Playoff football preview capsules
By SAMUEL EVERS & PATRICK MASON
Sunday, November 5, 2017
The NCHSAA released its playoffs pairings Saturday afternoon. The first round will be played Friday. Here is a look back and ahead at the Twin Counties teams that made the postseason.
No. 6 Plymouth (6-5) vs. No. 11 North Edgecombe (4-6)
How they got here: The Warriors haven’t played since Oct. 27, when they beat Rocky Mount Prep by a convincing 42-14 score. North Edgecombe is riding a modest two-game win streak, which helped punch its ticket after losing five of the first six games of the season.
The opponent: Last season’s state title runner-up, Plymouth, finished second in the Albemarle Conference with a 4-1 mark. The Vikings opened the season with three consecutive losses, but got back on track in conference play. Plymouth finished the season with three wins by a combined score of 74-24.
The bracket: The winner will face third-seeded South Robeson (3-8) in the second round. South Robeson lost its final three games of the season. The only undefeated team in the bracket is 11-0 North Duplin.
Key players: North Edgecombe has a stout front on both sides of the ball and use a number of backs to move the ball. Plymouth senior quarterback Aryn Gibson has thrown for 866 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception. The Vikings’ run game is led by Aaron Wilkins’ 634 yards.
No. 1 Tarboro (11-0), BYE
How they got here: The Vikings haven’t allowed a point in the last three games. Well, at least the defense hasn’t. A safety returned to the wrong end zone aside, Tarboro football has played flawless football as of late, outscoring opponents over the past three games by a combined score of 171-2. On their way to a perfect regular season and a No. 1 seed in the 1-AA East bracket, the Vikings have eclipsed the 60-point mark five times.
The opponent: Tarboro will have to wait a week to find out its next opponent. The Vikings get a bye to start the playoffs, then square off with the winner of No. 8 Riverside Martin (6-5) and No. 12 Rosewood.
The bracket: The only other undefeated team in 1-AA is Mount Airy (11-0), which is lurking on the other side in the West Bracket.
Key players: The Vikings like to run the ball, and they do it really well. Jaquez Edge leads the team with 612 yards on the ground and 12 touchdowns, while three others (Clifton Joyner, Jr., Malik Dickens, Deontae Williams) are in the 500s.
No. 6 SouthWest Edgecombe (9-2) vs. No. 11 Hertford County (6-5)
How they got here: SouthWest Edgecombe turned in a dominant regular season, a turnaround after a losing season last year. SWE had a clear path to an Eastern Plains outright title, but lost on Friday to Wilson Beddingfield. The Cougars have one of their stronger rushing attacks in recent memory. Hertford County won three straight games to get in, and finished third in the Northeastern Conference.
The opponent: Hertford County withstood a 1-5 stretch in the middle of the season, before closing with three straight wins. The Bears posted wins over area teams Wilson Hunt and Rocky Mount High. The Bears are balanced on offense with quarterback Lance Hunter throwing for 1,830 yard, and running back Kyeem Perry rushing for 1,562.
The bracket: Next up will be the winner of No. 3 Southwest Onslow and No. 14 Goldsboro. SWE avoids facing top-seeded Northeastern (11-0) until the later rounds.
Key players: Hertford County’s two-headed monster of Hunter and Perry will be tough to slow down. SWE has a talented run game with six players over 100 yards, led by 1,265-yard rusher Alex Foster. Also watch for defensive back Dashon Bandy, who has made huge plays for the Cougars this season.
No. 5 Nash Central (9-2) vs. No. 12 T.W. Andrews (4-7)
How they got here: The Bulldogs closed out their season Friday with a 63-26 win over North Johnston and are winners of three in a row coming into the playoffs. Nash Central’s only two losses this season were to SouthWest Edgecombe and Southern Nash, the latter coming way back in August.
The opponent: The Red Raiders will travel to Nash Central Friday with just a 4-7 record, but four of those losses came in the beginning of the season. They’ve won three of their past five to squeak into the playoffs.
The bracket: Nash Central’s bracket includes two 11-0 teams (No 1 East Duplin, No. 3 South Granville) and two one-loss teams (No. 4 Randleman, #2 North Davidson).
Key players: Bulldogs quarterback Travis Griffin has almost 2,000 yards through the air.
No. 3 Southern Nash (10-1) vs. No. 14 Fayetteville Westover (4-7)
How they got here: The Firebirds, winners of their past five, are rolling into the state tournament and will host a Westover team that won only one game on the road this year. Southern Nash has allowed seven or fewer points eight times this season, its only loss coming to Wake Forest in a 35-0 shutout.
The opponent: The Wolverines have had an up-and-down year, starting the season 2-1 but losing their next six. They salvaged their season with two wins in their past two games.
The bracket: The winner will face either No. 6 Eastern Alamance (9-2) or Northeast Guilford (7-4). The Firebirds’ toughest test looms in a potential third-round matchup with No. 2 Havelock. The Firebirds miss an early meeting with rival Rocky Mount High, which knocked them out of the playoffs last season. The two teams could meet in the East finals.
Key players: Kendrick Bell and Zonovan Knight are among the top backs in the area. Knight has 15 touchdowns and a team-high 1,153 yards, while Bell has a team-high 16 rushing touchdowns to go with 1,063 on the ground. The duo hasn’t been slowed all season. Westover is led by quarterback Xavier Marsh, who has thrown for 1,633 yards, though he does have nine interceptions.
No. 4 Fay. Terry Sanford (10-1) vs. No. 13 Rocky Mount (4-6)
How they got here: An inconsistent season for the Gryphons came down to a win-or-go-home regular season finale two days ago, where Rocky Mount left little to chance in a 40-12 win over Northern Nash. Though the record for the Gryphons sits at under .500, their best football has come over the past month plus, winning three of their final five contests.
The opponent: With an uneven amount of losses comes a matchup with a team on the other end of the spectrum. Terry Sanford enters this first round tilt having not lost since early September. The Bulldogs closed out the regular season with wins over fellow Fayetteville schools E.E. Smith and Pine Forest.
The bracket: First-seeded Western Alamance is the only undefeated team in the bracket, but there are three others (Terry Sanford, Southern Nash, Havelock) at 10-1.
Key players: The Gryphons rely on a heavy passing offense, with quarterback Jaquan Lynch in charge. The sophomore threw for over 1,300 yards this season and tossed 16 touchdowns.