High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: East Wake

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.

Middle Creek wins a thriller, Charlotte games on hold

September, 6, 2011
9/06/11
2:07
PM ET
Mother Nature has shown its ugly side in the past two weeks. First, it was a rare earthquake followed by Hurricane Irene. And last weekend, torrential thunderstorms pounded down on the Charlotte area, postponing all of the football games until Tuesday.

As a result, our statewide rankings will come out Wednesday this week. But that doesn't mean good football wasn't play in other parts of North Carolina, starting with a thriller between Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina.

By the look of things, Middle Creek wasn't supposed to win Friday's matchup against Fuquay-Varina. The Mustangs had often finished second to their Tri-Nine Conference rivals on several occasions, and in the fourth quarter of their Friday matchup, Fuquay-Varina held what seemed to be a commanding 34-21 advantage.

But Middle Creek showed why it could a formidable force this season, using a flurry of offense and a goal-line stand to pull out a 48-47 double-overtime win.

Quarterback David Salmon (four touchdowns) oozed with poise in the Mustangs' comeback, leading his team on two scoring drives in the final four minutes -- the last of which ended with a touchdown pass to Curtis Burston that tied the score at 34.

In overtime, fate appeared on the Bengals' side, as the road team used a hook-and-lateral play to convert a fourth down into a touchdown on the opening overtime possession. The teams then traded scores until the second overtime, when Bengals fullback Carlton Bridges was stuffed on a two-point conversion try, giving the Mustangs a huge win in their conference opener.

AROUND THE STATE
*Jack Britt bounced back from a Week 2 loss in a major way, beating Southern Durham, 42-28. The Buccaneers were led by QB Mark McRae (three total touchdowns) and Lindon Watkins (222 rushing yards and one score). Southern Durham put up a fight behind Akeem Judd's 203 rushing yards and three scores, but it wasn't enough to overcome a quick start by the Buccaneers, who jumped out to a 28-7 lead in the first half.

*Millbrook continued its recent success, riding its defense to a 26-9 win against East Wake team that upset Wake Forest-Rolesville in week two. Keith Marshall had 157 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats before sitting out for most of the second half.

*Damien Washington continued his tear, scoring twice on a touchdown pass and catch in A.L. Brown's 35-14 win against Rocky River. That's eight touchdowns through three games for the senior tailback, who gives the Wonders an ability to score in a hurry.

*West Rowan saw another win streak end after their Friday contest against Salisbury. But this time, it wasn't the Falcons who were on the short end. Behind Dinkin Miller's 132 rushing yards and touchdown, the Falcons beat the defending 2AA champs, 37-28, snapping the Hornets' 12-game win streak.

*Wallace Rose-Hill saw its 30-game string of wins snapped Friday in a 48-7 loss to New Hanover. The defeat is nothing for the defending 1A champs to hang their head over, though. New Hanover, which was led by 336 passing yards from QB Bates Taylor, is a 4A school.

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.

Jack Britt, WF-Rolesville hit with upset bug

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
11:10
AM ET
After watching another weekend of upsets on the gridiron, I teetered between two feelings:

-I know nothing when it comes to preseason rankings.
-If this keeps happening, will an "upset" as we know it still be an "upset" on the North Carolina football scene?

Eventually, I settled on the first notion.

Of course, it's early, so there's no need for teams to panic. But for perennial powers like Jack Britt (lost 21-14 to Lumberton in overtime) and Wake Forest-Rolesville (lost 20-17 in OT) who joined Butler, West Rowan and Hillside on the upset list, a wake-up call has been served.

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