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Beyond the Scoreboard: Team by team look at WNC playoff schools

(Photo credit: Ed Clemente)

The 12-week regular season is over, conference titles have been won and playoff berths secured.

Now it is playoff time for 224 teams across the state, including 18 from WNC. Win or go home, survive and advance, with thousands of players chasing the dream of a waking up on Dec. 9 to play for a state championship.

With postseason play beginning Friday night with 13 games involving local schools, let’s take a closer look at each team.

3AA

No. 2 Reynolds (10-1)

Playoff record last 10 years: 17-9, last five years 7-5. Postseason appearances: 13 straight years - The Rockets have been dominant on both sides of the ball all season and have rarely been challenged. Losing Dre Dowdle to injury will hurt the secondary, but this team looks equipped for a deep run. If they advance, the Rockets won’t see any better than a sixth seed until the third round.

Friday’s Game – home vs. No. 15 Parkland (6-5)

Winner plays – No. 7 Southwest Guilford (8-3) or No. 10 Statesville (9-2)

No. 9 Asheville (7-4)

Playoff record last 10 years: 14-10, last five years 3-5. Postseason appearances: 22 straight years - The Cougars have bounced back impressively from an 0-3 start to win seven of their last eight. Passing and running games are solid, so is the defense. Bad draw in the brackets has them on the road vs. Watauga then a likely second-round date with top seed Mount Tabor.

Friday’s Game – at No. 9 Watauga (9-2)

Winner plays – No. 1 Mount Tabor (9-2) or No. 16 Ashbrook (4-7)

No. 14 Erwin (6-4)

Playoff record last 10 years 7-9, last five years 2-5. Postseason appearances: 10 straight years – The Warriors were in big trouble at 0-4, but first-year coach Rodney Pruitt inserted Kendrick Weaver at quarterback, a move that produced six straight wins and an average of 46 points per game. Beware a hot team that is playing its best at the right time of the year, but Erwin has been an underachiever in the playoffs, winning just one game or less eight of the past nine years.

Friday’s Game – at No. 6 Brown (9-2)

Winner plays – No. 3 South Iredell (9-2) or No. 14 Northwest Cabarrus (6-5)

3A

No. 14 Tuscola (7-4)

Playoff record last 10 years 5-9, last five years 1-4. Postseason appearances: Five straight years – The Mountaineers are a ‘tweener team, good enough to beat lesser opponents but they lost games to their league’s top three teams by an average margin of 29 points. Strong option running game usually made for success in November, but makes it tough to play catch-up. Program has been one and out in the postseason five of its last six appearances.

Friday’s Game – at No. 3 Robinson (9-2)

Winner plays – No. 6 Crest (7-4) or No. 11 Monroe (5-6)

2AA

No. 3 Franklin (11-0)

Playoff record last 10 years 10-10, last five years 6-5. Postseason appearances: 18 straight years – The Panthers have a dominant running game with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers and a defense that has been solid all season against WNC opponents. With a postseason opener vs. Smoky Mountain and possible second-round opponent Pisgah, Franklin could get to the quarterfinal round just by beating two league foes they defeated in the regular season.

Friday’s Game – home vs. No. 14 Smoky Mountain (5-6)

Winner plays – No. 6 Wilkes Central (9-2) or No. 11 Pisgah (6-5)

No. 11 Pisgah (6-5)

Playoff record last 10 years 11-9, last five years 5-5. Postseason appearances: Seven straight years – The Bears, after losing three straight conferences games by a total of 15 points, bounced back to beat Brevard last week to head into the playoffs with some momentum. Pisgah won two playoff games last year for the first time since 2011, but this bracket doesn’t look favorable for a repeat of that performance.

Friday’s Game – at No. 6 Wilkes Central (9-2)

Winner plays – No. 3 Franklin (11-0) or No. 14 Smoky Mountain (5-6)

No. 14 Smoky Mountain (5-6)

Playoff record last 10 years 1-7, last five years 0-5. Postseason appearances: Seven straight years – With WNC’s top quarterback in passing yardage (Nate Coffey, 2,868 yards), the Mustangs managed a tie for third in a very competitive Mountain Six Conference. Just last week, Coffey threw for 403 yards but Franklin still smoked the Mustangs 45-21 by rushing for 368 yards. This one will likely finish in similar fashion.

Friday’s Game – at No. 3 Franklin (11-0)

Winner plays – No. 6 Wilkes Central (9-2) or No. 11 Pisgah (6-5)

2A

No. 2 Mountain Heritage (10-0)

Playoff record last 10 years 10-9, last five years 3-5. Postseason appearances: Six straight years – The Cougars’ offense is pretty basic; they execute a few plays over and over, usually quarterback Trey Robinson (2,242 yards) or running back Dathan Robinson (no relation, 1,038 yards) running the ball. It’s a formula that has worked well for the past three years, and could take them far in the postseason. The only top three seed in their half of an eight-team bracket is Hendersonville, a team the Cougars beat on the road earlier this season.

Friday’s Game – home vs. No. 15 Lexington Senior (6-4)

Winner plays – No. 7 Whiteville (10-1) or No. 10 North Wilkes (8-3)

No. 3 Hendersonville (8-3)

Playoff record last 10 years 12-10, last five years 5-5. Postseason appearances: 18 straight years – On a roll going into the playoffs, the Bearcats have won four straight (and allowed just one TD in the last two games) and have been tested often, with six games decided by eight points or less. Hendersonville is 4-2 in those games, and knowing how to win close games bodes well for November. The Bearcats blitzed first-round opponent Brevard 43-0 two weeks ago.

