High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: Football

Top 10 Stories of the Year in North Carolina

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
10:10
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The year 2011 is winding down to a close and what a year it's been in sports. Here are the top 10 stories from the North Carolina high school sports scene:

10. Tragedy Strikes Twice
Unfortunately, sports is sometimes not about victory and triumph but loss and tragedy. So was the case in August, when Williams High QB Harry Cohen died from an accidental overdose just days after leading his team to victory, and in December, when Alleghany wrestler Luke Hampton was paralyzed during a match just days after earning the state's top ranking in Class 1A at 182 pounds. Our prayers go out to both families.

9. Stuntin' Like My Daddy
You could say it's in the genes and then some when it comes to Dillon Maples. A year after breaking his father's school record of 17 strikeouts by one, the Pinecrest senior tied his own mark with 18 Ks. Maples finished the year with a 9-1 record, 143 strikeouts and a 0.92 ERA. Similiar to his father, Tim, who was picked by the Orioles, the Cubs selected Dillon in the 14th round of the MLB Draft. Maples initially enrolled at UNC, but in August, he agreed to a deal with the Cubs that included a $2.5 million signing bonus.

8. Cardinal Rule
Cardinal Gibbons dethroned two-time defending Class 3A champ Chapel Hill this past fall by the smallest of margins — one point. The Crusaders placed five runners in the top 20, including individual champion Steven Phillips, who clocked a time of 15:49.

7. Last Hope
Midway through the season, Green Hope soccer coach Andrew Chadwick surprised his team by announcing he would retire at the end of the year. The Falcons made sure their coach ended on a good note by winning the Class 4A title in a 2-1 overtime thriller against Myers Park.

6. West is the Best
In 2010, West Charlotte blew a lead and lost in the state semifinals. They made sure the same didn’t happen last year, breezing through the state tourney before letting the one they call Big Baby take over in the title game. Kennedy Meeks recorded 12 points, nine blocks and 19 rebounds (the fourth most in championship game history) to earn MVP honors.

5. New Faces Reach New Places
This past football season saw some unusual suspects claim state crowns. Scotland won its first ever state title by going 15-0 en route to the Class 4A crown and Havelock dethroned three-time defending Class 3A champ West Rowan.

4. Golden Graham
Thomas Graham painted the picture of dominance during his prep career, winning four straight NCISSA 3A state cross country championships. Graham also held his own on the national scene by copping ninth at the Foot Locker Nationals and 15th in the final DyeStat rankings.

3. A Page Out of History
Despite entering the postseason undefeated and as a top seed, Greensboro Page had quite the tough road to the Class 4AA title. That didn't faze the Pirates, who knocked off two-time defending champ Butler and season-long favorite Mallard Creek in consecutive weeks before beating Garner in the 4AA championship.

2. Purvis Picks 'Pack
Earlier this year, Rodney Purvis was headed to Louisville, which rested in the same Blue Grass State that another top NC recruit by the name of John Wall played his college ball. But an assistant coaching shake-up led Purvis to decommit in May. After months of thinking, the Upper Room Christian senior guard decided to stay in his backyard and play for N.C. State.

1. Top Dog
On Dec. 6, Keith Marshall went to sleep a Clemson Tiger but woke up a Georgia Bulldog. After narrowing his choices, the speedy Millbrook tailback and the nation's sixth-best recruit decided on his childhood favorite team of Georgia, where he plans to enroll in January.

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

Humphries, Marshall named ESPNHS All-Americans

December, 22, 2011
12/22/11
1:26
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Before they do battle as rivals in the SEC next year, Millbrook's Keith Marshall and Mallard Creek's D.J. Humphries were joined together on the same team.

The ESPNHS All-American team features Humphries, a Florida commit, on the first squad along with Northwest Carrabus punter Bradley Pinion and Marshall, a Georgia recruit, on the second team.

Click here for the full list of players.

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

2011 football champions, state by state

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
12:16
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Across the country, the high school football season is now complete, and North Carolina's football champs join the list of state champions in every classification throughout the nation.

