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Prep Football: Picks and previews

Salisbury Post rankings: 1. A.L. Brown (6-0), 2. West Rowan (5-1), 3. Davie (3-4), 4. Carson (3-3). 5. North Rowan (1-5), 6. East Rowan (1-5), 7. Salisbury (2-4), 8. South Rowan (0-6)
It’s Week 8, which means two-thirds of the prep football regular season is behind us, but for North Rowan and Salisbury, members of the six-team 2A Central Carolina Conference, the serious football is just starting.
North played its long-anticipated CCC opener against Lexington Thursday, while Salisbury finally gets started in league play with tonight’s homecoming contest against East Davidson.
While it’s been mostly rough going for North Rowan and Salisbury outside the CCC, they’re still optimistic about winning a league championship in a conference that’s experiencing a down year.
North and Salisbury are in better shape than some Rowan schools in the 3A South Piedmont Conference, a 10-team league where there actually was a conference game on opening night.
North and Salisbury wouldn’t trade places with East Rowan (1-5, 0-4 SPC) and South Rowan (0-6, 0-4 SPC), teams tied for ninth in the SPC.
Carson (3-3, 1-3 SPC) picked up non-conference wins against North and Salisbury, so the perception is that the Cougars are having a fine season. But Carson is tied for seventh in the SPC and already has lost to the team (Central Cabarrus) it’s tied with. The Cougars still have Concord and Hickory Ridge in their future, so 4-5 in the league and 6-5 overall might be the very best they can do.
Everything is still positive for West Rowan (5-1, 4-0 SPC), and the Falcons own a nice road win over Robinson, but three of West’s last five are on the road and the two home games (Concord and Cox Mill) are against schools West is 0-4 against the last two seasons.
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It’s been tough for even the picker to keep track of the picks, and this will be third straight week with a game or games moved to Thursday due to weather. Next week, we’ll have a Thursday game for TV purposes when East entertains West.
The three games moved up to Thursday last week — Carson-West, South-Cox Mill and Reagan-Davie — would’ve been routine correct picks, but that’s the way the ball bounces.
Only three games were scheduled last Friday, so only three games were picked, and only one was played. As predicted, Hickory Ridge beat East Rowan in wild, weird weather. A.L. Brown beat Vance in more normal conditions Monday. That game had to be played at a neutral site, rather than at Vance, but it’s still a miss. Pending the result of the North-Lexington game, the picks are 29-3 for the season.
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SOUTH ROWAN at CARSON
RECORDS: South (0-6,0-4 SPC). Carson (3-3, 1-3 SPC).
LAST WEEK: Playing without QB Heath Barringer, South had a respectable 27-10 loss to Cox Mill. Carson lost 28-7 to West Rowan. Both games were played on Thursday.
LAST MEETING: Carson rolled South, 36-13, last season, surprising the Raiders early with passes, and then pounding out 390 rushing yards.
THE SERIES: Carson leads, 5-3, and has won the last five. South’s last win was 46-21, in 2009.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Carson coach Joe Pinyan said South’s defense is better than people realize. Brian Cagler frequently has been a standout. Barringer will return from a concussion to lead the Raiders’ offense tonight. Kicker Brennan Lambert (seven field goals) and punter Marshall Long have been as good as expected.
Carson fullback Dylan Livengood was the offensive standout for the Cougars last week with 103 rushing yards, and Carson may get QB Owen White back from a concussion tonight. Linebackers Ryan Bearden and Jacob McCurry lead the defense.
OUTLOOK: Carson’s defense should be the dominant unit in the game.
PICK: Carson 28, South Rowan 7

EAST DAVIDSON at SALISBURY
RECORDS: East Davidson (3-3, 0-0 CCC). Salisbury (2-4, 0-0 CCC)
LAST WEEK: Both teams were off.
LAST MEETING: It was wild. Salisbury built a 34-7 lead and held on to win, 34-28.
THE SERIES: Salisbury leads, 14-8. East Davidson won, 33-32, in 2014.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Salisbury backs Willie Clark and Antwond Glenn had 100-yard rushing games against East Davidson last season. East Davidson’s sophomore QB Nick Tobin has thrown for 379 yards. Junior running back Skyler Shewcow has 317 rushing yards and five TDs.
OUTLOOK: The Hornets have put up 40s frequently against East Davidson in the last decade, although this is likely to be a lower-scoring game than usual.
The teams have combined for one passing TD.
East Davidson averages only 150 yards per game offensively, so Salisbury’s defense might be able to control the action.
PICK: Salisbury 21, East Davidson 14

