Here's what each of our teams are and could be facing in the game's first two rounds of the playoffs:
APEX (8-2), 7-seed in 4-AA East
The Cougars open at home against 10-seed West Johnston (7-3) of the Greater Neuse conference. These two teams are going in opposite directions. Apex has won six of its last seven. West Johnston started the year 8-0, but has lost their last three and is dealing with some in-house turmoil. Still, it should be one of the better games on the 4-A or 4-AA bracket. The winner plays the winner of (15) Southern Pines Pinecrest (6-4) at (2) Wilmington Hoggard (9-1).
MIDDLE CREEK (4-6), 7-seed in 4-A East
The luck of the draw was the difference in giving the Mustangs a home game in the first round, but their task won't be easy. Smithfield-Selma, also of the Greater Neuse Conference, finished the year 7-4 overall and 3-4 in the conference. Looking at SSS, the upset over Chapel Hill certainly stands out, but so do losses to Knightdale and Clayton - two 4-7 teams that didn't make the postseason. Who knows which SSS team Middle Creek will face, but I'm sure the Mustangs are hoping for the latter. The one who wins this game must play the winner of (15) Cary versus (2) SE Raleigh. Speaking of Cary...
CARY (4-6), 15-seed in 4-A East
The Imps squeaked into the playoffs. There has never been more than 40 guys on the Cary roster, and the lack of depth has hurt a team that has more talent than it's given credit for. Cary had leads on Apex and Sanderson entering the fourth quarter and had lost third-quarter leads against Leesville Road and Athens Drive. Now the Imps will have a rematch on their hands with the Greater Neuse River champion SE Raleigh (9-1), the team that defeated them 27-18 on Sept. 18 at SE Raleigh. In that game, SE Raleigh ran for 232 yards - 231 of them came from Kevin Howell. Howell is still running well, but the Imps were a long ways from rounding into midseason form. That being said, however, it'll be a tall task of any team having to face SE Raleigh in the first round.
ATHENS DRIVE (4-6), 14-seed in 4-A East
Athens also snuck into the playoffs, proving that their last game, a 41-3 win over Green Hope, was an important one. The Jaguars will hit the road to face 3-seed Southern Durham (8-2). Southern Durham is a traditional powerhouse, and this year they finished tied for first in the PAC 6 Conference. Although talented, Southern Durham has been somewhat of a dysfunctional family at times this year. That might be a thing of the past however, as the Spartans have reeled off back-to-back shutouts, outscoring opponents 93-0. If one team can overcome adversity, it's the Jaguars. They've won four games this year with three different starting quarterbacks, and I'm not sure many teams can win even one game with a third-string QB, but the Jags did it. They've rounded into form slowly, as the defense is still working to catch up with the offense. "Catch up" is something the Athens will try to avoid playing with Southern Durham on Friday. The winner advances to play the winner of (11) Fayetteville Pine Forest (5-5) at (6) Durham Hillside (9-0-1).