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Prep Football: Playoff pairings announced

By Mike London


Salisbury has been playing football more than 100 years, but it will encounter Red Springs High for the first time on Friday in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.

The sixth-seeded SHS Hornets will play at Ludwig Stadium at 7:30 p.m. against the 11th-seeded Red Devils of Red Springs.

This unusual matchup was produced by the latest tweaks to the NCHSAA’s playoff structure.

Qualifying teams  (64 in 2A and 3A, 48 in 4A and 1A) were based on automatic conference berths (two for normal-sized leagues, three for extra-large leagues such as the nine-team Central Carolina Conference), plus enough wild card teams, based on MaxPreps rankings, to fill up the brackets.

After qualifying teams were determined, the field was divided in half —  into large (AA) and small (A) school brackets based on enrollment figures.

After A and AAA designations were sorted out, the brackets were separated into East and West based on geography.

Red Springs definitely is in the eastern part of the state — it’s in the Lumberton area, about 15 minutes south of the UNC Pembroke —but at least 16 of the schools assigned to the 2A brackets were even farther east than Red Springs. So Red Springs finds itself in the 2A West bracket.

It will be a trip of at least 2 1/2 hours for Red Springs, so that will  be an advantage for the Hornets.

Red Springs is the name of the town, not just the high school. It’s a small community with a population of about 3,400.

About 45 percent of the students enrolled at Red Springs High are Native Americans.

On the football field, the teams should be virtually even. Red Springs is 8-3 and ranked 216th in the state by MaxPreps. Salisbury is 7-3 and ranked 210th.

Salisbury is seeded sixth by virtue of getting the third automatic berth from the CCC. The Hornets couldn’t be seeded ahead of any first-place or second-place conference qualifiers, but they were seeded ahead of all the wild-card teams in their bracket. Red Springs finished fourth in its league. Three teams in that league, the split 1A/2A Three Rivers Conference, had 8-1 league records. Those teams were Whiteville, East Bladen and South Columbus. They accounted for the three losses suffered by Red Springs.


There was hope North Rowan would get a home game, but the Cavaliers are a No. 9 seed. They’ll have to travel to No. 8 Polk County on Friday for the first round of the 1AA West playoffs.

Polk County (7-4) is ranked 200th by MaxPreps. North Rowan (8-3) is ranked 194th by MaxPreps.

Polk plays in a split conference, the 1A/2A Western Highlands. The dominant teams in that league were Mountain Heritage (10-0), a 2A team, and Mitchell (10-1), a 1A team. Mitchell’s only loss was to Mountain Heritage.

Polk’s Wolverines are seeded higher than North Rowan because they got an automatic berth as the runner-up 1A team in its league. North is in the playoffs as a wild card and couldn’t be seeded ahead of any automatic qualifiers.

Polk is in Columbus, west of Shelby and Forest City on Highway 74, so far west that it’s only about 40 minutes southeast of Asheville. North Rowan will have at least a two-hour trip from Spencer, but it should be a very even game once the Cavaliers get there. A negative as far as landing in the 8-9 game is that the No. 1 seed in the bracket, Mount Airy (11-0), looms in the next round for the winner.


West Rowan (6-5) is seeded No. 13 in the 3A West bracket, and the Falcons will be traveling to Gastonia to face No. 4 seed Hunter Huss (7-4) in Friday’s first round.

This will be another first-time matchup on the gridiron.

Hough played in the 3A Big South Conference and went 5-2 in league action to finish in second place behind Kings Mountain. Actually Huss tied for second with Crest, but Huss beat Crest head-to-head — in overtime. Huss played three overtime games this season and lost the other two. Huss also lost by a single point to Hickory. The only team that’s handled Huss with relative ease is Kings Mountain (10-1).

The Huss Huskies are ranked 83rd by MaxPreps, while West Rowan is ranked 151st. Despite that wide gulf in ranking and despite being in the playoffs as a wild card, the Falcons may have a fighting chance. West Rowan has won in the first round the last three years.


South Piedmont Conference runner-up A.L. Brown (9-2) is seeded sixth in the 3AA West bracket and will host 11th-seeded Asheville Erwin (6-4) on Friday.

The Clyde A. Erwin Warriors aren’t a typical 6-4 team, as they started 0-4 before winning six in a row.

Competing in the Western Mountain Conference, the Warriors finished 6-2, losing to the league’s top dogs Asheville A.C. Reynolds (10-1) and Asheville High (7-4). Erwin played in a large league with nine teams and nailed down the league’s third automatic playoff berth. Erwin put up 51 points and mauled Tuscola in its regular-season finale to secure third place.

The Wonders faced Erwin in the 2009 playoffs, taking a 45-27 win in the second round with Martel Campbell, Travis Riley and  Antwoine Jordan getting it done offensively.

A.L. Brown is ranked 58th by MaxPreps, while Erwin is ranked 148th.


Davie County (5-6) is seeded ninth and drew a tough assignment in No. 8 seed Porter Ridge (7-4). The War Eagles will travel to Indian Trail to face the Pirates on Friday in the first round of the 4A playoffs.

Porter Ridge was 5-2 in the Southwestern Conference, finishing behind co-champs Butler and Myers Park. Porter Ridge tied Hickory Ridge  (9-2) for third place, but battered the Ragin’ Bulls, 34-7, on the last night of the regular season.

Porter Ridge is in the playoffs as a wild card, but is ranked No. 54 in the state by MaxPreps. Davie also is in the playoffs as a wild card and is ranked 69th. Davie has lost four of its last six games.

Not saying it’s going to happen again, but the 2010 Davie team that went 5-6 in the regular season reached the 4A state championship game in Winston-Salem. The school Davie beat in the West final that year was Porter Ridge.


NOTES: South Rowan, East Rowan and Carson finished their seasons with 3-8 records. … North Davidson landed in the 2AA East bracket, and the CCC champs may roll for a while … 1AA West Montgomery also landed in the East bracket. … North Stanly got one of the four byes in the 1AA West. The Comets are seeded third. … The 3AA bracket is very stout, and Statesville wound up on the road at Southwest Guilford. Despite a 9-2 record, the Greyhounds are only a No. 10 seed. Southwest Guilford (8-3) also is a conference runner-up and has a higher MaxPreps ranking than the Greyhounds.
















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