High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: Independence

Second round of North Carolina football playoffs brings familiar results

November, 14, 2011
A weekend filled with rematches ended up as a major case of deja vu:

*Butler beat Independence for the fifth straight time, riding Riley Ferguson's four touchdowns to a 42-20 win.

*Leesville Road continued to light up the scoreboard, beating Cap 8 rival Wake Forest-Rolesville for the second time in three weeks. Braxton Berrios proved unstoppable, scoring six times in the 49-20 win. Next up: undefeated Garner.

*Middle Creek did it again, using a late charge to push past Fuquay-Varina, 34-20. For their second third-round trip in school history, the Mustangs will face Jack Britt, which has shut out its last four opponents.

*The second time was a bit easier for Asheville, as it beat rival Erwin, 26-7, to keep its undefeated season in tact. Brandon Williams led the way with 123 rushing yards and two scores. Next up: Crest.

This past weekend's outcomes sets up a juicy slate of third-round playoff matchups. Check back here Thursday to catch a preview.

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.

Rematches abound in second round of NC football playoffs

November, 10, 2011
Second chances are often hard to come by in life, but for several North Carolina football teams, they will get just that in the second round of the playoffs this weekend.

Butler vs. Independence
Never mind that Butler has won the last four meetings with rival Independence, or even that he Bulldogs downed the Patriots, 36-26, just two weeks ago. Whenever these two teams meet in the playoffs, it's big — so big, that's it's been moved to the bigger stadium at Providence as was the case when they meet in 2009.

Mind you, the last time Butler lost in the playoffs, it was to Independence, a juggernaut that once won 109 games, has seven state titles to its name and is returning to prominence after last year's losing campaign.

Also be mindful that Butler is on a mission to reach its third straight title game in hopes of avenging their earlier loss to Mallard Creek and win its third consecutive 4AA crown. Lots of storylines and lots of potential for fireworks in this contest.
My pick: Butler 35, Independence 27

Wake Forest-Rolesville at Leesville Road
Two weeks ago, Leesville Road stopped the Cougars from having at least a share of the Cap 8 title for the first time in six years. But the night wasn't full of great memories for the Pride, as quarterback Austin Berrios tore his ACL. Still, the offense didn't miss a beat last week, scoring nine times and racking up 561 rushing yards in a win against Broughton. Wake Forest-Rolesville figures to make several defensive adjustments to slow the Pride's explosive offense, but the question is will it be enough?
My pick: Leesville Road 38, Wake Forest-Rolesville 35

Fuquay-Varina at Middle Creek
You remember the first time these two met this year, as Middle Creek overcame a 13-point deficit to win an overtime thriller. Since then, Fuquay-Varina has been flawless, winning eight straight games behind a solid running attack led by Carlton Bridges (195 yards, two scores last week). The Bengals' defensive effort could prove key, though, as QB David Salmon tore through the secondary for four scores in their last meeting.
My pick: Fuquay-Varina 31, Middle Creek 21

Erwin at Asheville
The door to the 3AA championship opened a bit wider for these two teams when Weddington upset South Point in the first round last weekend. And best believe that both Erwin and Asheville will do everything in their power to avoid being the next team to go home. During Asheville's undefeated regular season, Erwin gave the Cougars their toughest test before falling 21-20. Erwin will have to prove more stout against Asheville's powerful rushing attack behind Tysean Holloway and Deveron Roberts if it wants to pull off the next big upset.
My pick: Asheville 28, Erwin 24

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
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

Scotland, Porter Ridge move up in Week 10 NC football rankings

October, 24, 2011
Results as of Sunday, October 23

As we head into the final week of the regular season, there's some movement in the North Carolina football rankings.

The first comes as Scotland leapfrogs Greensboro Page into the No. 3 spot. The Pirates did their part by winning again (a 21-0 victory against Dudley), but the Fighting Scots have proven invincible against a tougher schedule. Scotland will get another test when it faces Richmond in the finale, but in the last two weeks, they've outscored solid Hoke County and Lumberton squads by a count of 82-7. Hard to ignore that sort of dominance.

The second shake-up comes lower in the rankings, as Porter Ridge overtook Richmond for the No. 8 slot. Ever since the Raiders fell to Hoke County, they've struggled to fully bounce back, winning their last three games against Purnell Swett, Lumberton and Pinecrest by an average margin of nearly four points. Mind you, the Raiders won their first five games by nearly 30 points each.

On the other hand, Porter Ridge has been nothing short of impressive during its 9-0 run, winning all but one its games by at least 24 points. The Indians will face a formidable opponent in Sun Valley this week, but their performance up to this point deserves a bump up in the rankings.

Nationally, Mallard Creek stood pat at No. 21 and Butler moved up to No. 32 in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Here's how this week's state rankings shake out (last week's rankings are in parentheses):

1. Mallard Creek (Charlotte) 9-0 (1)
Mavericks D led the way in 42-0 win against West Charlotte, scoring on two of its four forced turnovers. Next up: Hough.

2. Butler (Matthews) 8-1 (2)
Riley Ferguson threw four touchdowns as the Bulldogs racked up 504 yards in a 52-14 win against South Meck. Next up: rival Independence.

3. Scotland (Laurinburg) 9-0 (4)
The Fighting Scots move up a spot after passing yet another stiff test with a 35-7 win against Lumberton. Next up: No. 9 Richmond.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly North Carolina rankings