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WNC high school football: First round playoff capsules

Asheville Citizen Times logo Asheville Citizen Times 11/14/2019 David Thompson, Asheville Citizen Times

1A WEST

a close up of a person with a helmet on: Pisgah defeated Brevard in Canton November 8, 2019. © Angela Wilhelm/Asheville Citizen Times Pisgah defeated Brevard in Canton November 8, 2019.

No. 11 Albemarle (4-7) at No. 6 Hayesville (7-4)

Last Week: Albemarle lost 33-27 to Montgomery Central; Hayesville lost 49-28 to Swain County

Winner Plays: No. 3 Thomas Jefferson

Notes: Chad McClure's first year as Hayesville's coach has been a rousing success, and hosting a home playoff game is a direct indication of what his team has accomplished. The Yellowjackets haven't won seven games in a season since 2007. They'll host Albermarle on Friday night, a team that finished third in the Yadkin Valley Conference after starting 0-4. Hayesville's defense will key on stopping Albemarle senior running back Julius Smith, who has rushed for 1,294 yards and 17 touchdowns. Senior Antonio Burns (820 yards, 7 TDs) adds another dangerous rushing weapon. Hayesville will continue to feed junior running back Blake McClure, who has rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Hayden McClure has passed for 847 yards and 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Payton Ivester leads the team with an average of 30 yards per catch and three touchdowns. 

Pick: Hayesville by 10

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No. 10 Cherokee (2-9) at No. 7 Andrews (5-6)

Last Week: Cherokee had a bye; Andrews won 21-0 over Rosman

Last Meeting: Andrews won 35-24 (2019)

Winner Plays: No. 2 Elkin

Notes: The first round will simply be a return to Smoky Mountain Conference action with Cherokee traveling to Andrews for the second time this season. In the first game, the Wildcats rode a big game from junior Tucker Holloway, who rushed for 148 yards and a score and added two touchdown passes during an 11-point win. Wins have been scarce for Cherokee this year, but it has been more competitive later in the season with the return of senior quarterback Bobby Crowe. Andrews running back Landon White surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark last week during a win over Rosman. Junior running back Gavin Wilson is also nearing the 1,000-yard mark and will likely reach it against Cherokee. This is the first time Andrews has made the playoffs under coach James Phillips. 

Pick: Andrews by 14

1AA West

No. 9 Starmount (5-6) at No. 8 Avery County (5-6)

Last Week: Starmount lost 52-14 to Ashe County; Avery County lost 51-6 to Mitchell

Winner Plays: No. 1 East Surry

Notes: Avery County has not hosted a playoff game since 2013 but earned a No. 8 seed despite losing its last three games. The Vikings are used to being the only team on the field that relies heavily on the passing game, but Starmount loves to air it out. Senior Trey Dezern has passed for 2,428 yards and 24 touchdowns to 15 interceptions this season with senior receiver Eric Wiles leafing the way with 966 yards and nine touchdown on 55 catches. Senior J. Max Swain leads the Rams with 60 catches for 792 yards and 10 touchdowns. Avery County junior quarterback Troy Hoilman has passed for a WNC-best 2,852 yards and 34 touchdowns. Hoilman has five receivers with at least 37 catches, including junior Ty Smith (64 catches, 740 yards) and senior Jonas Bowman (49 catches, 786 yards). Senior running back Lucas Andrews could play an important role for the Vikings if they need to slow down the speed of the game. Andrews has 793 rushing yards on 115 carries with six touchdowns. Hoilman can also move the ball with his legs. 

Pick: Avery County by 7

No. 11 Union Academy (6-4) at No. 6 Swain County (9-2)

Last Week: Union Academy lost 56-0 to Thomas Jefferson; Swain County won 49-28 over Hayesville

Winner Plays: No. 3 Bessemer City

Notes: Despite playing again without top running back Bryce Sain, Swain County secured a third-place finish in the Smoky Mountain Conference with a 21-point win over Hayesville. Sain, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury the past three weeks, will still be a game time decision, but the staff is hopeful for his return. Junior quarterback Damian Lossiah has stepped up in Sain's absence, combining for over 250 total yards in last week's win. Union Academy finished fourth in the Southern Piedmont Conference, losing to the top three teams -- Mountain Island Charter, Thomas Jefferson and Bessemer City -- by a combined score of 152-20. Union Academy is led by junior running back Isaac King, who has rushed for 1,751 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Maroon Devils will key on stopping King and forcing the Cardinals to pass. They average 22 yards passing per game. 

