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Prep football playoff pairings

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Southern Nash's Quinton Cooley, right, runs for a touchdown as Northern Nash's Caleb Davis defends on Friday at Southern Nash High School.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The NCHSAA on Saturday released postseason pairings for the prep football playoffs that begin on Friday.

Two local teams earned No. 1 seeds in their respective classifications, while another two earned No. 2 seeds. Seven teams from the area qualified for the postseason.

Here’s an early look at the matchups.

Class 3-A

No. 16 E.E. Smith (4-7) at No. 1 Southern Nash (11-0)

How they got here: The Firebirds won the Big East Conference for the fourth consecutive year.

The bracket: Should the Firebirds win on Friday, they would host the winner of Northern Nash and Vance County. Southern Nash has home field throughout the playoffs, and the team that knocked out the Firebirds last season, Eastern Alamance, has a No. 3 seed.

Quick hit: Southern Nash, as a No. 2 seed last season, suffered a tough, upset loss to Eastern Alamance in the second round of the playoffs. The Firebirds have bounced back to run off an undefeated regular season, and despite losing running back Zonovan Knight to N.C. State, they haven’t skipped a beat with Quinton Cooley who is having a standout season as the state’s leading rusher.

No. 12 Southern Lee (6-4) at No. 5 Rocky Mount High (8-3)

How they got here: Rocky Mount High won on Friday to earn second place in the Big East Conference. Southern Lee finished fourth in the Patriot Conference.

The bracket: The Gryphons need an upset to host another playoff game. RMH would play the winner of No. 4 Terry Sanford on the road, or No. 13 Wilson Fike at home. The Gryphons could meet Southern Nash in the third round.

Quick hit: The Gryphons have a balanced offensive attack with 1,061 passing yards and 1,655 rushing yards. Quarterback Jaquan Lynch has 12 touchdown passes with just one interception. RMH is talented, but will have to clean up its volume of penalties as it plays better and better teams in the postseason.

No. 9 Vance County (9-2) at No. 8 Northern Nash (7-4)

How they got here: Northern Nash finished third in the Big East Conference. Vance County finished third in the Big 8 Conference, where it lost both of its games.

The bracket: With a win the Knights would travel to Southern Nash in the second round. The 3-A playoffs go through Southern Nash. Havelock earned the No. 2 seed, with Eastern Alamance gaining the third seed.

Quick hit: Northern Nash’s rushing attack, led by Amir Pittman-Williams (1,625 yards and 19 touchdowns), will be tough to slow down. The Knights are having one of the better seasons, and if they play a clean game will be tough to beat. Vance County has allowed 222 points this season.

Class 2-A

No. 15 East Bladen (5-5) at No. 2 SouthWest Edgecombe (10-1)

How they got here: SWE’s lone loss was to non-conference rival and 1-AA top-seeded Tarboro. The Warriors took care of business elsewhere and won the Eastern Plains Conference. East Bladen finished fourth in the Three Rivers Conference.

The bracket: Clinton (9-1) earned the top seed in the 2-A East, and wouldn’t run into SWE until the semifinals. The Cougars would get the winner between No. 7 Whiteville and No. 10 Wallace-Rose Hill.

Quick hit: SWE has four shutouts this season while scoring a whopping 493 points. The Cougars are strong all over the field, and are led by Cortezz Jones (1,140 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns) and Demari Mabry (997, 12). The Cougars’ passing game keeps opponents honest, with big receiver Keishon Porter grabbing eight touchdowns this season to go with 531 yards.

Class 2-AA

No. 15 Nash Central (5-6) at No. 2 Washington (8-3)

How they got here: Nash Central finished third in the Eastern Plains Conference. Washington finished second in the Eastern Carolina Conference.

The bracket: The winner of this game will face either No. 7 Salisbury or No. 10 Mount Pleasant in the second round. Randleman earned the top seed in the East.

Quick hit: The Bulldogs lost in overtime in the final game of the regular season, and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. Nash Central’s rushing attack is led by Justus Staten’s 396 yards and four touchdowns, with Shemar Henderson adding 379 yards and four scores.

Class 1-A

No. 2 North Edgecombe (8-3), BYE

How they got here: The Warriors opened the season with three losses in the first four games before running off a seven-game winning streak and a perfect mark in the Tar Roanoke Conference.

The bracket: North Edgecombe will play the winner of No. 7 Washington County and No. 10 Perquimans. The Warriors will play at home, barring any upsets, until it would run into top-seeded Rosewood for the right to play in the title game.

Quick hit: North Edgecombe has three rushers with at least 531 yards and five touchdowns. Devonte Barnes leads the way with 1,002 and 15 touchdowns, with Erick Moss’ 853 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Class 1-AA

No. 1 Tarboro (11-0), BYE

How they got here: The Vikings completed their third consecutive undefeated regular season while winning the Coastal Plains Conference.

The bracket: The 1-AA playoffs go through Tarboro, which will host either No. 8 South Stokes or No. 9 Hobbton in the second round. (Both of those teams have losing records at 5-6). East Surry, the team that Tarboro defeated in last season’s title game, is the top seed in the West bracket and enters with an 11-0 record.

Quick hit: Tarboro begins its title defense in the second round. The Vikings are playing for its third consecutive state title. The Vikings run game has produced 45 touchdowns and 2,591 yards. The defense, meanwhile, has six shutouts and hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in any game this season.

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