By David Keever and Mike Powell —
It’s hard to believe that it’s playoff time already. although the cold air has arrived. Six teams from the South Fork 2A made the playoffs, and some of them have some big challenges ahead tonight.
So here we go with the opening round of the North Carolina high school football state playoffs.
West Lincoln at Ashe County: DK: The Rebels travel to West Jefferson tonight still in search of their first-ever playoff win. And there just might be a chance that they get it. They’ll have to find a way to slow down junior quarterback Dawson Cox, who has thrown for 3,268 yards and 35 touchdowns, but a good ball-control running game for West Lincoln could do that. A win tonight, coupled with an “upset” win by South Point over Smoky Mountain, and the Rebels could even get another “first” next week with a home playoff game. But who am I to look ahead? … DK: West Lincoln 34, Ashe County 28; MP: West Lincoln 42, Ashe County 38.
East Lincoln at Burns: MP: The question is whether East Lincoln can regain its momentum after closing the regular season with a lackluster 42-21 loss to Newton-Conover. The Mustangs, in fact, have been an up-and-down team, but at least their three losses are all to teams that made the playoffs. Burns, on the other hand, has been a consistent offensive juggernaut throughout the year. Bulldogs should win at home … MP: Burns 45, East Lincoln 27; DK: Burns 27, East Lincoln 20.
R-S Central at North Lincoln: MP: The Hilltoppers’ resume does not include any decisions over teams with winning records, and they lost to Shelby 51-0. The Knights should dispatch R-S Central in the same fashion they have been doing all season. In other words, the game will be over by halftime … MP: North Lincoln 49, R-S Central 17; DK: North Lincoln 38, R-S Central 14.
North Surry at Maiden: DK: The Blue Devils are looking for their first playoff win since 2015, after three consecutive opening-round losses to Mount Pleasant, Fred T. Foard, and East Rutherford. Hopefully head coach Will Byrne is able to get that monkey off his back tonight with a win over the Greyhounds, who coincidentally is the last team that Maiden defeated in their last playoff win … DK: Maiden 31, North Surry 21; MP: Maiden 27, North Surry 21.
Bandys at Mountain Heritage: DK: Someone has to be the 16 seed and travel to face number one, and this year it’s the Trojans. I don’t think this contest will be quite as lopsided as most of your 16-1 matchups … DK: Mountain Heritage 28, Bandys 20; MP: Mountain Heritage 38, Bandys 13.
Thomasville at Newton-Conover: DK: This Bulldog team seems to have put it all together, closing out the regular season with six straight wins, including handing Oak Grove their only loss on November 1. The Red Devils got a huge win over East Lincoln last week, but like a lot of South Fork 2A teams, have been a little inconsistent … DK: Thomasville 35, Newton-Conover 21; MP: Newton-Conover 35, Thomasville 34.
South Point at Smoky Mountain: MP: The Red Raiders are always dangerous in the playoffs, but this is not a typical year for South Point. They have no distinguished wins in their body of work, and they enter the postseason on a two-game skid … MP: Smoky Mountain 31, South Point 21; DK: South Point 31, Smoky Mountain 28.
Bunker Hill at Pisgah: DK: If you recall, the Black Bears were the number one seed in the 2AA West a season ago, and the 16th-seeded East Lincoln Mustangs knocked them off 13-10 in the opening round in Canton. It’s great to see the Bunker Hill Bears in the playoffs, but don’t look for Pisgah to lose in the first round two years in a row … DK: Pisgah 31, Bunker Hill 17; MP: Pisgah 28, Bunker Hill 15.
Monroe at Hunter Huss: MP: Monroe finished in the middle of the pack (3-4) in the very tough Southern Carolina 3A Conference, and the Redhawks played teams like Marvin Ridge and Kings Mountain in non-conference. This will not be an easy opener for the Huskies, although I still like them at home … MP: Hunter Huss 20, Monroe 14; DK: Hunter Huss 27, Monroe 21.
Kings Mountain at West Henderson: MP: Kings Mountain has to be the best team in the state seeded tenth in a bracket, with the only losses coming against Huss and Crest. Meanwhile, West Henderson has a close win over Hendersonville to its credit, but the Falcons were blown out by 42 points by A.C. Reynolds … MP: Kings Mountain 35, West Henderson 20; DK: Kings Mountain 38, West Henderson 17.
Last week: David 9-1, Mike 8-2
Overall: David 96-24, Mike 93-27