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Prep football: Playoff pairings announced

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — When NCHSAA football pairings were announced Saturday, Salisbury got the pod it expected, West Rowan and North Rowan got pods that surprised them, and Carson got no pod at all.
As for A.L. Brown, it got the you’ve-got-to-be kidding pod.
Salisbury will play in the 2A bracket this time, instead of 2AA, but coach Joe Pinyan and his crack team of bracketologists had projected that.
“No surprises at all,” Pinyan said. “We got exactly what we expected — well, 90 percent of it, anyway.”
Seeded fourth in the Midwest, Salisbury drew a tough first-round game against always athletic Winston-Salem Carver, the school that staged an epic struggle with West Rowan in 2009 when it was still playing in the 3A ranks.
“If the NCHSAA gave you a choice, Carver’s not the team you’d pick,” Pinyan said with a laugh. “But they don’t.”
Looming in Salisbury’s pod are No. 1 seed Starmount, a potential second-round road game for the Hornets, and rival Thomasville, the No. 2 seed in the pod. Don’t ask Pinyan about Starmount or Thomasville, though.
“I remember last year when everyone already had us playing at South Iredell in the second round, but then they got upset,” Pinyan said. “You just go play. A lot of things can happen.”n West coach Scott Young, bouncing back from a heart attack, was understandably tired on Saturday after a morning of youth football, but he’s eager to get the playoffs started.
His three-time defending 3A champs are in the 3A Midwest pod, and while the Falcons are only the No. 3 seed in the overall 3A western bracket — behind Franklin and Burns — they are the No. 1 seed in their pod. That means three certain home games, as long as they keep rolling.
Tough teams in the pod include Concord, Statesville and Southern Guilford.
West’s first-round foe is SPC squad Mount Pleasant, which won three of its last five — the two losses in that stretch were to A.L. Brown and Concord — to eke into the playoffs.
“We were thinking Carson or Harding in the first round and hoping for Carson,” Young said. “That would’ve been real good for the gate and good for the county.”
Young said the Falcons are familiar with Mount Pleasant from 7-on-7 scrimmages and he knows MP coach Mike Johns from Johns’ days as an East Rowan assistant in the 1990s.
“Playing Mount Pleasant caught us by surprise a little bit,” Young said. “They’ll be well-coached. Mount Pleasant will be a very tough out.”
n Carson didn’t get in, despite a 3-3 league record in the NPC.
The apparent stumbling block for the Cougars was that their fourth overall win came in an endowment game with North Rowan.
One of the NCHSAA’s playoff tweaks this year was dropping endowment games for seeding purposes (in the past, teams could discard the non-conference game of their choice). That left the Cougars one game shy of reaching the NCHSAA’s four-wins criteria.
The Cougars will be kicking themselves for a while over letting games against Statesville and Robinson slip away. Winning either would’ve put the Cougars in.
n North coach Tasker Fleming was at a scout campground in New London with his son when he got a “looks like we’re playing you guys” call from West Montgomery.
The Cavaliers, the No. 6 seed in the 1AA Midwest pod, had anticipated a matchup with either South Stokes or Lake Norman Charter in the first round. Instead, they’ll travel once more to West Montgomery, a YVC rival.
West Montgomery just hammered the Cavaliers in Mt. Gilead two weeks ago. West Montgomery also eliminated North from the playoffs in 2010, payback after the Cavaliers had beaten WM in the regular season.
“It’s a little bit less exciting for our kids to play a conference team again,” Fleming said. “I was hoping they would get to travel some place they hadn’t seen before, but maybe we can make that happen by getting to the second round. It’s an old coaching adage that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”
North, obviously, will be a serious underdog, but the Cavaliers are getting healthier.
“Pierre Givens (who played quarterback) was 100 percent for the first time on Friday,” Fleming said. “And Xavier Robinson (shoulder) was running the ball like he was a month ago.”
n The 3AA Midwest pod is a bear. A.L. Brown is seeded third in the pod and fourth overall in the western half of the bracket.
Despite a tremendous regular season that saw them lose only at 4A Porter Ridge — the Wonders are guaranteed just one home playoff game — a first-rounder against Ledford.
“The pod system makes it tough, and I’m not sure the travel is any less,” A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome said. “Obviously, we’re in a tough bracket and we’re playing a No. 10 in the first round instead of a No. 13 or No. 14. When you look at it, we’re seeded at 9-1, but even if we were 10-0, we could be in exactly this same place.”
That’s because two teams in the Wonders’ eight-team pod — perennial nemesis Charlotte Catholic and Belmont South Point — rolled through the regular season unbeaten. Just to get out of its pod, Brown likely will have to win at South Point and win at Catholic.
“You’ve got to play them all at some point,” Newsome said. “You can’t be scared. If you’re scared of somebody, you don’t need to be in the playoffs to start with.”
n Davie started the day in a favorable pod, but late revisions made things much tougher after Porter Ridge was moved from the 4A West pod to the 4A Midwest.
Seeded No. 4 in the 4A Midwest, the War Eagles open at home against No. 5 Dudley.
The No. 2 seed in Davie’s pod is Mount Tabor.
It’ll all start Friday.
“We look at everybody like they’re the Green Bay Packers now,” Pinyan summed up. “Everybody’s undefeated.”

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