Prep Football Previews: Playoffs:Round 1
Prep football playoffs, first round...
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan golfer Jake Kennedy signed with Gardner-Webb on Thursday, and football coach Scott Young took a brief break from playoff game-planning to pop in on the festivities.
Young had been watching South Point vs. Forestview on his computer, a Gaston County matchup that has relevance to Rowan football fans because Forestview is at Carson tonight in a matchup of 7-4s, while unbeaten South Point hosts underdog West Rowan in Belmont.
“The quarterback for Forestview is fantastic,” Young gushed, shaking his head. “Just watched ‘em score 34 on South Point.”
Young didn’t mention that South Point, ranked near the top of the 3A poll all season, scored 49 on Forestview, but it went without saying. South Point is an offensive machine. South Point is South Point.
Young’s focus this week has been exclusively on finding ways to stop South Point and move the ball on South Point, so he was unaware that Forestview’s fantastic QB Logan Bradley hurt a knee two weeks ago, sat out last Friday’s easy victory, and remains questionable for his team’s playoff game tonight at Carson.
“This is the playoffs, and that kid is a senior,” Young said. “If there’s any way he can play, he’ll play.”
Carson coach Joe Pinyan shares that line of thinking, but it’s been difficult for the Cougars to prepare not knowing if Bradley’s going to be firing the ball all over the field to five wideouts or if Forestview will have a more conservative approach.
“We’ve kinda had to prepare more than one gameplan this week,” Pinyan said. “Plan A for Bradley playing. Plan B for Bradley not playing. Plan C in case Plan A and Plan B don’t work.”
3A: No. 9 Forestview (7-4) at No. 8 Carson (7-4)
Forestview is a spread team, and Bradley has thrown six TD passes in two different games this season. He has thrown for crazy, video-game numbers — 2,462 yards and 34 TDs — while setting Gaston County records. Obviously, it changes things a lot if he can’t go. J.C. Crawford is next in line for QB duties.
Pinyan says Forestview is huge as well as fast, and a Forestview roster with 280s, 290s and 305s, tends to back him up on that statement.
Carson will do what it always does and will try to pound the ball 4 yards at a time, run the clock and keep the ball out of Forestview’s hands. Brandon Sloop (213 carries, 1,099 yards, 11 TDs) is Carson’s fearless sledgehammer, and he gets help from Darren Isom (552 rushing yards) and Tyler Reynolds (444).
Carson has run for 300-plus yards in four of its last five games.
Carson generally throws only five or six times a game, but QB Austin McNeill has 40 career TD passes to his credit and is capable of making big plays.
Shrine Bowler Myquon Stout keys Carson’s defense and probably would be used as a pass-rusher off the edge if Bradley is able to play.
Forestview ended Carson’s 2009 boys basketball season, but the schools never have met in football.
3A No. 14 West Rowan (6-5) at South Point (11-0)
It’s a rematch — five years later — of West’s celebrated 35-7 win over a powerful South Point team in the 2008 Western regional final. That was an early-December game that got West’s program over a major hump, and that stunningly one-sided victory propelled the Falcons to three straight state titles and a national-best winning streak that eventually reached 46 in a row.
South Point has produced 60 TDs and puts up 444 yards per game with its triple-option attack. Eighty-eight percent of those yards come on the ground.
Shrine Bowl fullback Tyler Bray (191 carries, 1,403 yards, 21 TDs) is the key guy. He had a 381-yard rushing game — seriously, 381 — against Crest in 2012.
West will try to roadblock South Point’s option with its two oustanding safeties — Najee Tucker and Zeke Blackwood — and will try to force the Raiders out of their comfort zone and into third-and-long throwing situations.
In that 2008 game, South Point managed just 125 rushing yards and zero passing yards in Mount Ulla.
While West understands the blueprint for stopping South Point, this is a 6-5 West team, not the West team of K.P. Parks and Chris Smith. Still, the Falcons are very good against the run on defense and they are physical on offense.
Any way you look at it, it’s not the typical No. 3 vs. No. 14 first-round game. South Point will have to strap it on in the first round, and not many 11-0s are going to be seriously challenged tonight.
“They’re really good,” Young said. “But we have a chance.”
South Point coached Mickey Lineberger complained to the state this week about his No. 3 seed, and with good reason. It’s a serious flaw in the NCHSAA system when 10-1 teams can be seeded ahead of 11-0s. The same thing that happened to South Point happened to North Rowan and Mallard Creek, among others.
3A No. 16 East Rowan (4-7) at No. 1 Morganton Freedom (10-1)
Freedom, coached by former A.L. Brown receiver Blair Hardin, isn’t going to be any fun for the Mustangs. Still, East’s draw could’ve been worse as the bottom seed in the bracket. East has a better chance than it would’ve had at South Point or Concord.
Freedom, whose only loss was non-conference to Burns, is balanced offensively. The Patriots have two standout rushers in BJ Emmons (1,325 yards, 17 TDs) and Chris Bridges (966 yards, 14 TDs) and they’ve gotten 17 TD passes from QB Titus Smith. Khris Gardin has 12 TD catches.
East’s defense has been good against the pass, but not so good against the run.
Samuel Wyrick (1,673 passing yards), Seth Wyrick (882 receiving yards) and Jake Boltz (602 rushing yards) leads East’s offense.
Freedom has outscored opponents 453-206 and has won eight in a row.
East hasn’t played Freedom before.
2A: No. 15 Surry Central (5-6) at No. 2 North Rowan (11-0)
No North team has ever been 12-0, and that’s something the Cavaliers are shooting for tonight.
The Cavaliers are ranked No. 1 in the 2A poll, are coming off back-to-back shutouts, and haven’t been seriously challenged since mid-September.
Another shutout tonight wouldn’t shock anyone. Surry Central lost to 2A power Carver 52-7 and has had a tough time generating offense against good teams.
Surry Central is 4-2 on the road, but it comes to Spencer with a two-game losing streak, including a 44-7 loss to West Stokes in its final regular-season game.
Running back Jareke Chambers (1,700 rushing yards, 28 TDs) powers the North offense, along with QB Alexis Archie, who has accounted for 16 TDs rushing and passing in his seven games.
Chambers needs 69 yards to break the school single-season rushing record set by Nathanial Hyde in 1992.
4A: No. 13 A.L. Brown (7-4) at No. 4 Charlotte Catholic (9-2)
Charlotte Catholic’s Elijah Hood has 249 carries for 2,580 yards and 37 touchdowns, and that might be the only stats you need to know.
Hood may be the state’s best player, and while Brown’s defense has generally held its ground all year, especially against the run, it’s unlikely the Wonders will slow Hood down much.
The weight of history also presses heavily against the Wonders, who have lost six of seven recent matchups with Catholic.
Catholic sent the Wonders home in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012, and barring surprising events, they’ll do it one more time.