No. 6 Pender (6-5) at No. 2 Red Springs (9-3)
Coaches: PHS — Tony Hudson; RS — George Coltharp.
Recent history: These two have quite a history on the hardwood, rather than the gridiron, in recent seasons. Most area fans remember Red Springs’ trip to Burgaw during the playoffs in 2009, a dominant Glenn Patterson Jr. and Larry Brown led Red Devils squad that fell to the Patriots, 62-56. The following season, Pender ended Red Springs’ journey towards a state title in the 1A East finals.
What to watch: Four yards and a cloud of dust. That's how Red Springs coach George Coltharp described Pender's offense this week, a unit coming off one of its best performances of the season in the first round at Wallace-Rose Hill. The Patriots' collection of talent in the backfield hopes to keep the Red Devil offense off the field and shorten the game. "We'll need to play our assignments and hit the right people," Coltharp said. A Red Springs win would vault the Three Rivers champion into the third round for the second consecutive season and a likely trip to James Kenan next week.
Keep an eye on: Pender fullback Sam Dixon and Red Springs linebacker Markeiss Blue. These two will cause a cataclysmic collision when they meet in the hole early in the first quarter. If the Patriots eye an upset, Dixon and the Pender ground game must have a big night.
Offensive Edge — Red Springs: The Red Devils simply have more weapons in comparison to Pender, a squad that relies on moving the chains, clock management and holding onto the football. Red Springs' quickstrike attack is as good as any program's offense in the 1A ranks and is averaging 45 points per night during a six-game win streak. A no-huddle flurry of quick handoffs, wheel routes and slip screens is tough to contain. Quarterback Blake Greene is responsible for more touchdowns (56) than Pender has scored as a team (47).
Defensive Edge — Red Springs: Ron Cook's first season as the Red Devils' defensive coordinator has been a good one. Red Springs leads Robeson County in sacks, tackles for loss and has held four opponents to less than 10 points. Byron Locklear and Mike Graham disrupt plays at the line of scrimmage while C.J. McGeachey protects over the top at safety. Both Red Springs and Pender, on average, give up three touchdowns per game and each team has strengthened its case on that side of the ball down the stretch. The Patriots have posted two shutouts.
Intangibles — Pender: As a sixth-seeded wild-card, the Patriots have nothing to lose this week on the road against a favored conference champion that has put up impressive numbers. Coming off an upset win at Wallace-Rose Hill, Pender is playing with house money backed by a smashmouth brand of ground-and-pound. While Red Springs plays well at the Inferno, the challenge of not being lulled to sleep by a triple option attack is the goal on Friday night.
No. 3 St. Pauls (9-3) at No. 2 Reidsville (10-2)
Coaches: STP — Trey Sasser; RHS — Jimmy Teague.
Recent history: These two last met in the third round of the 2007 2A state playoffs with Reidsville coming away with a 57-point victory.
What to watch: For state powerhouse Reidsville, winners of 18 all-time titles, slowing down St. Pauls' two-headed monster of Shawn Williams and Kane Banner is a recipe for success according to coach Jimmy Teague. Reidsville is allowing just 91 rushing yards per contest this season. "St. Paul's has a very good running back that we must stop first. And, their quarterback runs very good. The key for us is to have a good week of preparation. Only 16 teams are left that can win the state championship in our classification." The Bulldogs counter on defense with a veteran unit that's playing its best ball as of late. Stacking the box and limiting big plays is the game plan if St. Pauls has its sight set on reaching the pod final.
Keep an eye on: Reidsville sophomore running Jayron Rankin who owns a team-best 1,131 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns this season. He accumulated 74 yards in last week's victory over Corinth-Holders. Rankin's also the team's second-leading tackler with 77 stops.
Offensive Edge — St. Pauls: Could we be in for a shootout in the 2AA second round? When the Bulldogs get it rolling in the no-huddle, they're tough to contain. As are the Rams. But St. Pauls' ability to both pass and run effectively could confuse a Reidsville defense that gave up nearly 300 yards through the air in its playoff opener. The Bulldogs have picked up 1,000 more yards of offense this season and has bettered the Rams' offensive touchdown total by 17 scores (73, 56). Williams is 43 yards from reaching the 2,000-mark this season and has rushed for triple digits in 10 of 12 games. Impressive.
Defensive Edge — Reidsville: How do you stop a prolific offense? Never let it get into a rhythm and that's what the Rams plan to do between this pair of heavyweights. The Rams have size up front and focus on eliminating the run. Reidsville has shutout three opponents and gave up just 76 points over an unbeaten, six-game conference season. Defense has been St. Pauls' weakness this season, but came through when needed on a crucial fourth down in the first round.
Intangibles — Reidsville: The Rams want to continue playing for Teague who returned to the Reidsville sideline after a three-year absence. From 1992 to 2008, the Rams won 198 games under Teague and captured four state championships. Reidsville is 6-1 at home this season.