The NCHSAA football playoffs begin Friday, and the Charlotte area is flooded with teams that have state championship aspirations. Look no further than class 4AA, where Independence, Mallard Creek, Butler, and Lake Norman are four of the top five overall seeds in the West bracket. At the lower end of the bracket, Myers park enters the playoffs as a 13 seed. The Mustangs have a tough draw, as they’ll visit Mallard Creek on Friday. Providence will visit Northwest Guilford, and Ardrey Kell will host Page High School.
On the 4A side, Mooresville hosts Vance in a game that has taken on new meaning. With defending state champion Dudley being removed from the playoffs, the winner of the Mooresville/Vance game will now host a second round playoff game against Ragsdale High School. Charlotte Catholic is the third overall seed on the Western side of the bracket, and the Cougars remain a favorite to reach the state championship game.
With the pressure being cranked to the max, every coach, player, and fan knows it’s win or go home. Here’s a look at some of the matchups in the 4AA/4AA playoffs.
South Mecklenburg (8-3) at Butler (9-2)
In what might be the biggest 4AA game of the opening round, Butler will host South Mecklenburg. The Bulldogs enter Friday’s game on the heels of a heartbreaking loss at home versus Independence. Butler rallied from a 24-7 halftime deficit to lead 28-27 late in the fourth quarter before Indy rallied for last-minute game-winning score. Anthony Ratliff-Williams was effective passing the ball, completing 68 percent of his passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Benjamin LeMay added 108 yards on the ground and a score. Brian Hales’ team might be the most explosive on offense in Charlotte, and last week’s second half against Independence was another exhibit of their ability.
South Meck saw their opportunity to earn a share of the South Meck 8 crown disappear last week when they lost to Ardrey Kell. The Sabres needed help to clinch the crown, but were unable to hold up their end of the deal against the Knights. South Meck’s defense has helped carry the “new” South Meck, holding Providence’s potent offense to just seven points two weeks ago. If South Meck is going to find a way to get out of the first round, it will take a herculean effort from the defense to slow down Butler’s offense.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Butler 41, South Mecklenburg 20
Myers Park (5-6) at Mallard Creek (10-1)
Myers park faces a tall task Friday when they visit Mallard Creek. The Mustangs earned their way into the playoffs with a 28-14 victory at East Meck. Scott Chadwick’s team put together three victories in its last four games to earn a playoff spot, and the Mustangs are led by quarterback Clay Norris. Norris threw for 1924 yards and 17 touchdowns this year. Myers Park will have to play smart offensively if they want to pull the upset, as Mallard Creek can strike quickly off turnovers.
Mallard Creek rolls into the playoffs on a nine-game winning streak. Mike Palmieri’s team has been impressive the last three weeks, averaging 50 points per game to finish the regular season. The Mavericks finished off an undefeated conference record with a 42-0 shutout at North Meck. Quarterback James Smith has been sensational this season, and Mallard Creek is a lot of people’s pick to win a second-straight 4AA state championship.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Mallard Creek 44, Myers Park 14
Class 4AA Predictions
Ardrey Kell 38, Page 14
West Forsyth 27, Hough 26
Lake Norman 42, West Charlotte 12
Independence 41, Olympic 19
Northwest Guilford 22, Providence 20
East Forsyth 41, McDowell 7
Vance (8-3) at Mooresville (10-1)
In a game that has suddenly gained huge attention, Aaron Brand’s Vance Cougars travel to Mooresville to face Akease Rankin and the Blue Devils. Vance struggled offensively last week, losing 31-18 against Hough. The Cougars let turnovers ruin their night, fumbling four times in the first half in the loss. Omar Baker and Donnavan Spencer lead Vance’s high powered offense that has averaged 39 points per game this season. Wide receiver Myles Dorn will give Mooresville trouble in the secondary, just a week after Lake Norman’s Josh Ladowski had a ton of success against the Blue Devils.
Mooresville experienced a tough loss last week, losing 40-38 at Lake Norman. Had the Blue Devils won, Mooresville would have been in the No. 1 overall seed conversation. As a result of the loss, Mooresville finds itself in the eighth seed against a strong opponent in Vance. Akease Rankin tweaked his ankle late against Lake Norman, but not before rushing for 258 yards and two touchdowns. Rankin has rushed for over 1500 yards this season, and his yards per carry is still an astonishing 10.5.
In what proves to be the biggest 4A game of the week, both teams should find the endzone in an exciting contest.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Mooresville 28, Vance 21
Class 4A Predictions
Rocky River 34, Roberson 7
Mount Tabor 20, South Caldwell 14
Charlotte Catholic 49, Davie 27
High Point Central 40, Southeast Guilford 33
North Davidson 35, Watauga 14
Reagan 42, A.L. Brown 34