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Prep Football: Picks for the final week

The picks were 8-0 last week, the most on-target they’ve been during a sub-par season (48-15), but it’s not like any brilliant insight was involved.
It simply was a week when all the favorites prevailed, with Salisbury, West Rowan, A.L. Brown and Davie getting victories on the road. Carson, South Rowan and East Rowan lost against foes they were expected to lose to, while North Rowan won a home game it was supposed to win.
This is the final night of the regular season, and there are toss-up picks, notably Hickory Ridge-West Rowan and Cox Mill-Carson.
It’s not like the old days when every team knew exactly where it had to finish in the conference standings in order to qualify for the state playoffs. Now teams just win as many as they can and hope for the best when pairings are announced by the NCHSAA.
The magic number to make the 3A playoffs appears to be a modest four wins. At least that’s what the folks who spend hours calculating that sort of thing are saying.
East Rowan, which has lost five out of six, and Carson, which has lost six straight, haven’t exactly had banner seasons. But East might get in if it beats South Rowan tonight and Carson might get in if it beats Cox Mill. That’s not set in stone. All that’s set is stone is that East and Carson are certainly done if they lose.
South has one victory and will finish its season tonight, win or lose.
Salisbury’s outlook isn’t sunny. The projectionists have determined it will take five wins to make the 2A playoffs. Salisbury, which lost two squeakers by two points, has accumulated only three wins. So even if the Hornets manage to shock rival North Rowan — and the world — they still could fall short of the postseason. But that’s not set in stone, either.
West Rowan, North Rowan, Davie and A.L. Brown are playoff teams and are playing games tonight that will impact their seeds. West, North and Davie are in line for lofty seeds if things go well.
Ordinarily playoffs seeds are revealed the Saturday after the regular season ends but that announcement won’t come until Nov. 12 because of the hurricane-related flooding in the eastern part of the state. The first round won’t be played until Nov. 18. Prep basketball will be under way by then.
•••
NORTH ROWAN (8-2, 4-0 CCC) at SALISBURY (3-7, 2-2 CCC)
LAST WEEK: Salisbury battered West Davidson, 42-10. North’s special teams keyed a 33-14 win against Thomasville that locked up the CCC.
THE SERIES: Salisbury leads, 27-22-2, but North has won the last three. Salisbury’s last win was by 19-7 in 2012. North won 21-13 in a competitive game last season.
OUTLOOK: Despite the disparity in records, the teams are pretty even as far as skill people. North has the advantage on the lines. Salisbury has the advantage of Senior Night emotion.
North already has clinched the top spot in the Central Carolina Conference.
PICK: North 24, Salisbury 14
•••
SOUTH ROWAN (1-9, 1-7 SPC) at EAST ROWAN (3-7, 2-6 SPC)
LAST WEEK: South was hammered by Robinson, 62-6. East was smacked by Central Cabarrus, 61-42.
THE SERIES: South’s lead is 33-18. East won 34-20 last season. South won as recently as 2014 when it stunned a playoff-bound East team, 28-14.
OUTLOOK: Both allowed 60-plus points last week, so whoever gets some stops will win.
East has a lot more firepower with the Wall brothers, who combined for six TDs last week. East also has home-field advantage and Senior Night emotion. East will miss Steven Hardin, who often played offense, defense and special teams. He lacerated a kidney last week.
South beat Carson, while East has league wins against Cox Mill and Northwest Cabarrus.
PICK: East 28, South 14
•••
HICKORY RIDGE (8-2, 6-2 SPC) at WEST ROWAN (8-2, 7-1 SPC)
LAST WEEK: West Rowan won at Cox Mill, 21-3. Hickory Ridge flattened Carson, 49-8.
THE SERIES: West leads 2-1, winning in 2013 and 2014 but losing to the Bulls, 28-21, last season.
OUTLOOK: Hickory Ridge lost two SPC games in the same week, losing to Robinson on Sept. 5 after a postponement and to Concord on Sept. 9, but hasn’t lost since.
Hickory Ridge throws a lot, so West’s defense, which has 19 picks, will have a chance to get some more. Hickory Ridge’s defense might be even better than the Bulls’ offense, so it’s going to be interesting to see if the Falcons can establish their running game.
West is playing for a co-championship in the South Piedmont Conference and will tie the Robinson-Concord winner if it prevails. A win would lift Hickory Ridge into a three-way tie for second place with West and the Robinson-Concord loser.
PICK: West Rowan 21, Hickory Ridge 20
•••
COX MILL (3-7, 3-5 SPC) at CARSON (3-7, 2-6 SPC)
THE SERIES: Carson leads, 2-1. None of the games have been close. Cox Mill demolished the Cougars in 2014 to knock them out of a playoff spot. Carson battered the Chargers the last two seasons, including a 41-14 romp in 2015. Owen White threw four TD passes to Brandon Huneycutt in that one.
OUTLOOK: Carson owns league wins against Central Cabarrus and East Rowan, while Cox Mill beat South Rowan, Northwest Cabarrus and Central.
Cox Mill is 1-4 on the road. Carson is 2-2 at home. Carson has scored quite a few more points than the Chargers, but the defensive numbers are almost identical.
Carson has Senior Night going for it. That may be enough to stop a long slide. The Cougars haven’t tasted victory since Sept. 16.
PICK: Carson 16, Cox Mill 10
•••
A.L. BROWN (7-3, 3-2 MECKA) at HOPEWELL (1-9, 0-5 MECKA)
LAST WEEK: Hopewell was demolished by Vance, 75-8. A.L. Brown sputtered some but won at West Charlotte, 23-14.
THE SERIES: The Wonders lead, 2-1. Hopewell upset the Wonders, 19-14, in 2013. The Wonders have won easily the past two seasons.
OUTLOOK: Hopewell has dropped nine straight since an opening win against Garinger. The Wonders should roll and a win will put them in a tie for third with the Hough-Vance loser.
PICK: A.L. Brown 35, Hopewell 0
•••
PARKLAND (7-3, 2-3 CPC) at DAVIE (10-1, 5-0 CPC)
LAST WEEK: Davie put together a big fourth quarter and beat Mount Tabor, 35-14. Parkland was outscored, 56-28, by North Davidson’s prolific offense.
THE SERIES: Davie leads, 6-5, and has beaten the Mustangs the past three seasons.
OUTLOOK: Parkland was an improved team in 2015 and improved some more this season, going 4-1 on the road and logging league wins against Reagan and R.J. Reynolds.
Davie still should win comfortably. The War Eagles have established themselves as one of the state’s best teams. They’ve outscored opponents by nearly 200 points and have won eight straight since losing to Dudley.
Davie is on the verge of running the table in the CPC, one of the state’s tougher leagues. Davie hasn’t done that since 2004.
PICK: Davie 35, Parkland 13

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