To see the full list of state champions as well as how this state stacks up, click here.
Todd Gurley, a senior at Tarboro, is one of the top-rated running backs in the nation, possessing the ability to play multiple positions. As a highly sought-after recruit with offers from the likes of Auburn, UNC, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Clemson, Gurley agreed to chronicle his senior season and recruiting experience through a diary with ESPNHS.

What's up World! Your boy TG is back with another blog to keep everyone updated with everything.

First off, I want to let y'all know me and my teammates are the defending back-to-back-to-back Class 2A state champions — or as you can call it, the three-peat! I had 21 carries for 246 yards and four touchdowns in my last high school game and I couldn't have done it without my O-line and the rest of my team and coaches. (This was a season to remember with my friends with all the things we've been through, but we never used excuses. At the end of the day, we did what we always do and that's win.

I just spent the week at the Shrine Bowl, representing my state, NC, and my town, Tarboro (252). It was fun seeing a couple of my bros on the team and meeting a lot of other players It was a great experience and I'll be back next week with another blog about the trip and our win. [Editor's note: Gurley rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns to lead North Carolina to a 26-19 win and earn Offensive MVP honors.]

Recruiting wise, I haven't been doing too much until the past couple weeks. Since the season ended, I've had in-house visits with Clemson, UGA, UNC, and NC State. They were all good visits but I can't lie — those visits can wear you out a lot!

Well, that's it for now. Don't forget to check me out on Twitter @TG1UNO.

My top schools: UNC, UGA, Clemson, and NC State.

Five Days of List-Mas: NC's underclass football stars

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
11:37
AM ET
5


Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday

Whether you’re putting together a grouping of best quarterbacks or worst albums, or you’re making that special list for Santa, there’s nothing quite like a good list. So in honor of the holiday season we’re bringing you lists all week long — Merry List-Mas!

Today: The top underclassmen in high school football.

The state championships are over and the Class of 2012 had their run, but it’s never too early to start looking at the impressive players in the Class of 2013 and beyond. Who’s going to rule the gridiron in North Carolina next season? We give you the early rundown of who to watch for.
5. Connor Mitch (JR), Wakefield, QB
Credentials: 3,832 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, nine interceptions

4. Greg Gilmore (JR), Hope Mills, DL
Credentials: 68 tackles, sack, blocked field goal, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, offers from Clemson, Virgina Tech, South Carolina

3. Peter Kalamabyi (JR), Butler, LB
Credentials: Nine offers, including Clemson, Michigan and Virginia Tech

2. Uriah LeMay (JR), Butler, WR
Credentials: 19 touchdowns (14 receiving and five rushing), 43 catches for 842 yards, 38 rushes for 397 yards, offers from a dozen schools, including LSU and Georgia.

1. Riley Ferguson (JR), Butler, QB
Credentials: 3,002 passing yards, 45 touchdowns, six interceptions, led Bulldogs to 2010 Class 4AA state title, offers from LSU, Michigan and Clemson.

Click here to check out some of the other states in our Five Days of List-Mas

Tomorrow: POWERADE state hoops rankings

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

The Five Days of List-Mas: NC's A-List

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
11:35
AM ET
5

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday

Whether you’re putting together a grouping of best quarterbacks or worst albums, or you’re making that special list for Santa, there’s nothing quite like a good list. So in honor of the holiday season we’re bringing you lists all week long — Merry List-Mas!



Today: A-Listers.

In the NFL, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are A-Listers. In the NBA, it’s LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. But who are the A-Listers in North Carolina? That’s where today’s list comes in. Regardless of sport, here’s our list of the top five A-List athletes in the state. Can you think of an A-Lister we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments.

