Unless noted, all kickoffs are at 7:30 p.m.
No. 13 MCDOWELL (8-3) at No. 4 CHARLOTTE OLYMPIC (6-4)
The winner plays: No. 7 Hough (9-2) or No. 11 West Mecklenburg (8-3).
Notes: Blow off the dust and clear out the cobwebs, McDowell is back in the NCHSAA football playoffs for the first time in nine years. Malique O'Neil (1,307 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Trey Anderson (1,068 yards, eight touchdowns) are the only dual 1,000-yard rushers in school history, and as a team, the Titans have their most wins since 1995. Leading receiver Jared Helms (26 receptions for 371 yards and seven touchdowns) scored touchdowns in four different ways (reception, run, fumble return and punt return) in last Friday's 48-20 win at North Wilkes. Grant Robinson (1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine touchdowns) threw his school-record 25th career touchdown despite playing with a dislocated toe. Former All-Mountain Athletic Conference linebacker John Gowan has not played defense since breaking an arm on Oct. 12 but said he hopes to kick extra points and field goals tonight. Olympic defensive end Robert Dinkins has committed to North Carolina. Tonight's coaches, Barry Shuford (Olympic) and Carson Gowan (McDowell), were college teammates at Lenoir-Rhyne.
Pick: McDowell by 1.
No. 8 SUN VALLEY (7-3) at No. 5 ROBERSON (9-1)
The winner plays: No. 1 South Caldwell (11-0) or No. 16 Hopewell (4-6).
Notes: Roberson's reward for its best regular season since 2007? Maybe as daunting a first-round playoff draw as the Rams could have asked for. Shrine Bowl selection Noah Suber (1,279 passing yards, 1,055 rushing yards, 25 combined touchdowns) has gone over 1,000 yards in multiple offensive categories for the second consecutive season. Suber and Malik Griffin (1,038 yards, 19 touchdowns) will try to get Roberson out of the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007 behind the blocking of Shrine Bowl lineman Jeff DeLeon & Co. The Rams and leading tacklers Bill Cecil (9.9 per game), Mahogany Suber (9.3), Graham Wells (7.9), Clayton Nettles (5.6) and Cody Gibson (5.5) are undefeated (5-0) in Skyland this season. Sun Valley eliminated the other first-place team in the MAC 4-A division, Reynolds, from the 2011 playoffs, 52-23. The Spartans were shut out by Porter Ridge last Friday, 21-0, but have a 1,000-yard passer (Kevin Saxton) and rusher (Albert Funderburke). Funderburke is a sophomore.
Pick: Roberson by 3.
No. 10 ALEXANDER CENTRAL (5-6) at No. 4 REYNOLDS (8-2)
The winner plays: No. 3 Porter Ridge (9-1) or No. 14 Watauga (5-6).
Notes: Besides the travel, Reynolds and sixth-year coach Shane Laws remember their days in the Northwestern Conference fondly. The Rockets beat out Alexander Central and the rest of the seven-team league for seven championships between 2001 and 2008. Tonight, Reynolds will try to utilize weapons like Levi Ledford (1,622 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions), Jave Jones (1,180 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Caelan Rhinenhardt (37 receptions for 437 yards and four touchdowns) for their third consecutive playoff win over Alexander Central following successes in 2006 (28-18) and 2009 (25-16). Former two-time All-WNC defender Justin St. Onge (9.5. tackles per game) is one of the few holdovers from that second game since this is his fourth season on the varsity. Other standout defenders for the Rockets are John Nick Setterlind (9.8), Tavien Morgan (7.7), Lavell Dixon (6.3) and Ryan McLaughlin (6.3). Alexander Central's first-year coach, Nick Bazzle, led Newton-Conover to three state-championship appearances and a 2-A title in 2008. The Rockets lead the overall series, , 9-1.
Pick: Reynolds by 10.
No. 15 ENKA (5-6) at No. 3 STATESVILLE (10-1)
The winner plays: No. 6 Erwin (7-3) or No. 12 Asheville (6-4).
