High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: Burns

For the first time in three years, there will be a new Class 4AA champion.

With two-time defending champ Butler up 20 points in its third-round matchup with Greensboro Page, it appeared most local fans would get what they wanted: a rematch between Butler and Mallard Creek in the next round. But the Bulldogs' dream matchup vanished after a nightmarish second half.

Page capitalized on the Bulldogs' penalties and five turnovers to reel off 34 unanswered points and secure a 40-26 win on Friday. The Pirates, who were led by QB James Summers' 248 total yards and five touchdowns, will face Mallard Creek in this week's 4AA state semifinals.

Summers scored twice on runs to open the second half and tie the game before a one-yard TD pass to Orlando Hatfield gave the Pirates the lead for good with 4:48 to play. Meanwhile, Butler junior QB Riley Ferguson threw three picks in the final 15 minutes to thwart the Bulldogs' chances for a comeback.

Needless to say, Butler dropped out of the latest POWERADE FAB 50, while Mallard Creek moved up to No. 13 in the national rankings.

Garner will take on Jack Britt in the other 4AA semifinal after both teams rode their rushing attacks to victory. Garner was led by tailback Juwan Moye's 285 total yards and three scores in a 42-21 win against previously undefeated Leesville Road. The Pride got 402 total yards from do-everything player Braxton Berrios, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Trojans' quick start.

Meanwhile, Jack Britt ran the ball 60 times for 333 yards to push past Middle Creek, 28-14. After starting 2-2, the Buccaneers have won nine straight, including four straight shutouts prior to last week's third-round win.

A new 4A champion will be crowned as well after top-ranked Scotland knocked off defending champ Hillside. The Fighting Scots' were paced by the three-headed monster of QB Kwashaun Quick and tailbacks Tony McRae and Caison Murphy, who accounted for all seven of the the team's scores in the 35-7 win. Next up will be New Bern, which downed New Hanover, 31-20.

On the other hand, West Rowan has bounced back from a slow start to make sure there won't be a new champion in the 3A ranks. The three-time defending champs have won their last six games by an average of nearly 20 points, but face quite the test in a 13-1 Burns squad that has similar success on the scoreboard of late.

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.

Two new teams in final North Carolina football regular season rankings

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
3:47
PM ET
Believe it or not, it's been 11 weeks since Mallard Creek and Butler faced off in a makeshift championship game for the season opener. Now it's playoff time and plenty of teams have emerged with the Mavericks and Bulldogs as prime contenders the state crown.

Leesville Road and Havelock entered the final regular season rankings with dominant performances to cap their undefeated regular seasons. Leesville Road easily downed previously ranked Wake-Forest Rolesville to win the Cap 8 title, but it lost QB Austin Berrios to a knee injury on the game's opening kickoff, potentially making the road to a state title a bit tougher. Havelock, which beat Burns earlier this year for its signature win, appears to be the favorite in 3A after outscoring opponent by an average of 48.6 to 14.3.

The rankings will return after the postseason for one final evaluation of the season, but stay tuned to ESPNHS North Carolina for playoff updates.

Click here for a full playoff pairing list from the Charlotte Observer.

Nationally, Mallard Creek moved up to No. 20 while Butler stood pat at No. 32 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Here are the final regular season rankings (last week's rankings are in parentheses):

1. Mallard Creek (Charlotte) 10-0 (1)
Jela Duncan scored five touchdowns as the Mavericks beat Hough, 51-14, and won their third straight I-MECK title. The No. 2 seeded Mavericks will begin the 4AA playoffs against South Mecklenburg.

2. Butler (Matthews) 9-1 (2)
The Bulldogs beat Independence, 38-26, to earn the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. They will host Hoke County this week in the 4AA playoffs.

3. Scotland 10-0 (3)
The Fighting Scots continued their dominance, beating previously ranked Richmond, 42-7. Top-seeded 4A squad will take on Harnett Central in first round of playoffs.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly North Carolina football rankings

South Point debuts, Richmond falls in Week 7 NC rankings

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
11:35
AM ET
After games ending Sunday, Oct. 2.

An upset that few saw coming as well as a powerful squad that keeps on coming highlight this week's POWERADE ESPNHS North Carolina football rankings.

Let's start with the upset. In 34 prior meetings, Richmond had never lost to Hoke County. But that all changed Friday, as the Raiders fell 24-21 in their Southeastern Conference opener. Hoke County forced two fumbles and held the Raiders to just 14 plays in the first half. Richmond held a 21-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Bucks went ahead for good on a David Walrath touchdown. Just like that, Richmond went from having Hoke County's numbers to looking up at the Bucks in the conference standings.

Also on Richmond's heels is a surging South Point squad, whom I mentioned last week was on the cusp of entering the top 10. Led by fullback Troy Leeper, the Red Raiders have won their last three games by an average of nearly 41 points, outscored opponents 349-88 and downed a solid Burns program during a 7-0 start. Plus, during last week's 56-7 win against Ashbrook, they unleashed another weapon in quarterback Patrick Horne, who threw for 414 yards and ran for another 159 and two scores. With that type of power (along with the fact that former No. 10 A.L. Brown lost its lone game to a ranked team by 28 points), it's impossible to keep the Red Raiders out of the top 10 any longer.

Nationally, Mallard Creek continued its move up the POWERADE FAB 50 by securing the No. 24 spot while Butler stood pat at No. 39.

Without further ado, here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings are in parentheses):

1. Mallard Creek (Charlotte) 6-0 (1)
Mavericks avenged last year's loss in the 4AA West region semifinal, easily beating Vance 55-20 behind quarterback Andrew Goodman's five touchdown passes. The state's top team will play North Mecklenburg this Friday.

2. Butler (Matthews) 5-1 (2)
The Bulldogs posted their first shutout of the season, downing East Mecklenburg, 45-0. Riley Ferguson threw for three touchdowns, two of which went to older brother, Zach. An intriguing matchup against surging Ardrey Kell is up next.

3. Greensboro Page 6-0 (4)
After resting up on their bye week, the Pirates rolled to a 49-0 win against Grimsley and, amid Richmond's loss, cemented their new No. 3 spot. Next up: Ben L. Smith.

Click here for the full POWERADE North Carolina weekly football rankings.

Undefeated squads collide in Week 6 NC football

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
12:15
PM ET
Several teams will walk away from the sixth week of North Carolina football with their first loss, making for some intriguing matchups.

The first such game went down Thursday, as Leesville Road (6-0) outlasted Wakefield (6-1) in a 67-58 shootout. Wolverines quarterback Connor Mitch threw for seven touchdowns and nearly 600 yards, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Pride's sibling tandem Austin and Braxton Berrios.

Here are a few other gridiron bouts to watch for this weekend:

Marvin Ridge (5-0) at No. 9 Porter Ridge (5-0)
This Union County matchup could be a shootout, as both teams can pile up points in a hurry. Before its week, Porter Ridge scored a season-low 10 points in a tight win against Providence, but with Lee McNeil at quarterback and a week's rest, the Pirates are poised to return to their high-scoring ways. Marvin Ridge, whose signature win came earlier in the season against a solid Ardrey Kell squad, has topped 30 points in each of its last three games.
My Pick: Porter Ridge 38, Marvin Ridge 31

Burns (5-1) at Chase (6-0)
Just a week after taking down previously undefeated Freedom, 27-26, Burns will look to hand another team its first loss in Chase. Bulldogs running back Darius Ramsey will be the focus for a Chase defense that's surrendered an average of 14.7 points per game this season.
My Pick: Burns 24, Chase 21

Laney (5-0) at Hoggard (5-0)
This crosstown rivalry has a little more spice this season with both Laney and Hoggard entering the contest without a loss. Hoggard has won nine of their last 10 meetings, but Laney has been lighting up the scoreboard this year, averaging more than 47 points per contest. Much of that production has come from Buccaneers quarterback Mike Sheehan, who has thrown for 963 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Hoggard DB Tevin Jackson (two interceptions) will have his eye on Sheehan and his favorite target, Tevin Clay (442 receiving yards and eight TDs).
My pick: Laney 42, Hoggard 28

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.

Burns, South Point on cusp of Week 6 NC rankings

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
11:53
AM ET
After games ending Saturday, Sept. 24

The rich seem to keep getting richer in North Carolina. Mallard Creek and Butler continued to establish their dominance with routes of Lake Norman and Rocky River, respectively. Meanwhile, Richmond, Page, Scotland and Porter Ridge all had time to rest before looking to continue their undefeated runs this week. Thanks to heavy rain showers, No. 8 Garner also got some rest before facing East Wake on Monday, but the Trojans now have two games in one week.

All of these teams should keep a watchful eye on their rearview mirror, though. A.L. Brown appears to be back on track, shutting out its second straight opponent in Central Carrabus. Plus, Burns looked impressive in a 27-26 win against previously undefeated Freedom while South Point continues to roll behind star fullback Troy Leeper.

On the national front, Mallard Creek moved up to No. 27 while Butler re-entered the top 40 at No. 39 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings are in parentheses):

1. Mallard Creek (Charlotte) 5-0 (1)
Behind Jela Duncan's 192 rushing yards and four touchdowns, the Mavericks blanked Lake Norman, 55-0. Next up: Vance.

2. Butler (Matthews) 4-1 (2)
Sparked by Uriah LeMay's 56-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game, the Bulldogs racked up 312 rushing yards en route to a 52-6 win against Rocky River. A matchup with East Mecklenburg is next.

3. Richmond (Rockingham) 5-0 (3)
The surging Raiders got some time to regroup during their bye week before facing Hoke County this Friday.

Click here for the full POWERADE North Carolina weekly football rankings.

While others rest, conference battles begin in Week 5 NC football

September, 23, 2011
9/23/11
1:51
PM ET
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.

Scotland triumphes, A.L. Brown loses in Week 4 football

September, 12, 2011
9/12/11
12:25
PM ET
Blame it on the third quarter.

Up until then, No. 7 Jack Britt was sitting on a 9-7 lead and appeared to have the tools necessary to knock off the state's fifth-ranked team. But just as Buccaneers coach Richard Bailey warned against in our Thursday conversation/Friday preview, Scotland's skill players eventually went to work.

Quarterback Kwashaun Quick led the charge, posting 159 of his 284 total yards during the 12-minute period to produce 17 unanswered points and a 27-15 win. Following a lost fumble by the Buccaneers, Quick threw a 28-yard touchdown and ran for a 58-yard score in a 45-second span to push Scotland ahead.

Bailey's hope of mixing it up against the Fighting Scots with a strong rushing attack didn't come to fruition. Jack Britt mustered just 85 yards on 28 carries as a team, sending the Buccaneers to their second loss on the year.

Porter Ridge 41, No. 6 A.L. Brown 13
Skill players also proved to be a problem for Porter Ridge, but an entirely different reason. Six starters sat out Friday's contest, further pushing the advantage to A.L. Brown — or so it seemed.

Pirates quarterback Lee McNeil picked up the slack, passing for 212 yards and one touchdown and rushing for 145 yards and two scores during the big win. McNeil's favorite target on the night proved to be the team's kicker, Stephen Muscarello, who caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

Any questions surrounding the mettle of the 4A Pirates, who have played 2A and 3A schools up to this point, were answered Friday. After Wonders standout Damien Washington (215 rushing yards and two scores) cut the deficit to 14-13, Porter Ridge reeled off 27 straight points to make for the final margin.

No. 2 Butler 45, Vance 28
For the first half, Butler looked like its old, dominant self, building a 31-0 lead and outgaining the Cougars 188-8 in total yardage. But a Vance pick-6 before halftime and big return after the break cut the deficit to 31-14. Ultimately, though the Bulldogs' firepower was too much, from Uriah LeMay (118 receiving yards, three total touchdowns) and Josh Glisson (216 rushing yards, two scores) to the Ferguson brothers (Zach: two interceptions; Riley: 267 passing yards, three TDs). Speaking of LeMay, check back later this week for a story on the star junior wideout.

South Point 45, Burns 42 (OT)
A matchup of two top 3A teams lived up to the hype, as South Point won a thriller in overtime. Fullback Troy Leeper paced the Red Raiders with 245 yards and five touchdowns, but kicker Dayton Rogers made the difference, kicking the decisive 27-yard field goal in overtime.

No. 9 Wake Forest-Rolesville 30, Southeast Raleigh 27
Southeast Raleigh QB David Washington put on a first-quarter clinic, racking up 100 passing yards and two touchdowns. But interceptions by Tevin Barnes (a pick-6) and Nighee Walker fueled the Cougars in their comeback victory.

Garner 35, Middle Creek 21
For three quarters, it was smooth sailing for Garner as it piled up 28 points to Middle Creek's zero. But after turning two consecutive stops into touchdowns, it appeared the Mustangs would put together a comeback victory for the second straight week. Garner held on though, blocking a punt to set up an easy score and its fourth win in as many games.

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.

The place to be: Week 3 North Carolina football

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
1:01
PM ET
Believe it or not, the third week of prep football has already rolled around for North Carolina, and if the first two weeks are any indication, this should be a good one. Here's where you need to be this weekend:

No. 1 Mallard Creek (2-0) at No. 10 Berry Academy (2-0)
OK, I'll admit it; I've written about Mallard Creek a lot in this space. Don't blame me, though; blame coach Mike Palmieri, who set up a tough yet intriguing early schedule for his Mavericks. After passing tests against Butler and Sun Valley, the state's top-ranked squad will travel to Berry Academy, where the dynamic duo of wideout Germone Hopper (280 all-purpose yards and two scores in Week 1) and linebacker Nick Dawson (also scored twice in Week 1).
The Mavericks offense has proven masterful, led by the four-headed monster of QB Andrew Goodman, RB Jela Duncan, WR Jamel Harbison and OL D.J. Humphries, putting the pressure on the Cardinals' defense to take control.

No. 6 Southern Durham (2-0) at No. 7 Jack Britt (1-1)
The Fayetteville region will gets its first big matchup when two of our top 10 teams face off. The game is a must-win for Jack Britt, which is looking to bounce back after a close loss to Lumberton and with another big contest against No. 5 Scotland next week. Southern Durham has looked good in its first two games, as dual-threat quarterback Dorian Belcher has shown off his array of skills.

Fuquay-Varina (2-0) at Middle Creek (1-1)
Fuquay Varina stands a chance to enter the conversation of top teams in the state, should it continue its hot start. Ricky Ferguson has been dominant, averaging nearly 105 rushing yards per contest for the Bengals, who slipped past Middle Creek in last year's matchup. The Mustangs are no slouches, either, with their only loss coming to No. 6 Southern Durham last week.

East Wake (2-0) at Millbrook (1-1)
This contest is filled with future implications. For East Wake, the goal is to prove last week's 20-17 overtime win against then-No. 6 Wake Forest-Rolesville was no fluke. For Millbrook, the hope is to build on last week's victory as well as see how it can keep building around the nation's top tailback Keith Marshall, who has rushed for 244 yards and a touchdown this year.

Mooresville (2-0) at Burns (2-0)
One team will taste its first defeat by night's end, but neither will go down easy. Mooresville has impressed with wins against South Meck and previously ranked West Rowan, while Darius Ramsey has run wild for Burns to create its own fast start.

Shelby (0-2) at Crest (1-1)
It's rivalry week for these two schools, which are separated by just four miles. The pressure is on Shelby in this contest, as the Golden Lions look to avoid an 0-3 start in a tough road environment at Crest.

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.

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