5. Thomas Graham (SR), Cary Academy, Cross Country
Credentials: Four-time NCISSAA 3A state champ, ninth at Foot Locker Nationals, No. 20 in DyeStat rankings

4. Braxton Ogbueze (SR), United Faith Christian, Basketball
Credentials: Florida recruit, nation's No. 35 player in ESPNU 100

3. Todd Gurley (SR), Tarboro, Football
Credentials: State's No. 2 running back, led Vikings to three straight Class 2A titles, Semper Fidelis All-American

2. Rodney Purvis (SR), Upper Room Christian, Basketball
Credentials: Nation's No. 16 player in ESPNU 100, N.C. State recruit, 2011 Elite 24 participant, friends with Washington Wizards star John Wall

1. Keith Marshall (SR), Millbrook, Football
Credentials: Georgia recruit, Nation's No. 6 player in ESPNU 150, 2011 Gatorade State Player of the Year, Under Armour All-American, school's all-time leading rusher

Click here to check out some of the other states in our Five Days of List-Mas.

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

Keith Marshall chooses Georgia

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
3:45
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The state's top running back and No. 6 overall recruit is headed to the SEC to play for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Millbrook senior Keith Marshall announced his decision Tuesday during a school press conference, pulling on a red Georgia hat while those gathered in the auditorium loudly cheered. Marshall, who plans to enroll in January, also considered Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and South Carolina. The senior recently won North Carolina Gatorade Football Player of the Year after rushing for 1,891 yards and 25 scores this past season.

Click here for more on Marshall's commitment.

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

Final North Carolina football rankings: Greensboro Page is No. 1

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
1:25
PM ET
The road was anything but easy. Standing in Greensboro Page's way was two-time defending champ Butler, top-ranked Mallard Creek and a juggernaut in Garner. With each test, though, the Pirates plowed through the competition all the way to the Class 4AA title, the state's final No. 1 rankings and the No. 20 spot in the POWERADE FAB 50.

In the final, Page downed Garner, 35-21, behind dual-threat QB James Summers, who earned championship game MVP honors after throwing for two touchdowns and totaling 247 yards. Five first-half penalties did in the Trojans, who outgained the Pirates 156-83 in the first half but fell behind by 14 points and never recovered.

Coming in a close second is Scotland, which was nothing short of dominant in the 4A playoffs. Culminating with a 42-16 championship win against Porter Ridge, the Fighting Scots outscored their postseason opponents, 248-66.

Scotland did have mount a comeback after falling behind 13-0 in the first half to Porter Ridge, but behind fourth-down conversions and a pick-six, the Scots scored 42 of the game's next 45 points to secure their first title.

In other championship games: Northern Guilford beat Crest in the 3AA title game for the second straight year, Havelock dethroned three-time defending Class 3A champ West Rowan, and Tarboro won its third straight 2A title with a 39-36 win against Lincolnton behind Todd Gurley's 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Here are how the final state rankings shake out:

1. Greensboro Page (15-0)
Earned top spot after downing two-time defending champ Butler, previous No. 1 Mallard Creek and finally, powerhouse Garner in the Class 4AA title game by the score of 35-21.

2. Scotland (15-0)
Capped undefeated season and dominant Class 4A playoff title run with 42-16 win against Porter Ridge.

3. Garner (15-1)
Trojans came up short in Class 4AA title game, falling 35-21 to Greensboro Page.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly North Carolina football rankings

North Carolina football championships preview

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
1:48
PM ET
Preseason predictions, records, past history — throw them all out the window. This weekend, it will all come down to one game in deciding who's No. 1.

4AA: Greensboro Page vs. Garner (3 p.m. Saturday) All season long, both of these teams have quietly made a case for being the state's top team. In the last two rounds, Page knocked off Butler and Mallard Creek, teams that most figured had the best shot at winning the title. Meanwhile, Garner has blown up the scoreboard and blown out opponents, putting up 40-plus points in 10 of their last 11 games while letting the backfield of Juwan Moye and Demetrius Fairley run loose. Offensive firepower isn't a problem for either team, which makes defense the X-factor. Page has used late turnovers to rally in the last two weeks, while Garner stuffed a potent Jack Britt run game in the final quarter to pull out its semifinal win.
My pick: Garner 38, Greensboro Page 35

