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Round 1 Previews: Jekyll-and-Hyde teams heading to playoffs

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a story a long time ago about a split-personality-disorder fellow who alternated between the good Dr. Henry Jekyll and the bad Edward Hyde.

The last thing Stevenson had in mind was making a contribution to the sports world, but the term Jekyll-and-Hyde team has become commonplace — from the preps to the pros —  to describe unpredictable squads with split personalities.

East Rowan, for instance, is a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. The Mustangs are really great or really awful, depending on which side of the bed they woke up on or what they consumed at the team meal.

East Rowan is a 5-6 team that had a three-game losing streak and a pair of two-game winning streaks.

East Rowan finished fifth in the South Piedmont Conference, but it was not a run-of-the-mill fifth. The Mustangs beat the two teams, Cox Mill and West Rowan, that tied for third place. They didn’t just beat the Falcons in Mount Ulla. They routed them.

The negative side of the split personality is the Mustangs lost to eighth-place South Rowan and to Carson, which tied for sixth and missed the playoffs. The Mustangs, however, didn’t just lose to Carson, they got run right out of China Grove by the Cougars.

What all of this means is East Rowan is a No. 15 seed for a reason, but it’s a No. 15 seed capable of playing like a No. 5 seed on a good night. The best team East Rowan played is undefeated Concord. The good Mustangs showed up in Concord.

Concord led  14-6  at halftime. The final was 29-12, but it was a ballgame.

So no one really knows what’s going to happen Friday when East Rowan travels to Morganton to play Freedom. It could be an ugly rout. It could be an unexpected tussle.

Obviously, Freedom (10-0-1) is exceptional. Freedom hasn’t played anyone as good as Concord, but it has overwhelmed a collection of 3A and 4A opponents in a mixed conference and has outscored foes by a staggering 485-93.

The only blemish on the Patriots’ record is a 13-13 tie with Newton-Conover, a stout 2A team, back in September.

B.J. Emmons, Freedom’s 213-pound running back, who has offers from Tennessee and Georgia, among others, is expected to return for the playoffs after serving a two-game suspension. He’s capable of a monster game against an East Rowan defense that was trampled by South Rowan sophomore Jamorya Cousin last week.

East Rowan lost at Freedom in the first round last season in a No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchup that marked the first meeting of the two schools. Emmons had scoring  runs of 99 and 65 yards.

Seth Wyrick caught a TD pass from Samuel Wyrick at Freedom in that game, but it was way too little, way too late. The Mustangs trailed 27-0 at halftime.

If the bad Mustangs show up Friday in Morganton, it could be 27-0 at halftime again. But if the good Mustangs make the trip, it will be a fun night.

Salisbury

The good news as far as being a No. 8 seed in the 2A playoffs is a winnable first-round game — at home. The bad news about playing the 8 vs. 9 game is if you win, there’s a 99-percent chance the second-round opponent will be undefeated and top-seeded Black Mountain Owen on the road.

While the Hornets’ stay in the playoffs isn’t expected to be lengthy, they could generate excitement Friday at historic Ludwig Stadium  against No. 9 Surry Central and could give second-year coach Ryan Crowder his first playoff victory.

The Hornets, back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, have been a terrific postseason team in recent years while bouncing back and forth from 2A to 2AA. They went 13-3 in playoff games from 2009-2012 and won a first-round home game in each of those four seasons. Salisbury hasn’t lost a first-round home game since it was upset by Mount Pleasant in 2005.

Located in Dobson, Surry Central (7-4) has been pounded by strong 1A teams Mount Airy and East Surry and  lost 16-0 to West Stokes, the No. 7 seed in the 2AA bracket. Surry Central’s most impressive game probably was a 14-7 loss to Winston-Salem Carver, the No. 6 seed in the 2A bracket.

Salisbury (5-6) hasn’t been hard to figure out. When they lose the turnover battle, the Hornets are 0-6. When they take care of the ball, they have a good enough ground attack to beat some people.

The Hornets have never played Surry Central.

NORTH ROWAN

Fifth-seeded North Rowan is at home against No. 12 Burnsville Mountain Heritage and will take on the Cougars in the inaugural matchup of the teams.

