Published: Nov 02, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Oct 31, 2011 08:18 PM
Football playoffs begin
Local teams begin their hunt for an NCHSAA championship this Friday.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association often relies on conference records for seeding purposes, and that sometimes leads to an anomaly like the one in the Carolina 3-A Conference as the league sends three teams into the post-season.Seeded No. 3 in the NCHSAA 3-AA East, Carolina-6 champion Cardinal Gibbons (9-1) could argue that its Crusaders are facing a tougher opponent - Greenville D.H. Conley (8-3) - than conference runners-up Southern Vance and Chapel Hill. Meanwhile, Orange (6-5), which tied the Raiders and Tigers for second behind Cardinal Gibbons, drew a notably tougher opponent than their conference rivals - on the road at undefeated Fayetteville Byrd, the No. 2 team in the eastern half of the NCHSAA."We're playing one of the best teams in the state," Orange coach Pat Moser said. "What I always tell the players is that 'In the playoffs, you'll always play a great team sooner or later -- this week, next week, sometime.' We might as well play them now."Gibbons' opponent, Conley, finished 5-2 in the Coastal 3-A Conference. The Vikings' only losses in league play were to undefeated Havelock, which is the No. 1 team in the 3-AA playoffs, and by 27-26 to South Central. The Vikes were one point away from finishing 9-2.Still, the Crusaders have their own reasons for being optimistic. They've won eight straight since a loss to 8-2 Cary, and Gibbons has one of the region's best defenses; the Crusaders have given up an average of just 11.4 points a game and have held opponents to 76 yards a game on the ground.After stumbling in a 15-6 loss last Friday at Orange, Chapel Hill (9-2) ended up seeded No. 4 in the 3-AA Mideast and will host No. 5 Asheboro (6-5).In addition to one of the best names in North Carolina high school sports, the Blue Comets also have one of the toughest defenses in the Piedmont. They could cause fits for Chapel Hill, which has struggled with inconsistency at times, when they play Friday at Cuton-Peerman Stadium.Southern Vance (8-2) gave up a Hail Mary pass on the last play of their game Oct. 21 at Chapel Hill, which cost the Raiders second place outright in the Carolina-6. But they came out of the three-way logjam for second better than anyone else.Seeded No. 3 in the 3-A Mideast, Southern Vance drew a home game with No. 6 Southern Wayne (6-4). Not only should the hosts be favored over a Saints team that gave up 23 points a game during the season, the 3-A Raiders won't have to meet 3-AA Cardinal Gibbons again this year, should they advance.The nearby Carolina-9 Conference was unable to avoid such internecine warfare: No. 7-seeded Carrboro (8-3) will play at No. 2 seed South Granville (6-5) in the NCHSAA 2-AA Mideast's first round. Carrboro lost 17-6 at South Granville in a conference game Sept. 30.The Carolina-9's third entry, No. 4 seed Northwood (4-6) , plays at No. 5 seed Franklinton (9-2) in the Mideast's first round.In the 4-A, East Chapel Hill (3-8) missed making the playoffs as an at-large team, despite going 3-3 in PAC-6 play (the program's best record ever in conference games,) and the program's best finish since 2004.Three Piedmont Athletic Conference teams will head into this fall's NCHSAA playoffs, led by defending state 4-A champion Hillside.Hillside scheduled aggressively this season, starting the year with a rematch against 2010 semifinalist New Bern, and then road games at Fayetteville Smith, in South Carolina against Summerville (S.C.) Cane Bay, and at Greensboro Dudley - every one of them a playoff team this year.The Hornets dropped that season-opener to New Bern, the No. 1 team in the NCHSAA 4-A East Region, but then ran the table. They've won 25 of their last 26 games, beating opponents by more than three TDs a game.Now seeded No. 2 in the NCHSAA Mideast, Hillside (9-1) hosts No. 7 Pembroke Purnell Swett (5-5) in the playoffs' first round this Friday.Purnell Swett comes out of what can claim to be the toughest conference in the state. The entire six-team SEC was invited to the football postseason, a first in NCHSAA history.Should the Hornets win, they'll face another rematch in the second round.No. 3 Southern Durham (7-3) of the PAC-6 hosts No. 6 Fayetteville E.E. Smith in the first round. Hillside had little trouble in melting down the Golden Bulls' defense in a 34-6 victory in Fayetteville earlier this year, but Spartan coach Adrian Jones isn't about to take anything for granted because of that.Jones was a teammate with Smith's future coach Duran McLauren when they both played for N.C. Central in the mid-1990s.Northern Durham survived a late-season injury bug well enough to win four straight in the PAC-6 and contend for the conference crown all the way to the last game of the season. The Knights' reward is their first home playoff game since 2005. Seeded No. 4 in the Mideast, Northern (4-5-1) will host No. 5 Southeast Guilford (6-4) in the first round.