Pick: Swain County by 21

No. 10 East Wilkes at No. 7 Polk County (8-3)

Last Week: East Wilkes won 39-33 over Wilkes Central; Polk County lost 28-21 to Mountain Heritage

Last Meeting: Polk County won 33-16 (2018)

Winner Plays: No. 2 Mitchell

Notes: Polk County will face East Wilkes in the first round for the second year in a row,  but this time it will be the Cardinals who are forced to hit the road. The Wolverines were a No. 11 seed in 2018 when they made a run to the third round. East Wilkes finished in a three-way tie for third place in the split 1A/2A Mountain Valley Conference, winning three of its last four games. Polk County enters the playoffs on back-to-back losses, but nearly stunned Mountain Heritage last week. The Cougars went on to earn a No. 1 seed in the 2A playoffs. The Wolverines' success has come from a consistent run game and a tough defense. Led by freshman Angus Weaver (628 yards), they average 221 yards rushing per game and allow an average of only 15 points a game. East Wilkes is led by quarterback Caeden Howell and receivers Garrett Vernon and Trey Lambert. Howell has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards. 

Pick: Polk County by 10

2A West

No. 16 Bandys (5-6) at No. 1 Mountain Heritage (9-1)

Last Week: Bandys lost 50-13 to North Lincoln; Mountain Heritage won 28-21 over Polk County

Winner Plays: No. 8 West Stanly or No. 9 Owen

Notes: Another undefeated conference season earned Mountain Heritage a No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Bandys team finished sixth in its eight-team South Fork Conference and has lost three of its past four games. The Trojans,  12-2 last year, are now led by a younger core. Freshman Chris Culliver, junior Isaiah Gilchrist and junior Isaiah Gilchrist have combined for more than 1,500 rushing yards  and 12 touchdowns. Mountain Heritage is averaging 242 yards rushing per game, led by senior Cole Shehan (634 yards). The Cougars' defense held its five Western Highlands Conference opponents to 48 points. They have, however, shown they are beatable, after needing a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback to beat Owen -- a team they could see in the second round -- and getting pushed by Polk County in the regular-season finale. 

Pick: Mountain Heritage by 28

No. 9 Owen (6-4) at No. 8 West Stanly (8-2)

Last Week: Owen won 62-8 over Madison; West Stanly lost 18-17 to Mount Pleasant

Winner Plays: No. 1 Mountain Heritage or No. 16 Bandys

Notes: Owen has to be excited about the prospect of getting another shot at Mountain Heritage, but the Warhorses can't afford to look ahead. They hit the road looking for the program's first playoff win under coach Nathan Padgett. The Colts are led on offense by junior running back Jordan Poole, who has rushed for 1,534 yards and 21 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Jordan Manshack has added 459 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing to go with 955 yards passing. Owen's athleticism on defense made it competitive against the best running teams in the Western Highlands Conference, but the Warhorses will have their hands full with Poole. The Warhorses will continue to lean on junior quarterback Caleb Scott, who has 1,048 yards passing to go with  529 yards rushing and 19 total touchdowns. Junior Dequan Boyce leads the team with 568 yards rushing and six touchdowns. 

Pick: West Stanly by 3

No. 14 Hendersonville (5-6) at No. 3 Brevard (9-2)

Last Week: Hendersonville won 49-0 over East Henderson; Brevard lost 12-7 to Pisgah

Last Meeting: Brevard won 20-14 (2018)

Winner Plays: No. 6 Chase or No. 11 Draughn

Notes: Brevard coach Craig Pritchett was the big winner last Friday night after his team lost to Pisgah but drew the No. 1 seed in the conference tiebreaker with the Black Bears and Smoky Mountain. Pritchett, however, will be less thrilled to open the playoffs against a difficult league foe. The Blue Devils host Hendersonville, which it struggled to beat earlier this month. The Bearcats held Brevard to under 200 total yards and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils also held Hendersonville to under 200 yards, but would like to have far less drama. Brevard is coming off its worst performance of the year after turning the ball over five times, including three times in the red zone, against Pisgah. The loss snapped a nine-game win streak and denied the Blue Devils an outright conference title. Hendersonville is coming off a dominant win over East Henderson during which Richmond Felton led the team with 120 rushing yards and a touchdown, also returning an interception for a score. Senior Woodson Hunter has thrown for over 1,300 yards this season for the Bearcats. 

