The second round of the playoffs are here, and we've got three teams in it, and all three could win (even though one would certainly be an upset). Let's take a look at the games involving the season's three winningest Tri-Nine teams.
6- Hillside (9-3) at 3-Middle Creek (11-1)
Sixth-seeded Durham Hillside (9-3) will travel to third-seeded Middle Creek (11-1). The Mustangs have not lost at home all season. The Hornets' defense, led by 360-pound defensive tackle Eric Young, has given up just 4.3 points a game in its past eight games, with no team scoring more than 12.Middle Creek's defense also has been on a hot streak, giving up 13.8 points a game in the past five. The Mustangs' offense will put Hillside to the test, however, because junior quarterback Garrett Leatham has thrown for more than 3,400 yards this season. Leatham has attempted 333 passes and completed 62 percent, with 32 touchdowns. Middle Creek has never advanced past the second round. Hillside junior quarterback Vad Lee, who has offers from North Carolina and Duke, has attacked opposing defenses through the air and on the ground. In the end, I think Middle Creek gets just enough to advance past the Hornets and into the third round.
Final verdict: Middle Creek by 11
5-Fuquay-Varina (10-2) at 4-Pinecrest (10-2)
While Pinecrest, a program that was identical to Green Hope's until two years ago, may have doubled the school's playoff win total last week they will not be an easy match-up for Fuquay. These Patriots have been a tough out for nearly every team they've played. The No. 5 Bengals' running game was good enough to get out of the first round, but now a road test awaits Ryan Habich's team in the second round. Junior fullback Cory Hunter is 7 yards from 2,000 rushing yards this season to go along with 31 touchdowns. In the past two years alone, Hunter has 54 rushing touchdowns and 3,881 yards. The big question will be if Fuquay's defense, which has played better in recent weeks, can give its offense the lead late in the game. If that happens, then the Bengals won't have to pass. And if Fuquay attempts 10 passes, believe me, that's not a good thing -- it means they're down and desperate. I think Fuquay will win decidingly because Pinecrest doesn't stop the run well -- and that doesn't bode well for them. Also, the Bengals can expect a raucous atmosphere if Patriot fans show up like they did for their soccer game on Wednesday night.
Final verdict: Fuquay by 14
8-Athens Drive (9-3) at 1-Southern Durham (11-1)
This is a rematch from last year's 4-A playoffs, when then-14 seed Athens Drive (now No. 8) and third-seeded Southern Durham (now No. 1) met in the first round. Athens Drive took a 7-0 first-quarter lead into the dying minutes of the contest, until Southern's Tony Creecy took over. The wide receiver got free for a 23-yard reception that set up a Southern 1-yard touchdown run two plays later, then caught a two-point conversion attempt as he fell out of bounds for an 8-7 lead with a little over four minutes left. The Spartans' only blemish on their record this year came in a 10-0 loss at Wake Forest-Rolesville. The Jaguars have won six of their past seven, and while I think Southern will almost assuredly overlook Athens and make this one close, it won't be enough for Jeff Smouse's team.
Final verdict: Southern Durham by 12