4A: Scotland vs. Porter Ridge (7 p.m. Saturday)
Jack Britt coach Richard Bailey told me about a month before the season that Scotland was going to be really good this season. I know I said throw out the predictions, but clearly the long-time coach was dead on. Scotland has used its talented QB Kwashaun Quick, wealth of rushers and impressive skill players on defense to run the table so far this year. Porter Ridge has a formidable QB in Lee McNeil and has the ability to pull out gritty wins. The Fighting Scots have had little trouble with their playoff opponents thus far, but Porter Ridge is likely to change that.
My pick: Scotland 31, Porter Ridge 27

3AA: Crest vs. Northern Guilford (7:30 p.m.Friday)
These two tangled in last year's title game with Northern Guilford prevailing 21-20 for the crown. The Nighthawks enter as the slight favorite again, riding a 13-game win streak and a formidable RB in T.J. Logan (2,264 rushing yards, 34 touchdowns). Crest star DL Jonathan Bullard and the rest of the Chargers D will need to be at their best to slow Logan. So will the Chargers offense, which has hit its stride after changing schemes midseason and found production behind Rhaheim Ledbetter, a Florida commit who has 1,027 rushing yards and 19 scores but is actually better at DB.
My pick: Crest 21, Northern Guilford 20

3A: Havelock vs. West Rowan (11 a.m. Saturday)
West Rowan is going for its fourth straight title, but unlike in years past, Havelock enters as the juggernaut. Havelock is averaging 51.5 points per game and has put up at least 62 in three of its four playoff wins. Quarterback Garrett Rowe has played a big part, throwing for 3,208 yards and 36 touchdowns. But for as serious as those stats are, West Rowan's experience and talent on both sides of the ball grants its the tools to slow down the Rams.
My pick: Havelock 42, West Rowan 35

2AA: Kinston vs. West Stokes (3 p.m. Saturday)
The road to this point hasn't been easy for either team. Kinston has needed several cardiac comebacks to down Bunn and Reidsville by a combined five points while West Stokes used a furious fourth-quarter comeback to erase a 12-point lead and beat Shelby in the semis. West Stokes has a fiesty defense led by sack machine Tyler Bullard. but Kinston counters with several playmakers in QB C.J. Bradshaw and running back Shaheed Swinson.
My pick: West Stokes 24, Kinston 17

2A: Tarboro vs. Lincolnton (11 a.m. Saturday)
Tarboro is back in the title game for the fourth straight year in hopes of winning its third straight crown. All of you are familiar with standout tailback Todd Gurley from his ESPNHS diary and it's safe to say Lincolnton's plan will be to stop the senior. Gurley has fought through injury to top the 2,00-yard mark and power the Vikings to wins, including a late score in last week's semifinal round against South Columbus. The run game will be a concern for the Tarboro D, too, which has to find a way to thwart Lincolnton's tricky triple-option offense.
My pick: Tarboro 21, Lincolnton 18

1AA: Ayden-Grifton vs. Swain County (11 a.m. Saturday)
Ayden-Grifton pulled off the major upset last week, downing two-time defending state champ Wallace-Rose Hill, led by QB Brandon Larry (242 total yards, two score). Will this be enough to knock off a surging Swain County squad?
My pick: Ayden-Grifton 24, Swain County 21

1A: Jones County vs. Murphy (7:30 p.m. Friday)
Murphy began the year 0-3, but with a dual-threat QB that can pile up the stats in Seth Curtis (more than 3,200 total yards), the Bulldogs are back in the title game for the second straight year. Jones County, which is making its first championship-game appearance, will be looking for the upset.
My pick: Murphy 34, Jones County 25

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

Millbrook's Keith Marshall wins Gatorade POY

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
11:27
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Millbrook running back Keith Marshall has been named Gatorade North Carolina Football Player of the Year.

As a senior, Marshall racked up 1,891 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns to go with a 4.29 weighted GPA in the classroom. The 2012 Under Armour All-America selection is expected to announce his college decision on Dec. 6.

For the breakdown of Marshall's award, click here.

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

Page knocks off No. 1 Mallard Creek

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
1:37
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Greensboro Page appears to have a serious case of deja vu — and that hasn't been a bad thing.

