As I did last year, I'll post my weekly predictions right here on this blog every Thursday before Friday's games.
We will have all four area games covered Friday night both at carynews.com/sports and on the N&O's high school sports page. Everyone's in action except for Lee County (6-2, 4-1), which has their bye week.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Middle Creek at Cary
This is easily the biggest game this Friday. The two teams couldn't contrast any more on offense or be more similar on defense. While Middle Creek loves the pass, Cary (7-1, 4-1) loves the run. Middle Creek (6-1, 4-0) threw for more than 400 yards last week, but it's having some trouble in the red zone. Cary, meanwhile, loves the run but has found success in the pass this year. A big factor will be how much Deandre Henry can make an IMPact (sorry for the pun) for the Imps. While his backup Sherrod-Cooper did well against Athens, Henry is a gamebreaker and helps everyone on that offense out. Cary's passing game has been exceptional this year and coach Ben Kolstad feels more confident going to the pass now than ever. If it comes down to special teams, there might not be a better unit in the conference than Cary. It's funny, at the beginning of this year I had Middle Creek No. 1 in the Tri-Nine with Cary No. 2. I thought Cary would beat MC but lose Fuquay and Athens. I was wrong on Athens (even though my week-by-week pick was correct), but I'm staying true to what I've said all along: I don't think any one team in this conference will end the year without a Tri-Nine loss. On Friday, Middle Creek might get theirs. FYI, I will be helping David Maney broadcast the game online at the Cary High ihigh.com site. My prediction:Cary by 7
Athens Drive at Panther Creek
Athens Drive (3-4, 1-3) has a real nasty habit of shooting itself in the foot in crucial situations. It was a blown snap for safety against Cary. A blocked field goal with two minutes to go against Lee County. An interception with five minutes to go (with the lead) against Broughton. It's not unreasonable to think that the Jaguars could be 5-2 or 6-1 at this point. But here's the bottom line in this game: Panther Creek has no weakness. If you make mistakes, which Athens has been prone to do this year, the Catamounts (7-0, 4-0) will make you pay. There is no margin for error when playing at P.C., and that's why I think the Catamounts stay perfect. My prediction: Panther Creek by 14
Holly Springs at Apex
Two teams who haven't won since the season's opening weeks meet in Apex (1-6, 0-4) with the chance to get the season's first conference win. It seems, that with the week off, quarterback Adam Nelson is good to go for the Cougars. He's what will turn the tide in Apex's favor in my opinion, as he and Malik Hayes are arguably the conference's top QB/WR duo. Whichever teams wins will still have an outside chance at becoming playoff-eligible, but more importantly for now, they'll remove themselves from a three-way tie for last place. Holly Springs has had a penchant for giving away too many turnovers as of late. But luckily for HSHS, the Golden Hawks are not playing a team known for forcing them. My prediction: Apex by 9
Green Hope at Fuquay-Varina
Both teams like to run the option, but there's one big difference here: the Fuquay offensive line opens up holes while Green Hope struggles to knock people off the line of scrimmage. If that continues on Friday, this won't be a close game. My prediction: Fuquay-Varina by 36