All kickoffs at 7:30 p.m.
No. 10 WALKERTOWN (9-5) at No. 3 MITCHELL (13-1)
How they got here: Walkertown beat No. 7 Pine Lake Prep, 35-26, No. 2 West Montgomery, 63-35 and No. 3 East Surry, 28-14. Mitchell beat No. 13 North Moore, 41-20; No. 12 Mount Airy, 41-14 and No. 1 East Wilkes, 17-14.
The winner plays: No. 3 James Kenan (13-1) or Wallace-Rose Hill (13-1) in the NCHSAA 1-AA championship game on Dec. 12 at Winston-Salem’s BB&T Field, 12:05 p.m.
Last regional championship for Mitchell: None.
Notes: Lordy, lordy! From the very start, the 40-year commemoration of Mitchell starting a football program has been eventful, rewarding and lots more for everyone in and around Ledger. The Mountaineers enjoyed their best-ever start to a season (8-0) in October, set a school record for wins (13) last Friday and now get to play a home game in December for the first time. Why ruin the theme? The Co-Western Highlands Conference champions have only been this far in the NCHSAA playoffs once before (a 22-7 loss at Albemarle in 2010) and have never won a regional or state championship in football. Ben Young (2,331 passing yards, 588 rushing yards and 36 combined touchdowns) and the Mountaineers are undefeated (8-0) at home. Young has thrown for more than 3,500 yards in two seasons, including 115 in last week’s win at previously-undefeated East Wilkes. The sophomore’s receiving corps is a group headlined by Tre Carson (48 receptions for 991 yards and 10 touchdowns), McKinney (20 receptions for 371 yards and five touchdowns), Brody Smith (20 receptions for 278 yards) and Justin Greene (20 receptions for 244 yards and one touchdown). Other threats for an offense putting up 253.8 rushing yards per game are Dalton Beaver (843 yards, 13 touchdowns), Cy Thomas (756 yards, 10 touchdowns), Peyton Greene (429 yards, eight touchdowns), Braxton Tehandon (297 yards, seven touchdowns) and Jake Robinson (294 yards five touchdowns). The defense is dependent on the tackling of Beaver (10.3 per game), Will Atkins (7.9), Jacob Yelton (6.2) and Alex McKinney (4.7). Ben Bonner was cool under pressure last Friday – the sophomore’s first field goal of the season (23 yards) sailed true with 2 minutes, 36 seconds to go and was a game-winner. Bonner has made 65 of his 77 extra-point attempts. Second-year coach Travise Pitman is a 1995 Mitchell graduate who has a 21-6 record. Walkertown and Marcus Adams (2,101 yards, 27 touchdowns) have won six straight games after a 3-5 start to their season. Last week’s third-round victory at East Surry avenged a 37-21 loss to the Cardinals on Oct. 9. Adams is a senior who has carried the ball 220 more times than the next-highest rusher for the Wolfpack – quarterback Ian McKnight (1,903 passing yards, 232 rushing yards and 21 combined touchdowns). His favorite receivers have been Haji McDaniels (45 receptions for 738 yards and five touchdowns), Trejon Simpson (34 receptions for 645 yards and 11 touchdowns) and Kendrick Campbell (20 receptions for 215 yards and one touchdown). Bryce McTeer averages a team-high 8.0 tackles per game, followed by Josh Borders (6.6), Bryan Reaves (5.5), Ire Stroud (5.1) and Anthony Coles (5.1). Mitchell was seventh in the season’s final Associated Press 1-A state poll, while Walkertown was unranked.
Pick: Mitchell by 1.
No. 2 ROBBINSVILLE (11-2) vs. No. COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF DAVIDSON (12-2) at North Mecklenburg
How they got here: Robbinsville beat No. 15 Hayesville, 52-21, No. 10 Winston-Salem Prep, 37-15 and No. 3 Murphy, 20-14. Community School of Davidson beat No. 16 South Stanly, 54-0, No. 8 Andrews, 24-0 and No. 4 Thomas Jefferson, 33-28.
The winner plays: No. 2 Southside (12-1) or No. 1 Plymouth (12-2) in the NCHSAA 1-A championship game on Dec. 12 at Winston-Salem’s BB&T Field, 4:05 p.m.
Last regional championship for Robbinsville: 2014.
Notes: Smoky Mountain Conference football fell off the map for a while. It has returned to the grid with a vengeance. Robbinsville (2014), Murphy (2011 and 2013) and Swain County (2011) have all won NCHSAA 1-A or 1-AA championships in the last five years. The SMC was shut out of the state-title scene from 2005 to 2010. Which was odd considering that those three aforementioned members of North Carolina’s western-most league for football along with Andrews have 34 combined championships between them. The Black Knights and Paden Welch (9.6 tackles per game) are playing their first road playoff game since 2012 on Friday at North Mecklenburg (since Community School of Davidson does not have a home field). Robbinsville has won 10 consecutive games after stumbling, 20-6, at Dade County (Ga.) on Sept. 4. Lane Millsaps is the two-time SMC champions’ most vaunted rusher (1,408 yards, 13 touchdowns) and receiver (25 receptions for 355 yards and four touchdowns). Fellow senior Colton Millsaps (1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions) has lots of other rushing and receiving options at his expense, including Ian Wiggins (670 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Colby Hemphill (665 yards, nine touchdowns), Kyler Brooks (18 receptions for 210 yards and one touchdown), Reece Postell (17 receptions for 366 yards and three touchdowns) and Chandler Jumper (10 receptions for 144 yards and one touchdown). Robbinsville churns out 243.3 rushing yards per game behind a wall of blockers anchored by former SMC Lineman of the Year Austin Hedrick, who is a 6-foot-3, 310-pound senior. Welch’s supporting cast on defense includes Elijah Wachacha (8.5), Lane Millsaps (8.5), Chad McCoy (7.7). Brooks (6.6), Hedrick (5.7), Hemphill (4.6), Jumper (4.6) and Postell (4.1). Coach Dee Walsh is a 1975 Robbinsville graduate who has a career record of 123-56. Walsh began his second stint as coach in 2008. He previously went 20-20 in four seasons between 1986 and 1989. Walsh played for two of the Black Knights’ 14 state-championship teams (1973 and 1974). Joey Bernardini (1,972 yards, 26 touchdowns), Luke Watts (1,749 yards and 20 touchdowns with 10 interceptions) and Justice Woods (43 receptions for 558 yards and four touchdowns) are the biggest cogs in the Community School of Davidson’s offense. Nick Piselli (12.9 tackles per game) and Chad Ferrell (11.0) pace the defense. Both of the Spartans’ losses where shutouts that occurred in back-to-back weeks – 35-0 at North Mecklenburg on Sept. 11 and 48-0 at Davidson Day on Sept. 18. Robbinsville was eighth in the season’s final Associated Press 1-A state poll, while Community of Davidson was unranked.
Pick: Robbinsville by 7.