The high school football playoffs are here and I've decided it's time to revive my tradition of explaining my picks as seen in the weekly Football Forecast in The Wilson Times. Wait a minute ... is it still a tradition if it takes a year-long break? Ah, never mind, I'm here now, right?
West Brunswick at Hunt: The Warriors went 10-0 in the regular season and this is not the time for their first loss. The Trojans have the only losing record in the East bracket, or pod if you will, and shouldn't provide much resistance to the Warriors, who are hungry to follow last year's 3-AA Eastern final appearance. That path will be much harder this time around for Hunt, which will see either Nash Central or Gray's Creek next week in Warrior Stadium. Nash Central gave Hunt all it could handle two weeks ago and a second trip to Wilson might prove fruitful for the Bulldogs. Gray's Creek is also formidable, losing just once and by only six points to unbeaten Douglas Byrd. Hunt 38, West Craven 12
Interesting sidenote to a potential Hunt-Gray's Creek matchup: You think Gray's Creek fans will remind Hunt head coach Randy Raper of his peacemaking role in the girls soccer fight in the playoffs a few years ago?
Fike at West Carteret: The Golden Demons, by virtue of record and seeding, are considered the underdogs here. But let's face it, the Patriots are sputtering down the stretch and the reason for that is they finally played some good teams. West Carteret's first five games were against opposition with a combined 21-32 record. The Golden Demons, on the other hand, faced teams in their first five games that went 39-13, including unbeaten Jacksonville Northside and Hunt. Fike 27, West Carteret 16
Southern Nash at Triton: Wow! What a powerhouse first-round matchup. The Firebirds are arguably two plays from being 9-1, just like the Hawks, who won the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference title. Talk about grind-it-out, smashmouth football, these teams should put on a trench war that will, as these affairs always do, come down to who makes the fewest mistakes. Because the Firebirds have shown a tendency to hurt themselves in that regard, I've got to take Triton — but not by much. Triton 28, Southern Nash 26
SW Edgecombe at Kinston: Cougars head coach Raymond Cobb credits his team's second-half showing in its 40-12 loss at home to Kinston during the regular season as the impetus for the Cougars' turnaround from an 0-4 start, including the loss to the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference Vikings. Clearly, this isn't the same SWE team Kinston saw in mid-September and while I won't be surprised to hear Coach Cobb calling me Friday night to report a winning score, I can't, in good faith, go against the top seed playing at home in the first round. Especially when said No. 1 seed has C.J. Bradshaw at quarterback. The Cougars keep it interesting for a spell but Kinston's got too much of everything. And that's just enough. No miracle for SouthWest. Kinston 40, SW Edgecombe 27
North Johnston at Roanoke Rapids: These two teams got in a shootout in the Roanoke Valley a few weeks ago and the Yellow Jackets made out with a 55-40 win after building a big lead courtesy of Panthers turnovers. A road win is certainly within NoJo's capability but I'm sticking with recent tradition, which says when North Johnston and Roanoke Rapids play football, the Jackets win. Roanoke Rapids 34, North Johnston 20
Greene Central at Jacksonville Northside: Rams coach Kenneth Grantham and Monarchs mentor Bob Eason are buddies, played football together at Greene Central, went to ECU together. But don't expect Eason to show much sentimentality other than to not run up the score. Had the Rams not had personnel issues during the season, they might be 7-3 or 8-2 and hosting a game instead of 5-5 at the No. 1 seed. But that's not where they are and Friday probably won't be pleasant for Greene Central. Northside 52, Greene Central 14