The Cavaliers (9-2) have a stout defense that’s steadily gotten better . They’ve allowed  just 55 points in their last seven games combined. North Rowan’s speed will  present problems for Mountain Heritage, which has an offense centered around freshman quarterback Trey Robinson, the son of coach Joey Robinson. Robinson is a dual-threat QB who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He’s also thrown 15 TD passes.

Mountain Heritage lost by a respectable 32-20 to Black Mountain Owen, the No. 1 seed in the 2A West bracket.

A fourth-place team in its league, Mountain Heritage could have its hands full with North Rowan running back Jareke Chambers, who has rushed for a county-best 1,452 yards this season. Chambers averages 9 yards per carry and is headed to the Shrine Bowl.

North Rowan didn’t win a playoff game from 2007-12, but it won two last season.

The Cavaliers have a tough road  this time. If they win Friday, they’ll host No. 13 East Rutherford or travel to No. 4 Mount Pleasant.

WEST ROWAN

West Rowan, the No. 8 seed in the 3A West, will be at home on Friday and takes on No. 9 North Buncombe. The teams have never played.

The Falcons are in the same good news-bad news  situation as Salisbury. If West Rowan wins Friday, there’s a 99-percent chance the Falcons will be traveling to No. 1 seed Crest for the second round. The Falcons haven’t played Crest since 2002.

West Rowan isn’t exactly a Jekyll-and-Hyde team, but the Falcons (7-4) experienced two  unexpected results — an awful 59-14 loss to East Rowan in a game they were favored to win and a 35-28 win against Hickory Ridge last week in a game they were supposed to lose. Both surprises occurred  in Mount Ulla.

Because it lost by 35 to East Rowan, by 28 to Mooresville and by 26 to Concord, West Rowan has actually been outscored by its opponents this season. That’s highly unusual for a 7-4 team.

West Rowan also has been outrushed this season (1,950 yards to 1,852), which hasn’t been the case for the Falcons since 1998, coach Scott Young’s first year. During the glory years, West Rowan routinely outrushed opponents by 3,000 yards per season.

While Young’s current team is too young — several of the standouts are sophomores — to resemble those vintage West Rowan squads, the Falcons do have a good chance to win Friday. It helps that North Buncombe (7-4)  is making a long trip from the mountains and has lost three straight. North Buncombe’s Blackhawks have been outscored 153-42 in their last three outings against Erwin, Asheville and Asheville Reynolds, all good teams.

Young’s teams have never lost a first-round playoff game at home.

A.L. BROWN

The Wonders (6-5) have been the opposite of a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. They beat the wheels off  the average-or-worse teams, but they lose to the good ones. They have been as predictable as the sunrise.

A.L. Brown’s losses are to Weddington (10-1) and Concord (11-0) and Mecka conference opponents Mallard Creek (10-1), Hough (8-3) and Vance (8-3).  Four of the teams that beat the Wonders earned first-round home games in the playoffs. The other one, Vance, is a No. 9 seed.

West Charlotte (5-6) is the only team the Wonders beat that made the playoffs. The Wonders didn’t beat anyone who has a winning record.

All of those numbers don’t bode well for Friday when the 15th-seeded Wonders travel north of Winston-Salem to take on Pfafftown Reagan, the No. 2 seed. Central Piedmont Conference champ Reagan (10-1) is an exceptional team with a rocket-armed, mobile QB In Jake Easter. Easter is probably headed for his second straight CPC Player of the Year award and is a prep version of Johnny Manziel.

The Wonders have more than their share of weapons, so they’ll score some, but it’s hard to see them outscoring Reagan. The Wonders allowed 39 points per game in their five losses.

The Wonders have had 36 straight winning seasons, but they’ll break even this year unless they pull off a serious upset.

Reagan is a relatively new school and opened in the fall of 2005.

DAVIE COUNTY

Also in the 4A playoffs, No. 14 seed Davie gets its first shot at No. 3 seed Charlotte Catholic, a program that has tormented A.L. Brown in the postseason for many years.

Playing the Cougars (10-1) always  is a difficult assignment because defending its run-run-run, misdirection offense can’t be taught in a single week of practice.

Catholic has won seven in a row since losing to Mallard Creek.

Davie has a nice win against North Rowan to its credit, but the War Eagles lost by 27 to Reagan and by 30 to North Davidson.

 

Mike London: 704-797-4259; twitter.com/mikelondonpost3

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