Pick: Brevard by 14

2AA West

No. 13 South Point  (5-6) at No. 4 Smoky Mountain (8-3)

Last Week: South Point lost 49-21 to Shelby; Smoky Mountain won 42-6 over Franklin

Winner Plays: No. 5 Ashe County or No. 12 West Lincoln

Notes: The Mustangs will host No. 13 South Point in the first round, a team that finished fourth in the Southwestern Conference behind Chase, Burns and first-place Shelby. The Red Raiders gave up nearly 200 rushing yards in last week's loss to Shelby, which could mean a long night against Smoky Mountain's running backs. Senior Will Frady leads the team with 1,588 yards and 21 touchdowns on 232 carries while junior Dustin Stephens has rushed for 1,368 yards and 17 touchdowns on 141 carries. The Mustangs' offense runs through these two players, but keying on one  allows the other to have a big night. Stephens also leads the team with 25 receptions for 520 yards and five touchdowns from quarterback Caleb Lominac. South Point averages 43 yards passing per game and relies on a rushing attack led by senior Naseem Jones (854 yards, 6 TDs) and senior Devon King (458 yards, 9 TDs).

Pick: Smoky Mountain by 20

No. 10 Bunker Hill (6-5) at No. 7 Pisgah (8-2)

Last Week: Bunker Hill won 34-13 over West Caldwell; Pisgah won 12-7 over Brevard

Winner Plays: No. 2 North Lincoln or No. 15 R-S Central

Notes: Pisgah may have gotten the short end of the stick in the Mountain Six Conference three-way tiebreaker, but it'll be pleased with a first-round home game that allows the chance to erase the memory of last year's playoff disaster. The Black Bears were a No. 1 seed entering the 2018 playoffs but fell 13-10 to No. 16 seed East Lincoln in the first round. They'll host a Bunker Hill team that finished tied for second in the Northwestern Foothills Conference. Hibriten won the league with an undefeated 7-0 record. This is the first time Bunker Hill has made the playoffs since 2013, and will deal with the intense playoff atmosphere that the Pisgah faithful will provide. The Black Bears forced Brevard into five turnovers, including four fumbles, that changed the outcome of the game. Eric Robinson's long touchdown run in the fourth quarter secured the win. Pisgah gives up less than 10 points a game while Bunker Hill's defense gives up an average of 23.5 points a game.

Pick: Pisgah by 8

3A West

No. 16 Erwin (5-6) at No. 1 Crest (9-2)

Last Week: Erwin won 34-7 over Tuscola; Crest won 40-34 over Kings Mountain

Last Meeting: Crest won 52-21 (2010)

Winner Plays: No. 8 Freedom or No. 9 West Rowan

Notes: It's hard not to be impressed with the job coach Rodney Pruett did to get his team into the playoffs. The Warriors opened the season with an 0-4 record, including a 53-0 loss to Reynolds, but rallied to win five of the next seven. Their win last week against Tuscola was a de facto playoff game, and Erwin played one of its best games of the season. Beating No. 1 seed Crest, however, could be one challenge too many. The Chargers have not lost since September and are averaging around 40 points a game while winning the Big South Conference. They have two 1,000-yard rushers in junior Tim Ruff II and senior Jalin Graham while sophomore quarterback DJ Fuller has passed for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns, but has thrown 12 interceptions. Erwin's offense is playing its best football of the season behind sophomore quarterback Jared Penland. He's thrown for 1,663 yards and 15 touchdowns to 12 interceptions this season, including over 500 yards in his last two games. Pruett has spent a lot of his time this season praising the play of senior Monty Williams, who since taking over at running back, has tallied 766 yards and 11 touchdowns. Erwin's defense, though, has struggled to stop teams that pass the ball well, which could be a big problem against Crest. 

