The NCHSAA state football playoffs begin Friday and run through Dec. 13-14. The playoffs are a little later than normal this year so if you last until Thanksgiving you’ll play a third-round game at least. But there’s plenty of football to be had before that and, best of all, playoff brackets to be analyzed, picked and pored over. Sports editor D. Clay Best has done some poring over of his own and presents his thoughts in a whine-free format (i.e. no conference rematches, seeding issues, somebody-should-be-seeded-higher chatter here).
It’s the Bill Parcells version of prep football playoff talk: “you are what you are” as in your path’s been set, deal with it. Enjoy the playoffs and above all else remember, as Bill said of the game, “It’s just a bunch of guys with an odd-shaped ball.”
Adjust your clocks: The fan-friendly (and press-friendly) 7 p.m. regular-season kick offs are gone. The NCHSAA’s policy is all playoff games must start at 7:30 p.m.
Where they all hope to get: The path to the eight state high school championship football games begins Friday night with the first round of games, and now teams know where their season will end if they are fortunate enough to reach a state championship game on Dec. 13 or 14.
The NCHSAA has released sites and starting times for every game this week. Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh will host three championship games on Saturday, Dec. 14: the 3A at 11 a.m., the 4A at 3 p.m. and the 4AA at 7 p.m. BB&T Field in Winston-Salem hosts the 1A finals at 11 a.m., the 1AA at 3 p.m. and the 3AA final at 7 p.m.
Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill will have the 2AA finals on Friday, Dec. 13 at 7 and the 2A finals at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.
Miserly athletic director’s dream scenarios: Millbrook at Leesville Road, Wake Forest at Panther Creek, Holly Springs at Garner and – best of all – Fuquay-Varina at Middle Creek.
Football usually equals dollar signs for athletic department budgets and while some pundits don’t like rematches of conference foes during the playoffs, it works at the ticket gate. After all who wouldn’t like to see a Millbrook and Leesville Road rematch or Fuquay-Varina try to knock off Middle Creek again this week after a stellar effort last season? Well, aside from the team that won the first meeting.
Holly Springs challenging Garner for the first time is a golden ticket of sorts as well as the Golden Hawks fan. Want to make your playoff trip memorable, knock off the two-time eastern regional finalist for the past two seasons and the king of Triangle area football in Garner?
Scariest 12 seeds you’ll ever see: In 4AA, it’s Wake Forest. The Cougars’ path to the eastern regional finals is far from easy but it’s doable especially with a talented defense and a 1,500-yard back in the backfield in Bryce Love.
All three of their losses were by a touchdown or less and, aside from the 14-10 setback against Sanderson, not bad losses.
Down a number (the 3AA) it just might be Corinth Holders. The Pirates have a big time passing game and, until the turnover-marred effort in the season finale against Triton, had just two losses (both by a touchdown or less) since August.
Congrats you made the playoffs (now here’s a present you probably don’t want to open): in the 4A ranks it’s a three-way tie between Clayton, Southeast Raleigh and Heritage. Clayton meets Durham Hillside, who is widely regarded as one of the most talented rosters in the state.
Southeast gets New Bern – the eastern thorn in the side of many a Triangle area team this time of year.
Heritage meets the 2011 4A state champions in Scotland County which is coming off of a dominating win over Richmond County.
Most intriguing but still somewhat under the radar potential regional final: 1AA eastern regional final – Tarboro (a state power in the 2A ranks until moving down a classification this season) vs. James Kenan (one of the most athletic teams you’ll see at any level of play).
Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest