High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: Cary

First round of North Carolina football playoffs get underway

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
4:26
PM ET
Throw all of the regular-season records out because we're starting all over again. The North Carolina football postseason is here and this is when it all counts.

You know all the usual suspects/contenders, like Mallard Creek, Butler, Greensboro Page and Garner, but for the always tricky first round, here are five games to watch out for this weekend:

Berry Academy at Marvin Ridge
This season has taken a slightly different turn than some may have anticipated for these teams. 2011 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Marvin Ridge, but the Mavericks looked plenty strong, going 9-1 with its lone loss coming to No. 7 Porter Ridge. Berry Academy, on the other hand, was far from a disappointment, but with All-State players Germone Hopper and Nick Dawson starring on offense, defense and special teams, the Cardinals probably hoped for better than a 7-3 campaign. But that's what makes this one intriguing. The Mavericks D will have to stop Hopper from making big plays at WR and on special teams, while the Cardinals need to strike early and often.
My pick: Berry Academy 24, Marvin Ridge 21

Hoggard at New Hanover
One week has passed since these two squads last faced each other. New Hanover got the best of Hoggard for the first time since 1995, winning an intense 13-7 battle. New Hanover was led by a stingy defense and two touchdowns by Trevon Brown. Based on its history, Hoggard knows how to topple New Hanover, so it's safe to say neither team is taking the other lightly.
My pick: Hoggard 14, New Hanover 10

Laney at Wakefield
These two teams faced off in the first round last year, with Wakefield coming away with a 31-14 win on the road. This season, Wakefield is the home team and again the favorite behind a high-powered offense that put up at least 42 points in every game but one this season. Laney's defense will be focused on Wakefield QB Connor Mitch, who threw for 46 TDs and just six interceptions this year. But the Buccaneers can also light up the scoreboard (seven games of at least 40 points), meaning this one could be a shootout.
My pick: Wakefield 42, Laney 31

Lumberton at Cary
Only time will tell if Cary caught Lumberton at the right time or the worst time. After starting 7-0, including a big win against Jack Britt, Lumberton enters the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. Led by its defense, Cary won its last four games to finish 8-2. Will Lumberton be motivated enough to end its skid, or will Cary capitalize on the weaknesses exposed in the last three weeks?
My pick: Cary 17, Lumberton 14

Northwest Guilford at Richmond
Last year, these two met in the playoffs and Richmond used a big fourth-quarter to pull away for a 45-21 win. Things probably won't be so easy this time around for the Raiders, though. After a dominating 5-0, the Raiders sputtered at the end, losing twice and barely escaping defeat in two others. The production of Northwest Guilford tailback Reid Baxter (961 yards, 15 TDs) will be vital in attacking a Richmond defense that's been known to bend against capable rushers. RB/DB Steve Houston will be the key on both ends for the Raiders.
My pick: Richmond 27, Northwest Guilford 21

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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