Notes: "Go Greyhound" may be part of the advertising for a national bus company. But it cannot be too enticing a sales pitch for Enka and Chris Carver (1,796 yards, 19 touchdowns) tonight. Statesville has a pair of Shrine Bowl selections in quarterback Carlis Parker and linebacker Tristan Mumford. The Greyhounds were No. 4 in this week's Associated Press 3-A rankings. Carver was held to a season-low 15 yards last Friday at Roberson. Senior Andrew Franklin and the rest of the Jets linemen will not only need to open up holes, but give some time for Dustin Waldrop (830 yards and eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions) to find receivers like Tommy Holloway (30 receptions for 412 yards and four touchdowns) and Gardner-Webb recruit Drake Wells (28 receptions for 298 yards and two touchdowns). Enka has made the playoffs all three years since Manny Matsakis became coach in 2010. Before that, the Jets had not been to the postseason since 2002.
Pick: Statesville by 14.
No. 14 HUNTER HUSS (5-6) at No. 1 EAST HENDERSON (10-1)
The winner plays: No. 4 Freedom (9-2) or No. 6 Franklin (8-3).
Notes: Nesting down in East Flat Rock for the NCHSAA 3-AA playoffs is all this bunch of Eagles wanted. Western North Carolina Athletic Conference champion East Henderson and senior quarterback Seth Owen (1,854 passing yards and 21 touchdowns) have earned home-field advantage throughout the 3-AA playoffs as a No. 1 overall seed. Even at this late stage of the season, just two of Owen's 158 passes have been interceptions. His receiving corps includes Steffon Hill (48 receptions for 811 yards and six touchdowns) and Tyler Sexton (28 receptions for 698 yards and 10 touchdowns). Running backs Matt Bishop (1,124 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Logan Jones (809 yards, 11 touchdowns) are also a strong tandem. East Henderson and Hunter Huss last met in 2006 with the Huskies taking a season-opening endowment game on their home field, 42-28.
Pick: East Henderson by 10.
No. 6 FRANKLIN (8-3) at No. 4 FREEDOM (9-2)
The winner plays: No. 1 East Henderson (10-1) or No. 14 Hunter Huss (5-6).
Notes: Franklin's record book is always open to revision with Marquel Manning (2,195 yards, 31 touchdowns) carrying the football. Manning set a single-game school record for rushing (341) last Friday and continues to build on the single-season mark. As a result, the junior is the reigning Citizen-Times/WNC Player of the Week for the second time. Manning has run behind the blocking of fullbacks Jeremiah Young (who has a team-high 75 tackles) and Clell Ashe as well as a line that began the season with just one returning starter (Jacob Davis). Freedom has a 2,000-yard rusher of its own in David Burgess (2,133 yards). He has averaged 8.6 yards a carry during his career. Fourth-year coach Mike Helms won his 100th career game last Friday. The Patriots were barred from the 2011 playoffs for too many fighting ejections, but are 19-3 under Helms the past two years.
Pick: Freedom by 7.
No. 15 SMOKY MOUNTAIN (4-7) at No. 6 PISGAH (5-6)
The winner plays: No. 7 South Iredell (9-2) or No. 14 West Lincoln (5-6).
Notes: Perspective matters. Pisgah and Josh Noland (813 passing yards, 791 rushing yards, 22 combined touchdowns) may have lost the battle for Haywood County bragging rights to Tuscola on Oct. 5. But the Black Bears are still Haywood's only team in the NCHSAA playoffs. Working in tandem, Noland and McKinley Brown (610 passing yards, 343 rushing yards, 12 combined touchdowns) have led Pisgah to three straight wins, including a 49-16 triumph over Smoky Mountain on Oct. 16. Corey Valentine (47.5), Trevor Bailey (46.5) and Coltan Shuler (40) have all made 40 or more tackles. Chace Morgan (1,484 yards, nine touchdowns) and the Mustangs will try to exact revenge tonight. Sophomore Zeb Speir (823 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions) is the son of Western Carolina University coach Mark Speir and has thrown the majority of his passes to Zechariah Carter (18 receptions for 344 yards and three touchdowns) and Jayce Wolfe (18 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns).
Pick: Pisgah by 14.
No. 16 MOUNTAIN HERITAGE (4-6) at No. 3 MADISON (10-1)
The winner plays: No. 12 Draughn (5-6) or No. 13 Owen (5-6).
Notes: You again? Madison and Tyler Hoffman (1,112 yards, 11 touchdowns) guaranteed their first 10-win regular season in school history last Friday. Hoffman ran for 147 yards and standout receiver Cole Cuthbertson (28 receptions for 676 yards and eight touchdowns) brought back two kickoffs for touchdowns in a 35-7 victory at Mountain Heritage. Now the two Western Highlands Conference teams have to turn around and do it all over again tonight in Marshall. The prize at stake is obvious for the Patriots -- they have never won a playoff game. Both of tonight's teams have 1,000-yard passers who are juniors in Madison's Tyler Rogers (1,252 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions) and Mountain Heritage's Trevor Robinson (1,430 yards and 17 touchdowns with 11 interceptions).
