4A: Clayton (7-4) at Durham Hillside (8-2)
Need to know: Clayton stays in the smaller 4A bracket for a second straight year but gets one of the toughest assignments there is: a trip to Durham to play the Hornets. Hillside has a great collection of potential Division I players, maybe even one of the best in the state.
Hillside players to watch: The Hornets have two of the state’s top 10 recruits in wide receiver Trevion Thompson (6-foot-2, 188 pounds) who has offers from Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame, among others; running back Donte Thomas-Williams, who has offers from the likes of Florida State, Ohio State and Clemson; and N.C. State recruit Kalen McClain, a defensive back. Khalon Howard was the PAC-6 defensive player of the year in 2012.
Best Win: Clayton, 53-25 over Cleveland; Hillside, 27-24 in overtime over New Bern.
Worst Loss: Clayton, 31-14 to Fuquay-Varina; Hillside, 24-7 to Greensboro Dudley.
The winner meets: Southern Alamance (6-5) or Knightdale (9-1).
3AA: Corinth Holders (7-4) at West Brunswick (3-7)
Need to Know: It’s the second consecutive season a Johnston County team makes the trek to Shalotte for a first-round playoff game. Cleveland did it last year and came away with a 40-33 victory.
West comes into the postseason after a 34-26 win over 4A Wilmington Ashley in its regular-season finale. The Trojans finished up with the Wilmington gauntlet of 4A squads: New Hanover, Hoggard and Ashley, going 1-2.
West Brunswick Players to Watch: Tavon Stanley and Dylan Darguzas have split most of the work in the Trojan backfield this season. Sophomore Quinlyn Moore is the threat through the air. Sean Hewett, a defensive back, leads West in tackles this season.
Best Win: Corinth Holders, 21-10 over Bunn; West Brunswick, 34-26 over Wilmington Ashley.
Worst Loss: Corinth Holders, 31-28 to South Johnston; West Brunswick, 34-7 to North Myrtle Beach (S.C.).
The winner meets: Fayetteville Terry Sanford (4-7) or Wilson Hunt (8-3).
3AA: Hope Mills Gray’s Creek (5-6) at Cleveland (8-3)
Need to Know: These two teams have a common opponent in Triton. Gray’s Creek fell to Triton 27-21 on Sept. 20, while Cleveland beat the Hawks 31-28 on Oct. 18. The Bears were good enough to compete in the Cape Fear Valley 3A this season, just not good enough to crack into the top three of Douglas Byrd – the No. 1 overall seed in the 3A – Lee County and Terry Sanford.
Gray’s Creek Players to Watch: Safety Jeff Gibson (6-foot-4, 198 pounds) is an N.C. State recruit. Running backs Justin Richardson and Deion Rackley are talented as well.
Best Win: Gray’s Creek, 30-13 over Southern Lee; Cleveland, 45-44 over Garner
Worst Loss: Gray’s Creek, 12-3 to Hope Mills South View; Cleveland, 49-28 to Green Hope.
The winner meets: Rocky Mount (8-3) or Hillsborough Orange (10-1).
Two Rivers 3A
Greater Neuse River 4A