A week after dethroning two-time defending Class 4AA champ Butler, the underdog Pirates once again capitalized on late penalties and turnovers to erase a double-digit deficit and down the state's top-ranked team in Mallard Creek, 41-27.

Mallard Creek built a 12-point lead in the first quarter, but after Page rallied back, Blake Hickman returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown to put the Pirates up 33-27 in the third. A James Summer touchdown pass and an interception in the end zone helped the Pirates hold the lead for good and advance to the Class 4AA title game against Garner.

*Garner held off Jack Britt, 34-27, behind a gritty defensive effort. With the score knotted at 27 with 10 minutes to play, Garner stuffed the Buccaneers on their last three possessions. Meanwhile, the Trojans pulled ahead for good on a Vincent Jeffries' touchdown pass to Tim Thorb with 1:27 left on the clock. Jeffries finished the night with 268 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

*In the 4A semifinals, Porter Ridge advanced to its first state championship by narrowly beating Mooresville, 34-28. Mooresville nearly pulled off a late comeback after scoring with 1:34 left and recovering the ensuing onside kick. But Chris Duffy came up with a big interception with 48 seconds to clinch the victory. The Indians will face 14-0 Scotland, which had no trouble beating New Bern by a count of 61-28. The Fighting Scots broke out early behind three turnovers and a 26-point first quarter, earning them the chance to vie for their first state title.

*In the 3AA semis, the team that started off far from perfect (Crest at 1-2) upset the team that entered the game perfect (Charlotte Catholic at 13-0). Behind RB/DB Rhaheim Ledbetter's 268 rushing yards, two scores and interception, the Chargers beat Charlotte Catholic, 35-28. The Cougars hurt their own cause with five turnovers and three penalties that negated touchdowns. Crest, which reached the final last year, moves on to face Northern Guilford, which beat Hunt, 35-6.

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

Football teams look to punch ticket to state final

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
4:32
PM ET
What's good is Turkey Day without a heavy dose of playoff football? Think of these games as a dessert to the leftovers you eat on Friday because with a trip to the state final on the line, these matchups are bound to be intense.

Mallard Creek at Greensboro Page
Most guessed Butler would be in this game instead of Page, but the fact that the Bulldogs aren't says a lot about this Pirates squad. James Summers leads Page against the state's top team in Mallard Creek, which hasn't been terribly tested in the playoffs until now. The Pirates can't afford to fall behind by 20 like they did last week, as the Mavericks' explosive offense behind RB Jela Duncan and WR Jamel Harbison has been known to make opponents pay for critical mistakes and offensive droughts. With both offenses high-powered, defensive play and turnovers could decide this game.
My pick: Mallard Creek 35, Greensboro Page 34

Jack Britt at Garner
Garner has been dominant all season, winning all but two of their games by at least 20 points. Perennial power Jack Britt has caught fire of late, shutting out four of its last five opponents behind a stout defense. Needless to say, the Trojans offense vs. the Buccaneers defense will be the key matchup in this one, with Jack Britt likely to stack the box often in hopes of slowing running backs Juwan Moye and Demetrius Fairley.
My pick: Garner 35, Jack Britt 24

Crest at Charlotte Catholic
When these two met in the playoffs last year, Crest had its way in a 31-10 win. Expect this year's to be a bit closer, especially with Charlotte Catholic entering as the favorite. Sophomore RB Elijah Hood has been the surprise catalyst for the Cougars' offense, but Crest has defensive stalwarts in DL Jonathan Bullard and DB Rhaheim Ledbetter. Still, the Chargers have struggled against the run in their three losses this year. The key will be Crest's ability to capitalize on offense if/when it slows down the Cougar offense.
My pick: Charlotte Catholic 28, Crest 24

New Bern at Scotland
On paper, Scotland is the favorite. The Fighting Scots offense can score in a hurry behind QB Kwashaun Quick and a stable of running backs. Defensively, they are just as dominant and haven't allowed two touchdowns in their last six games. New Bern has made it this far by mostly outscoring opponents, although last week the Bears capitalized on three late fumbles by New Hanover. Perhaps the Bears wouldn't mind turning this one into a shootout.
My pick: Scotland 42, New Bern 31

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.
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.

