The leaves are changing, and so are the playoffs hopes of many teams in Charlotte. The Mecka conference is home to one of the closest races in the city for a playoff berth. With only three guaranteed spots, there are currently five teams within one game of each other. Mallard Creek is 4-0 in conference play, and appear to be the only lock to make the playoffs at this point. A.L. Brown, North Meck, West Charlotte, Hough, and Vance all have a shot to get into the playoffs, and it’s possible the one of these teams will sneak into the postseason with a wildcard spot.
The season is entering the fourth quarter, and a lot of teams must battle back from a deficit to get into the postseason. Here’s a preview of this week’s matchups.
Vance (6-2, 3-1) at North Mecklenburg (3-5, 2-2)
Despite sitting sixth in the Mecka, Brad Baker’s Vikings control their own destiny. North Meck wraps up the season with a gauntlet of Vance, Hough, and Mallard Creek, but if they can pull off a victory this Friday, the Vikes will shoot into a playoff spot. North Meck has now played a few weeks without quarterback Nolan Beasley, and the defense has answered the bell while the offense struggled in his absence. With a strong core on offense and defense, the Vikings know that to make the playoffs, they have to win three playoff-esque games.
Vance comes into Friday’s game on the heels of a heartbreaking 29-22 defeat at Mallard Creek. Aaron Brand’s Cougars are led by quarterback Omar Baker, Jr., and have had no problem scoring. As one of the fastest teams in Charlotte, Vance has proven to be a tall task to slow down all season long. If Donnavan Spencer has success on the ground early, it might be a long night for North Meck against the potent Vance offense. Brand’s team knows they probably let the conference title slip away last week, and their frustration will be taken out on the Vikings.
If North Meck plays mistake free ball and can force Vance into some turnovers, they’ll have a shot. Otherwise, it will be difficult to keep pace with the Cougars.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Vance 42, North Meck 14
Mallard Creek (7-1, 4-0) at A.L. Brown (4-4, 2-2)
After another scare last week against Vance, Mike Palmieri’s Mavericks travel to Kannapolis to face the Wonders of A.L. Brown. Kannapolis was rocked last week at Hough, and Mike Newsome’s team is struggling to establish an identity. Mallard Creek has found a way to win in close games, something that should prove to be a benefit once the playoffs roll around for the Mavs. Quarterback James Smith has proven why he’s one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the area, leading Mallard Creek’s offense in comebacks the last two games. When the Mavs come out of the gate strong, they don’t often look back and put games away early.
A.L. Brown is still looking to establish some consistency, and Mike Newsome’s Wonders have struggled at times on defense. Donnavan Spencer of Vance set a Mecklenburg County rushing record against Kannapolis back on October 4, when he rushed for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Damon Johnson has playmaking ability, and he will need to have a huge game if the Wonders are going to pull off the upset. If Brown can control the point of attack on offense and keep the chains moving, then they’ll have a chance to limit Mallard Creek’s possessions. If the Wonders are unable to get rolling offensively, much like the Vance game, Mallard Creek will pull off another victory and put Kannapolis squarely on the playoff bubble.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Mallard Creek 46, A.L. Brown 20
Hough (5-3, 3-1) at West Charlotte (4-4, 2-2)
After putting together possibly their best performance of the season, Hough visits West Charlotte, knowing they control their own playoff destiny. The Huskies pounded A.L. Brown last week, and know they can finish at least second in the Mecka if they win their last three games. Hough has struggled at times this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Miles Aldridge’s club is starting to click, however, and the results are beginning to show. The Huskies were up 30-0 on Mallard Creek before the Mavericks stormed back to take the victory. With three more games to prep for the postseason, the Huskies remain a darkhorse to make a deep run in the playoffs.
West Charlotte comes into Friday’s game having exceeded many pundits’ expectations. The Lions have won four games for the first time since 2010, and could slip into the playoffs if all of the dominoes fall their way. Scoring points consistently has been a struggle for the Lions, but their defense has found a way to keep their games close. West Charlotte has only lost by 10+ three times this year, against Butler, Mallard Creek, and Vance–the three most prolific offenses in Charlotte. The Lions are young, hungry, and Collins has the players believing they can compete with everyone they play.
It won’t be easy for West Charlotte to keep up in this game, but you can bet your last dollar the Lions won’t quit if they get down early. Hough’s talent is just too much for West Charlotte to pull of the victory in this one.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Hough 42, West Charlotte 14
Hopewell (1-7, 0-4) at Jay M. Robinson (0-8, 0-4)
Hopewell visits Robinson in a game pitting two teams looking for a boost. With the playoffs seemingly out of reach for both teams, both coaches know a victory would be useful in the morale of their players. Hopewell has dropped six in-a-row following a 39-0 shutout of Garinger on opening night. The Titans have been bad on the road, getting outscored 86-7 in three games, including a 6-0 shutout against rival North Mecklenburg. Matt Jenkins’ team has only scored 20 points once this year, and this week’s game against Robinson might be a good time to get the offense clicking.
Following a 1-10 record in 2013, the Bulldogs of Robinson are staring 0-11 in the face. Coach Joe Glass is familiar with rebuilding a program, as he took over an 0-10 Patton team and won seven games just two years later. The Bulldogs have a lot against them, but the coaching staff and players won’t quit. After nearly picking up a win last week against North Meck, the Bulldogs know this Friday will be their best chance to get a win before visiting Mallard Creek on Halloween.
USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Hopewell 26, Robinson 7