Pick: Madison by 17.
No. 13 OWEN (5-6) at No. 12 DRAUGHN (5-6)
The winner plays: No. 3 Madison (10-1) or No. 16 Mountain Heritage (4-6).
Notes: Opportunity may be knocking for Owen. The Warhorses and Jager Gardner (1,272 yards, 13 touchdowns) have drawn a higher-seeded opponent, but one with the same record. Gardner (132 yards), Cole Leighton (137) and Tyler White (121) helped the Western Highlands Conference team amass 486 rushing yards in last Friday's 64-12 rout of Thomas Jefferson. That win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Warhorses and leading tacklers Adam Lunsford (8.7 tackles a game), Eddy Slye (7.6), White (6.7) and Leighton (5.9). Draughn is a four-year old program out of Burke County that beat another WHC team (Madison) for its first-ever playoff win in 2011.
Pick: Owen by 3.
No. 14 EAST RUTHERFORD (5-6) at No. 9 POLK COUNTY (8-3)
The winner plays: No. 5 Shelby (6-5) or No. 15 Chase (5-6).
Notes: Falling short of a Western Highlands Conference championship was a disappointment. But Polk County and Alec Philpott (1,395 passing yards, 1,108 rushing yards, 29 combined touchdowns) still have plenty to play for. The Wolverines have not lost a playoff opener since 2008, and two more wins would allow the program to reach double digits for the seventh time since 2002 under coach Bruce Ollis. Anthony Carson (38 receptions for 606 yards and three touchdowns) and Reese Schlabach (20 receptions for 307 yards and five touchdowns) lead Polk County in receiving. Lucas Williams has emerged as the top tackler in the WHC (103). East Rutherford has won just once in the NCHSAA playoffs since 2006 and the Cavaliers dropped four of their last five regular-season games.
Pick: Polk County by 7.
No. 16 EAST WILKES (2-8) at No. 1 SWAIN COUNTY (11-0)
The winner plays: No. 10 West Wilkes (4-6) or No. 12 Cherryville (4-7).
Notes: Bring it on, and bring it to Bryson City. As if Swain County and Raymius Smith (1,868 yards and 26 touchdowns with seven interceptions) didn't have enough going for them, the defending 1-AA state champions have earned homefield advantage throughout this year's playoffs. Smith could join former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler as just the second Maroon Devils player to pass for more than 2,000 yards tonight. Smith's favorite two receivers continue to be Matthew Maennle (49 receptions for 904 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Greg Tisho (43 receptions for 982 yards and 14 touchdowns). Maennle also made two interceptions on defense in last Friday's 21-7 win at Murphy. Neil Blankenship has won more games in his first season (11) than any previous Swain County coach. East Wilkes has just eight seniors on its roster.
Pick: Swain County by 35.
No. 13 AVERY COUNTY (3-8) at No. 4 LAKE NORMAN CHARTER (9-1)
The winner plays: No. 3 Hendersonville (10-1) or No. 14 North Wilkes (3-8).
Notes: Look closer. Avery County shook an eight-game losing streak with last Friday's 13-6 win over Mitchell but is still very much an ailing football team. Quarterback Tre Jackson (821 yards and five touchdowns with eight interceptions) and leading tackler Austin Robbie (8.2 per game) are among the Vikings who have been sidelined by injuries in recent weeks. Avery County has regrouped on offense and made Luke Childress (826 yards, eight touchdowns) much more of a focal point. Tyler Whittington made a season-high 12 tackles last Friday. Lake Norman Charter junior Michael Dorsainvil has passed for more than 1,500 yards. The Knights offense has scored 50 or more points six times.
Pick: Lake Norman Charter by 10.
No. 14 NORTH WILKES (3-8) at No. 3 HENDERSONVILLE (10-1)
The winner plays: No. 4 Lake Norman Charter (9-1) or No. 13 Avery County (3-9).