EAST ROWAN at NW CABARRUS
RECORDS: East Rowan (1-5, 0-4 SPC). NW Cabarrus (2-4, 2-2 SPC).
LAST WEEK: East lost, 20-7, at Hickory Ridge on Friday. Northwest took a 42-0 beating from 2A Mount Pleasant.
LAST MEETING: The Mustangs pummeled Northwest 50-6 in a game with a two-hour lightning delay.
THE SERIES: Northwest leads 17-15. East has easily won the last two. Northwest’s last victory over the Mustangs was in 2008, but the schools didn’t play from 2009-2012.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Max Wall and Keith Tillman give East two speedy threats on the ground. Cornerback Wesley Porter anchors the defense. Tate Houpe punted well at Hickory Ridge in terrible conditions. Christian Bennett, a freshman, played well on both sides of the ball last week.
Back A.J. Stedford gives NWC some speed.
OUTLOOK: Both teams have been far better on defense than offense, but this is a matchup where East has a chance to get its offense untracked. Wall could have a huge night.
The Mustangs should spoil Northwest’s homecoming, but it’s not a sure thing. While Northwest has been crushed four times — 48-0, 56-7, 34-6 and 42-0 — the Trojans pulled out the two games they had a chance in against South Rowan and Cox Mill.
PICK: East Rowan 28, NW Cabarrus 14

WEST ROWAN at CENTRAL CABARRUS
RECORDS: West (5-1, 4-0 SPC). Central Cabarrus (2-3, 1-3 SPC).
LAST WEEK: West beat Carson, 28-7, last Thursday. Central’s Vikings lost, 20-6, to SPC co-leader Concord in awful weather on Friday.
LAST MEETING: In a bizarre game in Mount Ulla that lasted until 11:30 p.m., mostly due to a lightning delay, the Falcons won, 50-31, in 2014.
THE SERIES: The Vikings lead, 9-7. Central was very strong in 2013 and beat West, 28-16.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: West Rowan QB Kacey Otto has been the county’s most consistent offensive force, leading in passing yards and third in rushing yards. West may get running back Jovon Quarles (ankle) back tonight. If not, sophomore Martavio Rankin will handle a heavy workload.
QB Tyler English led Central’s 28-21 win against Carson a few weeks ago
OUTLOOK: West’s defense has been getting tougher every week, while Central’s defense is good against the run. The Vikings held Carson to six first downs.
Central, outscored 143-88 this season, had a surprising win against Mount Pleasant but lost by big margins to Robinson and Hickory Ridge in SPC games.
West was able to beat Robinson, so the Falcons are favored on the road.
PICK: West Rowan 21, Central Cabarrus 7

ROBINSON at A.L. BROWN
RECORDS: Robinson (4-2) at A.L. Brown (6-0)
LAST GAME: Robinson was off. A.L. Brown beat Vance, 31-14, on Monday
LAST MEETING: It was all Wonders — 55-0 — in 2014
THE SERIES: The Wonders have never lost to the Bulldogs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Robinson’s 360-pound defensive lineman Desmond Mason is a serious problem for everyone. QB Damon Johnson and backs Jayln Cagle and Sandon McCoy propel the Wonders, and Lewis Harris has emerged as a big-play receiver. Johnson threw two TD passes against Robinson last season.
OUTLOOK: Robinson is among the state’s most improved teams and owns a win against a respected Mount Pleasant program.
Robinson has had two weeks to prepare while the Wonders had three days, obviously a big advantage for the Bulldogs, who have a very experienced coaching staff that includes former Catawba defensive coordinator Bob Lancaster and former West Forsyth head coach Russell Stone.
The Wonders are coming off one of their biggest wins in recent seasons, but they have to move past it and get ready for a tough opponent on homecoming.
PICK: A.L. Brown 28, Robinson 14

WEST FORSYTH at DAVIE
RECORDS: West Forsyth (4-2, 1-0 CPC). Davie (3-4, 1-1 CPC).
LAST WEEK. West Forsyth was off. Davie was thumped, 45-29, by Reagan last Thursday.
LAST MEETING: The Titans led, 28-0, and held off Davie’s fourth-quarter rally to win, 35-25
THE SERIES: West Forsyth leads, 20-13. West Forsyth has won the last three meetings. Davie won 23-17 in 2011.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Davie’s passing combination of QB Chris Reynolds (17 TD passes) and receivers Ben Ellis (13 TDs) and Cooper Wall is breaking records.
Standouts for West Rowan include Darion Slade, who had passing, rushing and receiving TDs in the same game this year.
Defensive lineman Baer Hunter has piled up sacks and could disrupt Davie’s passing game.
OUTLOOK: West Forsyth is strong, with its two losses coming by a field goal against A.C. Reynolds (6-1) and East Forsyth (6-0).
West Forsyth is allowing 13 points per game. It’s Hall Of Fame and Veterans Night in Mocksville, but it’s probably going to be an uphill fight.
PICK: West Forsyth 31, Davie 15

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