Playoff picture rounds into shape for local football teams

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 10/29/21

Friday marks the last night of the regular season, giving local football teams statewide one more opportunity to embolden their respective resumes for the state playoffs.

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Playoff picture rounds into shape for local football teams

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Friday marks the last night of the regular season, giving some football teams statewide one more opportunity to embolden their respective resumes for the state playoffs.

A new wrinkle to the qualification system this year has teams ranked based on RPI formula, a tool that takes into consideration a program’s strength of schedule, opponents’ strength of schedule and win-loss record. 

Here’s a quick look at the local gridiron groups currently in contention for a postseason bid when the official brackets are released by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Saturday, Oct. 30.

Hobbton (3-6, 0-2 Carolina 1A)

The run-and-gun Wildcats have had a tough go at it of late after averaging an eye-popping 85 points through the first two contests.

Hobbton quarterback Loden Bradshaw got the offense back on track last Friday, going 23-of-23 passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns in the home win over John Paul II. For the season, Bradshaw leads the Carolina 1A Conference with 2,320 yards through the air with 33 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

The Wildcats are safely in the state playoffs, regardless of Friday’s result during the season finale at North Duplin, due to the lack of eligible teams in the 1A East bracket.

Current projections have Hobbton as a No. 20 seed, giving them a first-round road trip. 

Midway (5-4, 2-3 Southeastern Athletic 2A)

A historic shootout win over rival Hobbton to begin the fall campaign gave way to a 4-1 start for Cory Barnes’ run-pass-option Raiders.

But a tough conference slate has seen Midway win just once in its last four outings, losing by an average margin of 15 points.

Wyatt Holland leads the SAC with 2,629 total yards, 29 passing touchdowns and just two interceptions. Trey Gregory paces the team with 953 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. 

Currently, the Raiders are projected as the No. 25 seed in the 2A East bracket ahead of Friday’s matchup with Fairmont, who sits as one of the last teams in.

South Johnston (7-2, 4-2 Quad County 3A)

It doesn’t get much more exciting than a three-way tie for the final automatic postseason bid within a particular conference.

That’s exactly the scenario in front of South as it wraps up the regular season against rival West Johnston at home Friday.

The Trojans have the same league record as Fike and Smithfield-Selma, who also have a shot at finishing second in the conference standings. Having already beat Smithfield-Selma, a Trojans win – coupled with a Fike loss to league-leading Hunt – would give them the conference’s second automatic berth.

Paul Olive (1,563 passing yards, 467 rushing yards) leads the team on offense, while Brayden Barefoot has a team-leading 1,085 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns. Lucas Layman powers the South defense with 68 tackles and 14 1/2 sacks.

All three teams are projected to make the 3A East bracket based on high RPI scores, and the team that wins second place isn’t guaranteed a higher seed than the wild card seeds selected from the Quad County.

Triton (3-6, 3-3 All American)

The Hawks have the most work to do of all local teams vying for a postseason bid.

Triton, who has won back-to-back games for the first time all season, is currently projected as the last team out of the 3A East bracket.

A victory at home against rival Harnett Central on Friday – in the first-ever Hiester Bowl– would elevate the group above .500 in the conference standings, leaving the chance for a potential wildcard berth on the table.

Cape Fear, East Wake and C.B. Aycock are among the teams in line to receive a bid ahead of Triton.

Running back J.J. Cowan leads the group with 836 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040

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