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Beyond the Scoreboard: Only two of five WNC playoff teams have won previous state titles

Beyond the Scoreboard: Only two of five WNC playoff teams have won previous state titles{ }

(Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

They are close enough to taste it now, five Western North Carolina high school football teams just two wins away from state titles.

Two of the programs preparing for Western Regional title games this week are familiar with bringing home championships, the other three have never had the thrill of winning it all.

A closer look at each school’s postseason history:

1AA Murphy

Playoff history – 81-29 record.

State championships – Nine (last in 2016).

Western Regional finals – 11-1, last loss in 2005.

No. 6 seed Murphy (12-2) plays at No. 1 seed Mount Airy (13-0). The Bulldogs rank second in WNC history behind Smoky Mountain 1-A Conference foe Robbinsville (state record 14) in state championships.

And in recent years, it has become an annual tradition to chase a ring under Hall of Fame coach David Gentry. Murphy has won three state titles (2011, ’13 and ’16) the past seven years and reached the title game in two other seasons (2010, ’12).

The Bulldogs are 5-0 in Western Regional finals over the past seven years and have posted a 29-4 playoff record in that span.

The Western Regional champion will play the Eastern Regional champion (No. 1 Tarboro or No. 2 John A. Holmes) Dec. 9 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

3AA Reynolds

Playoff history - 53-25 record.

State championships – Three 4-A titles (1999, 2002, 2009).

Western Regional finals – 4-1, last loss in 1983.

No. 2 Reynolds (13-1) will host No. 12 Sun Valley (11-3). The only Buncombe County school to win more than one state title, the Rockets have become the area’s most dominate program in regular-season play, winning 33 consecutive games against WNC opponents and 26 straight vs. conference foes the past four seasons.

Postseason success has been more elusive, and this is the first season with three playoff wins since the 2009 team won it all under coach Shane Laws.

History has shown that when the program gets this far, it keeps advancing. The Rockets have won their last four Western Regional finals and only the 1989 team failed to go on and win the state championship.

The Western Regional champion will play the Eastern Regional winner (No. 2 New Hanover or No. 4 Eastern Guilford) on Dec. 9 at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham.

2A Mountain Heritage

Playoff history – 16-16.

State championships – none (lost in 2009 2-A title game).

Western Regional finals – 1-0.

No. 2 Mountain Heritage (13-0) will play at No. 1 Reidsville (14-0). The Cougars have gotten better each of the past three seasons (11-3, 11-2, 13-0) under coach Joey Robinson.

There hasn’t been much postseason success (4-6) since the 2009 squad went 4-1 and played for the state 2A title, losing to Tarboro 28-3, until this season.

That team featured 3,000-yard rusher Casey Randolph (3,055) and this year’s squad has another, Joey’s son Trey Randolph (3,004).

Reidsville has won six state titles since 2002, including last year, and is currently on a 30-game winning streak, including a 45-16 rout of the Cougars in the second round of last year’s playoffs.

The Western Regional champion will play the Eastern Regional champion (No. 3 Southwest Onslow or No. 5 Wallace Rose Hill) on Dec. 9 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.

1A Mitchell

Playoff history – 20-18.

State championships – none (lost in 2015 title game).

Western Regional finals – 1-2.

No. 1 Mitchell (12-1) will host No. 2 Cherokee (12-1). The Mountaineers, without much playoff history prior to 2010, are getting pretty good at winning in November.

The program is 16-7 in the postseason the past eight years and have won at least two games in six of those seasons.

This is the Mountaineers’ third straight appearance in the Western Regional final under coach Travise Pitman and fourth time since 2010.

The Western Regional champion will play the Eastern Regional winner (No. 1 North Duplin or No. 6 Plymouth) on Dec. 9 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

1A Cherokee

Playoff history – 24-26.

State championships – none (lost in 1978 title game).

Western Regional finals – 1-3.

No. 2 Cherokee (12-1) plays at No. 1 Mitchell (12-1). After losing five straight first-round postseason games in a span of seven years (2009-15), the Braves have won four games the past two years.

That’s part of an impressive turnaround by coach Kent Briggs, who has led the team to a 18-2 record since the middle of last season, with the losses coming to 1-A powers Mitchell and Murphy.

But the Braves’ nemesis in recent years has been Mitchell. The Mountaineers have won five straight against them the previous four seasons, including a 45-14 victory in the third round of the playoffs last season.

The Western Regional champion will play the Eastern Regional winner (No. 1 North Duplin or No. 6 Plymouth) on Dec. 9 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

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