Butler vs. Greensboro Page highlights third round of NC football playoffs

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
4:07
PM ET
The third round of the playoffs is about to get underway, meaning the stakes are higher and competition is much more intense. Here are the games to watch:

Butler at Greensboro Page
Butler faces its biggest test since opening the season against Mallard Creek. Greensboro Page has been dominant all year behind dual-threat QB James Summers and tailback Drew Rogers. The Pirates' defense has also been impressive, giving up less than eight points per game. But of course, this unit will have its hands full with Butler's plethora of offensive weapons. Whichever team wins the turnover battle is likely to come out on top.
My pick: Butler 35, Greensboro Page 31

Leesville Road at Garner
One team will emerge with its first loss of the year and it's hard to tell who in this evenly-matched contest. Creating offense shouldn't be a problem for either team in this matchup, what with Garner averaging 48.1 points and Leesville Road averaging 54.1 points. In other words, simply one defensive stop could make the difference in this one.
My pick: Leesville Road 38, Garner 35

Hillside at Scotland
Hillside faces a major roadblock in its bid to repeat as champs when it faces Scotland tonight. The Fighting Scots have been unbeatable this season behind QB Kwashaun Quick and their athletic skill players. Hillside has obviously been here before, though, and boasts a star on both sides of the ball in RB Khris Francis and DL Jamal Marcus.
My pick: Scotland 27, Hillside 20

A.L. Brown at Charlotte Catholic
A.L. Brown enters this contest with hopes of proving its a viable contender, but as has been the case for five of the past seven years, Charlotte Catholic has plans of ending the Wonders' playoff run. Charlotte Catholic has gotten a surprise boost from sophomore tailback Elijah Hood this season, while the Wonders were routed in their one contest against a ranked team this year (41-13 loss to Porter Ridge).
My pick: Charlotte Catholic 34, A.L. Brown 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.
Todd Gurley, a senior at Tarboro, is one of the top-rated running backs in the nation, possessing the ability to play multiple positions. As a highly sought-after recruit with offers from the likes of Auburn, UNC, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Clemson, Gurley agreed to chronicle his senior season and recruiting experience through a recruit diary with ESPNHS.

What’s up, world!

It's been a while since my last blog, but I’m back with another one to keep everyone informed about what’s been going on recruiting-wise and during my football season.

Let's talk about the season right now. Our record is 10-2 and we're in the third round of the Class 2A playoffs. Most people said we wouldn’t make it out the first round — even people in our town. But one thing I can say about us is that we don’t pay attention to what critics say because at the end of the day, you’re always going to have people saying good or bad things about you. We've been on this seven-week journey so we have three more weeks left until we go for our third straight championship title.

I took my second official visit this past weekend down to Death Valley to see the Tigers clinch the Atlantic Division for a spot in the ACC Championship. My time down in Clemson was great. I loved it, especially the game day atmosphere, even though I missed the most exciting 25 seconds of college football with the team running down the hill and touching Howard's Rock. I got a chance to meet a lot of the 2012 recruits who have already committed to Clemson, like Chad Kelly from New York. Later that night, we went out with some of the guys from the team. My host was Cortez Davis, but we all were together so there were other guys like [former ESPNHS cover boy] Stephone Anthony, Sammy Watkins and a bunch of others who were cool.

Clemson seems like a chill, relaxed town. There might not be much to do every day, but I need that because it will keep me focused on my priorities like school and football, which are the two most important reasons I'm in college.

Last week in the playoffs, we beat Northside, the state’s No. 1 Class 2A team which hadn’t lost a game before that point. This week, we’re taking on Holmes, another undefeated team, at their place, so me and the boys are ready for this challenge.

I’m out, world. It was nice getting back with y’all on another blog. Stay tuned for more to come before my big decision on Jan. 3!

My top four schools (in order): Georgia and UNC (tied), Clemson, N.C. State

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