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Friday, September 23, 2011
While others rest, conference battles begin in Week 5 NC football

By By Brandon Parker

Four of the top 10 teams have byes this week, including Richmond, Page, Scotland and Porter Ridge. Everybody's gotta rest sometime and with a 20-0 combined record, they've earned it. Still, the games must go on, and there are several good conference matchups on slate.

Let me start off by giving some props where props are due. South Point's Troy Leeper has topped the 1,000 yard mark through just five games, doing it all from the fullback position. Fresh off last week's career high 285 yards, Leeper has amassed 1,085 yards and 17 touchdowns to help the Red Raiders put up 47 points per game during their 5-0 start. For more, check out this Charlotte Observer story on the senior phenom.

Now for those enticing games I was talking about...

East Wake (2-3) at No. 8 Garner (5-0)
East Wake has lost three straight games. Garner is undefeated and boasts the powerful backfield tandem of Demetrius Fairley and Juwan Moye, who have combined for 1194 yards. Sounds like a mismatch, and yes, the Trojans should win. But remember three weeks ago, when the Warriors upset defending Class 4AA runners-up Wake Forest-Rolesville? Yeah, I'm sure Garner does, too.
My pick: Garner 38, East Wake 20

Freedom (5-0) at Burns (4-1)
Behind talented QB Michael Helms, Freedom is off to its best start in a decade and is a favorite to win the loaded SMAC conference. But to do, the Patriots must get by a Burns team that has won the last two meetings. The Bulldogs have several solid wins and have their own playmaker in tailback Darius Ramsey. Should be a close one, but I think the more battle-tested Burns pulls this out.
My pick: Burns 28, Freedom 24

Panther Creek (4-1) at Fuquay-Varina (4-1)
Panther Creek has rolled to a 3-0 start in the Tri-Nine conference, boasting tailback David Mayaka and his 610 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Fuquay-Varina has a three-headed monster in rushers Carlton Bridges and Ricky Ferguson and quarterback Evan McNeil. While their records are the same, what separates these two squads is their strength of schedule. The Catamount's four wins have come against teams with losing records after losing 48-0 to undefeated Leesville Road. On the other hand, the Bengals have proven their mettle in a win against previously undefeated Cary and a overtime loss to Middle Creek.
My pick: Fuquay-Varina 30, Panther Creek 17

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.