High school football playoffs: Four rematches and a visit by the Buckin’ Elks

Published 1:02 am Thursday, November 2, 2023



By Mike London

SALISBURY — Carson’s Jay McGruder and South Rowan’s Landon Richards surpassed 1,000 rushing yards as their teams concluded their seasons last week.

McGruder needed about 250, so he had his work cut out, but he responded with a 302-yard, three-TD effort that led the Cougars to a 54-30 victory over the Raiders.

Richards got his 1,000 yards despite missing two full games.

North Rowan’s Jaemias Morrow and West Rowan’s Jaylen Neely already had eclipsed 1,000 yards. Both added another 100-yard outing to their impressive totals last week, and both can add more yards in the playoffs.

The major story last week was Salisbury junior Jamal Rule, who is having one of the gigantic rushing seasons in county history in his first year as the featured back for the Hornets.

Officially, Rule produced 360 rushing yards on 30 carries in the Hornets’ 55-14 win against North. That’s 12 yards per carry against a good defense.

There have been only 14 300-yard rushing games in county annals, so it was one for the history books when both McGruder and Rule surpassed that magic number on the same night.

The 360 meant a school single-game record for Rule and is the second-biggest rushing game in county history. The only higher rushing total ever recorded by the Post was a 393-yard performance by East Rowan’s Sammy Pinckney against North Rowan late the COVID season that was delayed from 2020 to the spring of 2021.

Rule scored six touchdowns last week to tie the school record.

Rule now has 2,181 yards for the season — 218 yards per game — breaking the school season record of 2,023 rushing yards that JyMikaah Wells set last fall.

Rule is only the sixth back in county history to post a 2,000-yard season. West’s KP Parks, who owns the only 3,000-yard season ever recorded in the county, topped 2,000 three times. The others who topped 2,000 rushing yards in a season are Carson’s Shaun Warren, West’s Dinkin Miller and Wade Moore, Salisbury’s Wells and North Rowan’s JaReke Chambers.

The postseason begins on Friday, but locally the first round of the playoffs doesn’t look a whole different than a normal conference week.

Salisbury is home against East Davidson. West Rowan plays at Northwest Cabarrus. A.L. Brown is at Mooresville. Davie hosts Mount Tabor. Those are all intra-conference rematches.

The only game that is going to have the fresh feel of a playoff game is Elkin’s visit to North Rowan. Those programs have never met on a football field.


(29) Elkin at (4) North Rowan, 7:30 p.m.

Elkin is an interesting place, mostly in Surry County but partly in Wilkes County.

The blue and gold Buckin’ Elks (3-7) dropped their last three games in the regular season and were eviscerated 104-0 by Starmount (41-0) and second-seeded Mount Airy (63-0) the past two weeks, so they’re not likely to seriously challenge the Cavaliers (8-2) in a 1A first-rounder.

The Massey Ratings project the Cavaliers to win 42-6. North has a 99 percent win probability.

Elkin managed less than 100 yards of offense against Starmount last week, so North linebacker Khor’on Miller and his defensive teammates should feast.

Miller was involved in 12 tackles in the loss to Salisbury. QB/LB Jeremiah Alford had two rushing TDs and an interception.


(31) East Davidson at (2) Salisbury, 7:30 p.m.

East Davidson (4-6) had to be elated to make the 2A playoffs, but had to be exasperated with the draw.

Salisbury (10-0) smoked East Davidson 57-6 on Oct. 6, and that one was at East Davidson.

It’s hard to see anything going wrong for the Hornets at home. They are 40-point favorites with a 99 percent win probability.

Rule had a low-key 165 rushing yards on 15 carries in the earlier meeting with the Golden Eagles, but Mike Geter threw three TD passes.

Salisbury has record-setting guys on offense, but don’t overlook a stellar defense.

Bennie Howard picked off his seventh pass of the season last week. Jaden Warren had three sacks against North Rowan, bringing his season total to an impressive 18.

As the 2 seed, the Hornets have the opportunity to play a lot of November home games.

You can’t look ahead in the playoffs, if you’re a coach or player, but sportswriters are allowed to. Maiden or East Gaston would be next for the Hornets.


(21) West Rowan at (12) NW Cabarrus, 7 p.m.

Northwest Cabarrus chewed up the Falcons 49-9 on Sept, 29.

The Trojans (9-1) are 28-point favorites to beat West again. The score projection for the 3A first-round contest is 42-14. The Falcons are given a 10 percent chance of shocking the world by the Massey Ratings.

Northwest is really good and has lost only to undefeated Robinson, but it would be hard for West to play any worse than it did in the first meeting with the Trojans. The Falcons are better than they looked that night.

West’s sophomore quarterback Brant Graham has gotten better each week.

Evan Kennedy and Neely have established themselves as two of the county’s most dynamic skill players. They combined for five TDs last week.

West (5-5) has experienced, pass-rushing defensive ends (Kevin Toomer and Hunter Miller). Pass-rush is critical against NWC QB Alex Walker, who threw five TD passes in the first meeting with the Falcons.

West scored on offense, defense and special teams last week and is on a little bit of a roll with three straight wins.

West should be able to make this one a lot more exciting than the projections.


(30) A.L. Brown at (3) Mooresville, 7 p.m.

The teams played recently, with the Blue Devils winning 30-20 in Mooresville on Oct. 20.

It was 30-7 after three quarters. If you’re a Wonders fan you can say your guys just run out of time. If you’re a Mooresville fan you can say the Blue Devils built a safe lead and then relaxed.

Mooresville (10-0) is favored to take the rematch by 30, with a 42-12 score projection. The Wonders (5-5) are given a 4 percent chance by the Massey Ratings of busting the 4A West bracket.

CJ Gray threw two TD passes in the first meeting, while Mekhi Herron rushed for 198 yards, so the Wonders know they can move the ball against a stout defense.

Brody Norman threw TD passes to three different receivers for the Blue Devils in the first meeting, and Mooresville racked up 298 rushing yards.

The Wonders did pick off Norman twice in that first meeting, and they have the talent to make this one quite a bit more interesting than the predicted score.


(19) Mount Tabor at (14) Davie, 7 p.m.

Here’s a 4A Central Piedmont Conference rematch everyone can get excited about.

Davie lost at Mount Tabor 35-34 on Oct. 6, with a blocked PAT  making the difference.

Now Davie (7-3) gets to play Mount Tabor (6-4) at home.

The Massey Ratings score projection is Davie 33, Mount Tabor 31. Davie is given a 52 percent win probability.

Ty Miller threw three TD passes for the War Eagles in the first meeting. Mount Tabor rushed for 194 yards and sacked Miller twice.