Pick: Crest by 21

No. 14 Hickory (4-7) at No. 3 Reynolds (9-2)

Last Week: Hickory won 37-34 over St. Stephens; Reynolds won 37-7 over Roberson

Winner Plays: No. 6 Northeast Guilford or No. 11 Parkwood

Notes: Reynolds extended its conference win streak to 40 games last week and wrapped up another WMAC title. Now the Rockets begin what they hope will be a long road toward another state title shot. Hickory that finished tied for second in the 3A/4A Northwestern Conference after opening the season with five straight losses. The Red Tornadoes had to win last week to make the playoffs and got a big night from running back Cody Young, who scored three touchdowns in the victory over St. Stephens. Reynolds' hasn't truly been tested since the second week of the season and is ready for a challenge, but may not get it against Hickory. Reynolds' offense has been on fire behind senior quarterback Eli Carr, who has thrown for over 2,600 yards. But the Rockets proved last week that they can also run the ball when defenses drop back to guard the pass. Markeese Jackson rushed for 111 yards and Jhari Patterson added 94 yards on 10 carries. The more balanced Reynolds' offense can be in the playoffs, the better chance it'll have of making a deep run.

Pick: Reynolds by 24

No. 10 Kings Mountain (9-2) at No. 7 West Henderson (9-2)

Last Week: West Henderson won 35-20 over Asheville High; Kings Mountain lost 40-34 to Crest

Last Meeting: West Henderson won 41-27 (2014)

Winner Plays: No. 2 Statesville or No. 15 North Buncombe

Notes: After an 8-0 start to the regular season, West Henderson finds itself limping into the playoffs after losing two of its past three games. The Falcons defeated Asheville High last week, but not in convincing fashion. Kings Mountain pushed Crest to the brink last week. Crest was given the No. 1 seed in the 3A West bracket. The Mountaineers have a well-balanced offense behind junior quarterback Ethan Reid (1,941 yards, 32 TDs) and sophomore running back Rashaard Brooks (959 yards, 9 TDs). They average 171 yards per game rushing and 181 yards passing. Junior Kobe Paysour leads the team with 36 catches for 746 yards and 11 touchdowns. West Henderson does its work on the ground, averaging 310 yards per game behind senior Peyton Dimsdale (1,172 yards, 10 TDs). The Falcons average 16 passes per game and have completed 33 percent. But senior quarterback Auden Brennan has thrown eight touchdowns among his 21 total completions. 

Pick: Kings Mountain by 10

No. 15 North Buncombe (7-4) at No. 2 Statesville (11-0)

Last Week: North Buncombe was off; Statesville won 27-24 over West Rowan

Winner Plays: No. 7 West Henderson or No. 10 Kings Mountain

Notes: After a nerve-wracking bye week to end the season, the Black Hawks slipped into the playoffs for the second straight season. The seven wins is their the most since 2014 as coach Brandon Allen continues to turn North Buncombe into a conference contender. But it hasn't won a playoff game since 2008, and it's likely that streak will stay alive. The Black Hawks face an undefeated Statesville. which gave up only 53 points during its run through the North Piedmont Conference. The Greyhounds are led by junior quarterback Nebanye Moore (2,403 yards, 22 TDs, 9 INT) and senior running back Caylon Imes (1,321 yards, 18 TDs). Joe Jones' return at the running back position will bolster North Buncombe's offense, but the Black Hawks could get in real trouble if they fall behind early. They'll need a huge effort from not only Jones, but Trent Cole, Walker Corbin and Levi Fender to stand a chance against Statesville. 

Pick: Statesville by 31

3AA West

No. 10 A.L. Brown (7-3) at No. 7 Roberson (5-6)

Last Week: A.L. Brown won 59-21 over Concord; Roberson lost 37-7 to Reynolds

Last Meeting: A.L. Brown won 39-38 (2005)

Winner Plays: No. 2 Watauga or No. 15 Cuthbertson

Notes: Roberson's tough non-conference schedule apparently paid off, with its strength of schedule pushing it to a No. 7 seed and giving the Rams a home playoff game despite a losing record. Besides last week's loss to Reynolds, Roberson has played very well in October and November, winning four of five games and finishing in third place in the WMAC. The play of junior quarterback Brody Whitson had been a big part of the Rams' recent success. Whitson has thrown for 2,263 yards and 18 touchdowns to 14 interceptions while junior receiver Rodney McDay has feasted on opposing defenses. McDay has 82 catches for 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns. The Wonders are led on offense by senior Jakhiry Bennett, who has rushed for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns; junior Todd Kennedy has added 438 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. Sophomore quarterback Cam Kromah has over 1,300 yards passing. 

Pick: Roberson by 1

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: WNC high school football: First round playoff capsules

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