Fire up the bus.
It’s been a long time since Robbinsville had to load up, turn the ignition and travel in the NCHSAA football playoffs.
Three years to be exact.
Friday’s 1-A Western Regional championship game between the two-time defending Smoky Mountain Conference champs and Community School of Davidson (12-2) is the first road contest for Robbinsville (11-2) in the state football playoffs since 2012 (a 42-34 loss at Murphy).
The 7:30 p.m. game will be played at North Mecklenburg High since the host school does not have its own field.
“It’s a little my fault with our scheduling,” Robbinsville coach Dee Walsh joked about the road trip.
“I scheduled two real quality opponents that we lost to (Charlotte Country Day and Dade County, Ga.) and so we have to travel. (Community School of Davidson) is very athletic with three really good receivers and a real good tailback who has rushed for over 1,500 yards. We think we’re a bit bigger up front and hopefully we can use that to our advantage. You don’t see many people running a 5-2 offense any more, but they do, and so we’ve been preparing for that.”
The Black Knights have won 10 consecutive games after stumbling, 20-6, at Dade County on Sept. 4.
Lane Millsaps is their 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 dispense, 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 an offensive line anchored by former SMC Lineman of the Year Austin Hedrick, who is a 6-foot-3, 310-pound senior.
Paden Welch provides the most tackles of any Black Knights defender (9.6 per game), followed by 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).
Robbinsville is practicing and playing football games in December for the second consecutive year. It’s not something that Walsh or his players take for granted as they try to become WNC football’s first repeat state champion since Swain County — the Maroon Devils won three straight NCHSAA 1-A championships from 1988 to 1990.
The Black Knights were 16-0 when they hoisted the 1-A state championship trophy last year in Raleigh.
“Practicing this time of the year is your objective at the start of every season,” Walsh said.
“Sure, we’re excited, but we’re not letting up. We’re still trying to improve and there is no one looking past Friday. We’ve got to win this game before we start worrying about the next step.”