by Aaron Garcia
When the state playoff seedings were released Nov. 6, nine Union County teams made the cut and will represent the area in five of the state’s eight classifications. Here’s a breakdown of the Friday, Nov. 12, matchups:
Class 4A West
East Gaston (5-6)
at Porter Ridge (10-1)
The second-seeded Pirates haven’t lost a game on the field all season, though they were forced to forfeit their win over Forest Hills for violating the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s eight-quarter rule. Seventh-seeded East Gaston, on the other hand, won its final two games over hapless Charlotte teams Waddell and West Mecklenburg to squeak into the playoffs, meaning the Pirates’ first real challenge likely will come in the second round.
Mooresville (8-3) at Sun Valley (9-2)
These teams are eerily similar in their respective offensive approaches, but fifth-seeded Mooresville relies on the big play out of their Spread formation, whereas the fourth-seeded Spartans employ a shorter passing game to loosen up opposing defenses, which usually allows dynamic running back Jadarrius Williams to shine. Mooresville enters the game as perhaps the state’s most improved team after finishing 0-11 last year, but the turnaround should stop in Indian Trail Friday night.
Class 3AA Midwest
at Marvin Ridge (8-3)
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. These rivals open their postseasons with a rematch of last week’s 34-7 Marvin Ridge win over the sixth-seeded Warriors, but the location changes, as the third-seeded Mavericks enter the playoffs as the higher seed. Marvin Ridge did most of its damage last week on defense, recording three safeties and blocking two punts. This one should be closer as Weddington coach Justin Hardin isn’t the type to let miscues go unaddressed.
Class 2AA Midwest
West Stanly (6-5) at Piedmont (10-1)
The top-seeded Panthers clinched the Rocky River 1A/2A title last week with a hard-fought win over Charlotte Berry and will face another conference foe in West Stanly to open the postseason. On Oct. 15, the Panthers blanked the eighth-seeded Colts, 17-0. And though it’s difficult to beat a team twice, the Panthers should roll behind running back Jacob Oakley and bruising fullback Kyle Eiss.
Forest Hills (8-3)
at South Iredell (11-0)
Somehow, the Yellow Jackets got stuck with the bracket’s 11th overall seed – and seventh in the Midwest Region – despite having more wins than many teams ahead of them. Second-seeded South Iredell employs a balanced attack paced by 191 rushing yards per game but have thrown the ball at a clip of 135 yards per game. But Forest Hills will be the best team it’s faced since an Oct. 15 win over Newton-Conover.
Class 1AA Midwest
Central Academy (3-8)
at Mount Airy (9-2)
Eighth-seeded Central Academy has improved by leaps and bounds in the past few years and enters this matchup with some momentum after drubbing rival Union Academy last week, 36-7. But No. 1-seeded Mount Airy has tradition on its side and has won nine consecutive games after opening its season 0-2. Central Academy has playmakers, though, and could make its first postseason appearance interesting if Mount Airy overlooks the Cougars.
East Surry (5-6) at Monroe (7-4)
Seventh-seeded East Surry limped into the postseason after losing five of its previous seven games but scored 51 points in its last two losses. Second-seeded Monroe, though, is a team that’s still improving after suffering a slew of injuries to key players earlier this season. Though they lost last week’s rivalry game to Forest Hills, the Redhawks still have uncommon athleticism and talent for a 1A team, which could carry them far this month.
Class 1A West
Union Academy (2-9)
at Murphy (9-2)
There’s a reason No. 1-seeded Murphy is considered one of the favorites to win the 1A crown: The Bulldogs are solid on both sides of the ball. Winners of eight consecutive games, Murphy has outscored opponents by an average of 41-18. It’ll be interesting to see what eighth-seeded Union Academy running backs Rasheed Rushing and Tyree Drakeford can do against Murphy’s defense, as the pair has looked quite effective at times this season. But it probably won’t be enough to earn the Cardinals their third win of the season.