Friday’s Game – home vs. No. 14 Brevard (6-5)

Winner plays – No. 6 Salisbury (7-3) at No. 11 Red Springs (8-3)

No. 9 East Rutherford (7-4)

Playoff record last 10 years 1-9, last five years 0-4. Postseason appearances: First since 2015 – The Cavaliers struggled against Southwestern Conference powers South Point and Shelby, but played well enough to earn a playoff berth. An explosive offense paced by junior tailback Demetrius Mauney (1,539 yards, 20 touchdowns) scored 34 or more points in six games. A tough draw would mean a likely second-round game against top seed Reidsville.

Friday’s Game – home vs. No. 9 East Montgomery (9-2)

Winner plays – No. 1 Reidsville (11-0) or No. 16 West Lincoln (4-7)

No. 14 Brevard (6-5)

Playoff record last 10 years 2-7, last five years 1-2. Postseason appearances: Two straight years -

Tale of two seasons for the Blue Devils, who won six straight before finishing with four straight losses. The defense faltered during the losing streak, allowing an average of 33 points a game. Indicative of how tough the Mountain Six Conference was this season, Brevard received a playoff berth despite finishing in a tie for fifth place.

Friday’s Game – at No. 3 Hendersonville (8-3)

Winner plays – No. 6 Salisbury (7-3) or No. 11 Red Springs (8-3)

1AA

No. 5 Swain County (7-4)

Playoff record past 10 years 22-9, last five years 12-5. Postseason appearances: 19 straight years – Recovering from slow starts is a WNC theme this season, and the Maroon Devils enter the postseason on a five-game winning streak, including a victory over powerful Smoky Mountain 1-A Conference rival Murphy, after a 2-4 start. After winning 15 postseason games in a four-year span (2011-14), including a state title in ’11, Swain has lost in the second round each of the past two seasons.

Friday’s Game – home vs. No. 12 Cherryville (4-7)

Winner plays – No. 4 Bessemer City (10-1)

No. 6 Murphy (9-2)

Playoff record past 10 years 30-7, last five years 18-3. Postseason appearances: 25 straight years – Nobody does it better this time of the year than the Bulldogs, who have won three state titles and reached the championship game on two other occasions in the past six years. There is no worse misplaced seeding among the state’s 224 postseason teams than giving Murphy a ranking this low.

Don’t be surprised if this team is still playing in December.

Friday’s Game – No. 11 South Stanly (5-6)

Winner plays – No. 3 seed North Stanly (10-1)

No. 8 Polk County (7-4)

Playoff record past 10 years 6-10, last five years 3-5. Postseason appearances: 18 straight years – The Wolverines are as well-coached as any WNC team and are looking to improve on a spotty postseason history. The program has lost its first-round games each of the past two years and has never won two playoff games in the same season. Inconsistent offense improved late in the season, scoring 73 points in last two games.

Friday’s Game – home vs. North Rowan (8-3)

Winner plays – No. 1 seed Mount Airy (11-0)

1A

No. 1 Mitchell (10-1)

Playoff record last 10 years 13-9, last five years 8-5. Postseason appearances: 10 straight years – The Mountaineers are a veteran team and playoff tough, having reached the state title game in 2015 and the semifinal round last year. Having that kind of confidence and a great senior leader in quarterback Ben Young makes this team a favorite to win the program’s first state championship in football.

Friday’s Game – First-round bye

Next game – No. 8 South Stokes (5-6) or No. 9 Community School of Davidson (5-6)

No. 2 Cherokee (10-1)

Playoff record last 10 years 4-8, last five years 2-5. Postseason appearances: Fourth straight year – A share of the Smoky Mountain 1-A Conference title and 10 straight wins to open the season highlight the Braves’ strong regular season marred only by a 35-12 home loss to Murphy last week. Two playoff wins last year were the program’s first since 2008, but this team has been tested and is 16-2 in a streak that began last year.

Friday’s Game – First-round bye

Next game – No. 7 Union Academy (7-4) or No. 10 Alleghany (4-7)

No. 5 Robbinsville (7-4)

Playoff record last 10 years 18-9, last five years 10-4. Playoff appearances: 17 straight years – Another playoff tested Smoky Mountain Conference program that won a state title in 2014 and reached the title game a year later. The Black Knights lost to the top three teams in league play but may fare better against lesser competition in the postseason. Veteran coach Dee Walsh knows how to get teams ready for this time of year.

Friday’s Game – home vs. No. 12 Rosman (2-9)

Winner plays – No. 4 Mountain Island Charter (8-3)

No. 12 Rosman (2-9)

Playoff record last 10 years 5-8, last five years 4-5. Playoff appearances: Eight straight years – The Tigers are a valid argument that too many teams are invited to the playoffs. They were 1-5 in league play and lost their last five games of the season by an average margin of 22 points a game, including a 38-12 defeat against its first-round opponent. The Tigers feature a 2,000-yard passer (Luke Stewart) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Thomas Collins).

Friday’s Game – at No. 5 Robbinsville (7-4)

Winner plays – No. 4 Mountain Island Charter (8-3)

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