” he said. “Everybody is 0-0.”

While that’s almost as much of a cliche as North Rowan coach Joe Nixon’s “We’ll take them one week at a time,” both of those tried-and-true statements also make sense.

Coaches spend the regular season trying to make their teams better. That phase is over now. Now it’s playoff time, and that means it’s survive-and-advance time. The object now is to try to figure out a way to win and keep playing for one more week — and then one more week — and then another.

The NCHSAA brackets released football playoff pairings on Saturday and provided great news for Carson and not-so-great news for North Rowan.

Carson figured to be right on the home/road bubble, and the Cougars fell on the right side of that bubble. They get a first-round home game by virtue of being the No. 8 seed in the 3A West. The Cougars play No. 9 Gastonia Forestview. Both schools are 7-4.

“Since a lot of people were picking us to finish fifth or sixth or seventh in our league, we’re pretty excited about finishing third and getting a first-round home game,” Pinyan said. “We only had four home games this season, so this gives us a fifth one. We’re ecstatic about that.”

Pinyan said Forestview is a fast, athletic team, but so are most of the teams in the 3A West bracket. I

“We’ve got two 11-0s (Concord and Belmont South Point) and a 10-1 (Morganton Freedom), Pinyan said. “It’s a heck of a bracket when Burns (10-1) is the No. 6 seed. Pisgah, Hibriten, on and on. It’s just a deep bracket with a lot of good football teams.”

Freedom lost a regular-season game, but it was a non-conference game the Patriots could drop for playoff seeding purposes. Freedom, South Point and Concord all were seeded as 10-0 teams. Freedom won that draw, so it will host No. 16 seed East Rowan (4-7) on Friday.

Concord got the No. 2 seed and hosts No. 15 Northwest Cabarrus. South Point got a challenging first-round matchup for a team that went undefeated. South Point hosts No. 14 seed West Rowan (6-5), which is more dangerous than its record might indicate. South Point runs and West stuffs the run, so that could be a heated first-rounder.

“I don’t think we got a good draw because South Point is really good and really tough, one of the best teams in the state,” West coach Scott Young said. “At the same time, South Point’s prize for going 11-0 is us, so they got a tough draw too. We got off to a good start this year, but then we had problems, on the field and off the field. I think those problems are behind us now.”

East landed in a four-way tie for fifth place in the SPC at 3-5. Northwest, Hickory Ridge and East got playoff berths out of that group, giving the nine-team SPC seven teams in the 3A and 3AA playoffs.

East would’ve traveled to Freedom for the West final had it won its hotly contested third-round game at Concord in 2012. Now East gets to make that trip to Morganton a year later.

Central Cabarrus, a team no one is excited about playing, is No. 6 in the 3AA bracket.

For North’s Cavaliers, anything short of a No. 1 seed was going to be less than ideal because the Cavaliers are 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in 2A, but they Cavaliers are the No. 2 seed in the 2A West bracket.

Winston-Salem Carver (10-1) was able to drop a non-conference loss (to 4A power Greensboro Dudley). Carver and North were both seeded equally as 10-0s, and Carver won that draw.

What that means in the big picture is that if a North-Carver clash does occur down the road, it will be played in Winston-Salem.

North will be home Friday against No. 15 seed Surry Central, and as long as North wins, it will also be home for second-round and third-round games. If someone upsets Carver, North also could be home for the regional final.

“We’re just excited about having a chance to have some home playoffs games,” Nixon said. “There are some good teams in our bracket, and we understand that to reach all our goals, we’re going to have to beat some really good teams. We’ll take them one at a time and enjoy the time we have with each other.”

No. 4 Reidsville (9-2) and perennial power Shelby (7-4), which has played a fierce schedule, are among the tough teams in North’s bracket.

A.L. Brown seems to run into Charlotte Catholic every year, and even with both schools moving up to 4A, they’ll square off again.

The banged-up Wonders played without six starters in Friday’s loss to Hopewell and that loss knocked them down to a No. 13 seed. They’ll play at No. 4 Catholic (9-2). Mooresville (10-1) is the No. 1 seed in the 4A West.

The season is over for Salisbury, South Rowan and Davie County.

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