As expected, Red Springs and St. Pauls will burrow their cleats into their respective home turfs, while Lumberton and South Robeson start the postseason on the road.
Red Springs (8-2), fresh off claiming its first conference championship since 2004, earned a No. 2 seed in the 1AA Mideast pod. The Red Devils will play host to No. 7-seed Midway (5-5), a repeat of last year’s No. 2-7 matchup. The Red Devils squeezed by Midway, 14-13, at The Inferno last fall.
Red Springs head coach George Coltharp vividly remembers that wind-and-rain riddled slugfest.
“That was a tough ballgame for us last year, we had to stop a two-point conversion to win the game,” Coltharp said. “They came prepared to play. You’re not going to out-coach those guys. It’s really a situation where you have to outplay them, and if you don’t … .”
But if the Red Devils do take care of business against Midway in round one, Coltharp and Co. could see a potential second-round showdown with Wallace-Rose Hill. The Bulldogs (7-3), who host Pender (5-5) in the No. 3-6 matchup, ended Red Springs’ playoff run in the state quarterfinals in a 34-19 count.
In the 1A Midwest pod, after a long hiatus South Robeson (3-7) is back in the postseason under first-year head coach Stephen Roberson. The Mustangs travel to unbeaten No. 1 seed Albemarle (10-0).
Fellow Three Rivers foe St. Pauls (8-3) drew a No. 3 seed in the 2AA Mideast bracket and will host No. 6 Northwood (6-4). The Bulldogs, who average 47.6 points a night, put an exclamation point on their scoreboard-lighting regular season with a 54-8 rout of cross-town rival Fairmont.
For the Southeastern Conference, five of the league’s six teams — Purnell Swett being the odd team out — are playoff bound. Last year, all six SEC squads saw the postseason, marking the first time in the history of the NCHSAA football playoffs that an entire six-team conference was invited to the postseason.
In the 4AA Mideast bracket, Lumberton (5-5), which pushed itself securely into the playoffs with a 42-18 win over Swett on Friday, heads to Fayetteville as a No. 7 seed to knock helmets with No. 2 Jack Britt (9-1) for the second time this season. The Pirates were shut out by the Bucs, 27-0, on the road in Week 2.
Pirates head coach Mike Brill can’t say he’s surprised by drawing the all-too-familiar Bucs, but will say he doesn’t like it.
“You play the same teams you’ve already played, that’s not what the playoffs are about,” Brill said. “Playoffs should be about playing different teams who are in different conferences.
“Basically, with this, it’s like a conference tournament.”
Proving as much, joining the Pirates in the 4AA pod are fellow SEC members Richmond, Hoke and Pinecrest.
No. 1-seeded Richmond (9-1) hosts No. 8 Cary (5-5), while No. 3 Hoke (8-2) hosts No. 6 Pinecrest (5-5) — the Bucks just put a 35-7 thrashing on the Patriots on Friday.
Meanwhile, reigning 4A state-champ Scotland, which collected its second straight SEC title with a 21-14 win over Richmond on Friday, takes a No. 1 seed into the 4A Mideast pod. The Scots (9-1) will host No. 8 East Chapel Hill (5-5).