Prep Playoffs: West at home; Salisbury South on the road
By Mike London
Salisbury got the tough draw it expected, but so did Canton Pisgah, the team the Hornets will travel to face in the first round of the 2AA state playoffs on Friday.
Top-seeded West Rowan (10-1) will entertain No. 16 Franklin (5-6) in the 3A bracket.
No. 15 South Rowan (5-6) travels to play No. 2 South Point (10-1) in 3A.
No. 4 seed A.L. Brown (9-2) is home against enigmatic No. 13 Lake Norman (7-4) in 3AA, and No. 12 Davie County (7-4) visits No. 5 Matthews Butler (10-1) in 4AA.
Salisbury (7-4) would have been seeded no worse than third in the 2AA West bracket, but it forfeited four games on Thursday. One non-conference game is always dropped for playoff seeding purposes, so the Hornets are a 6-4 entry and go in as the No. 11 seed.
“What this means is we’ve gotta play a third-round game in the first round,” Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said.
While Salisbury’s situation isn’t ideal, sixth-seeded Pisgah (8-3) is the team that’s really unfortunate. The Black Bears’ reward for a fine regular season is a first-round matchup with a squad undefeated on the field.
“Talking to their coach (David Pressley), I know they’re not real excited about this situation,” Pinyan said. “They’re playing a team that is truly 11-0.”
It should be an awesome first-round game. Pisgah’s losses are to league foes Brevard and East Henderson, and to Tuscola, one of the better teams in 3A.
Pisgah lost to a 10-1 East Henderson team 36-35.
Salisbury faces a long trip past Asheville ó 150 miles and almost three hours by car ó and will travel into a pigskin hotbed.
“Pisgah’s one of those small mill towns, kind of like Maiden, and they love their football,” Pinyan said. “They’ve got a new artificial surface and it will be a big-time football atmosphere.”
Salisbury hasn’t had overwhelming success in the playoffs. It exited in the second round last season. It ventured to the third round under Pinyan in 2004 and 2006. Maybe this year’s strange circumstances and early road game will mean an upswing in the Hornets’ fortunes.
“If you’re gonna win it, you’re gonna have to beat good teams, and we’ve got to go out and beat one right away,” Pinyan said. “The kids are excited, and records don’t mean much now. Everybody is 0-0 and has the intention of going 5-0 and winning a championship.”
West Rowan coach Scott Young hit the roof when the pairings were first revealed Saturday evening. West was initially seeded fourth in 3A due to its record being incorrectly reported by NPC officials.
West lost to Davie County, but that non-conference game could be dropped for seeding purposes. Initially, West was seeded as a 9-1 entry, but that was later corrected to 10-0.The only other 3A team with a 10-0 seeded record is Belmont South Point. West was placed at No. 1, and South Point is No. 2.
“Those first pairings about gave me a coronary,” Young said. “We got on the phone , got it straightened out.”No. 16 seed Franklin is deep in the southwestern corner of the state. The Panthers have a 200-mile trip to make and obviously will be heavy underdogs against a team that’s won nine straight.
Franklin lost 34-13 to the Falcons when it visited Mount Ulla for a first-round contest in 2000. Josh Brooks, who was on the Franklin staff then, is now the head coach.
As the No. 1 seed in the West, the Falcons enjoy home-field advantage as long as they advance in the playoffs.
“We’re glad to have that No. 1 seed and it sounds good and all, but then you look at the bracket,” Young said. “We’ve got South Point, Carver and Tuscola staring us in the face.”
West isn’t as healthy as it would like to be. Safety Marco Gupton tore an ACL a week ago, and standout receiver Brantley Horton, who has 10 TD catches, broke a hand against Mooresville and won’t play Friday.
South Rowan’s initial pairing was also incorrect because of the mistake on West’s seeding. South was originally paired with Tuscola, but now it’s headed to Belmont to play South Point.
South Point’s Red Raiders are always stout and always score at will.
Their only loss was to Clover, S.C., in a season opener.
South Rowan coach Jason Rollins is a South Point grad. His brother is president of the South Point Booster Club and his niece is a South Point cheerleader.”We’re glad to be back in the playoffs, and it’s always nice to go back to where you grew up even though they’ve got a heck of a football team,” Rollins said. “It’s a big-time atmosphere there, and it will be a good thing for our community to see it because that’s the sort of thing we’re trying to build here.”
South fullback Steve Sexton tore an ACL in the loss to West Rowan, but Jacob Baker and Josh Suber performed admirably in Friday’s rout of North Iredell. D-lineman Kelsey Robinson is out for the year, but a rotation of Steve Erwin, Zach Howell and Joe Gutierrez filled in well Friday.
A.L. Brown plays host to a dangerous, inconsistent Lake Norman team that lost to Carson and South Rowan but beat Mooresville and took West Rowan to overtime.