Notes: Naturally, the prevailing thought is that Hendersonville and Swain County are on a collision course for the third round of the 1-AA playoffs. But like the Maroon Devils, the Bearcats and Desean Jackson (1,804 yards, 22 touchdowns) have work to do before then. Grant Rivers (1,497 yards and 15 touchdowns with seven interceptions) and the Western Highlands Conference champions have won eight straight games by an average of 24.0 points. Rivers is enjoying the best passing year of his career thanks to Shrine Bowl pick D.J. Wilson (29 receptions for 798 yards and 10 touchdowns). North Wilkes is coming off a 48-20 home loss to McDowell. Vikings quarterback L.J. Hendren passed for 212 yards against the 4-A Titans.
Pick: Hendersonville by 14.
No. 8 ROSMAN (5-6) at No. 7 THOMAS JEFFERSON (6-5)
The winner plays: No. 2 Elkin (6-4) or No. 15 Alleghany (3-8).
Notes: Granted, it is not a novel concept. Plenty of football teams have put their best athlete behind center. Rosman and Thomas Jefferson are just making it work exceptionally well this season. Tigers senior Duran Scruggs (1,180 yards, 15 touchdowns) surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing last Friday. Rosman has not won playoff games in back-to-back years since the 1990s but will try to do just that tonight behind Scruggs, Blaise McCall (558 yards, eight touchdowns) and Josh Diaz (50 tackles). Gryphons quarterback Mac Martin has more than 1,000 passing and rushing yards. Thomas Jefferson beat Rosman, 28-27, on Sept. 7, but a school-record 6-0 start for the Rutherford County school has since snowballed into a five-game losing streak.
Pick: Rosman by 1.
No. 10 HAYESVILLE (4-6) at No. 5 ROBBINSVILLE (8-3)
The winner plays: No. 3 Murphy (9-2) or No. 14 Cherokee (3-7).
Notes: Seconds, anyone? Smoky Mountain Conference teams know by now that once is never enough with the NCHSAA 1-A and 1-AA playoffs. There have been 14 rematches between SMC teams in the past two years alone. Robbinsville and Dakota Crisp (1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions) won at Hayesville, 34-31, back on Oct. 12. Crisp became the latest 1,000-yard passer in the SMC and has hit the benchmark last Friday with the help of receivers like Chris Orr (15 receptions for 351 yards and three touchdowns), Greg Burchfield (11 receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns) and Alex Walsh (10 receptions for 175 yards and one touchdown). Sophomore Spencer McCoy now has more than 100 tackles (102). Hayesville and Kyle Vardo (9.6 tackles a game) are going for their first playoff win since 2004 tonight. Caleb Nuckolls (665 yards, eight touchdowns) ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns in last Friday's 35-7 win over Andrews.
Pick: Robbinsville by 7.
No. 14 CHEROKEE (3-7) at No. 3 MURPHY (9-2)
The winner plays: No. 5 Robbinsville (8-3) or No. 10 Hayesville (4-6).
Notes: Stubbing a toe in the final week of the regular season is never ideal. But it did not stop Murphy from capturing its sixth state championship in 2011. Coming off a 21-7 home loss to Swain County, the Bulldogs will now try to follow the same path to a repeat behind the rushing of Gage Cox (889 yards, 11 touchdowns), James Posey (846 yards, 18 touchdowns) and Kenton Braswell (731 yards, 11 touchdowns). Murphy beat Cherokee, 47-0, on Sept. 21. Braves quarterback Logan Woodard (991 yards and six touchdowns with 13 interceptions) is one short completion away from 1,000 yards thanks largely to the hands of Seth Littlejohn (17 receptions for 188 yards and one touchdown) and Brandon Buchanan (13 receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Woodard also continues to lead Cherokee in tackles (62.5).
Pick: Murphy by 28.
No. 8 WAKE CHRISTIAN (2-8) at No. 1 CHRIST SCHOOL (10-0), 7 p.m.
The winner plays: No. 4 North Raleigh Christian (8-2) or No. 5 Hickory Grove (6-4).
Notes: No joke, the road to a NCISAA Division II championship literally runs through Christ School's campus. Quarterback Christian Jewkes (1,144 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions), leading rusher Charles Beale (1,191 yards, 18 touchdowns) and the rest of the Greenies have the chance to capture a state title on their home field when Nov. 16 rolls around, since the NCISAA does not use any neutral sites for its football playoffs. Beale went over the 1,000-yard mark with a 216-yard performance on Saturday against Asheville School. Defensively, Christ School's biggest contributors have been Jack Bonds (6.1 tackles a game), Gabe deBeus (5.0) and Beale (4.8).
Pick: Christ School by 21.