A very special thank you to Tigertown@Rick for all the hard work!!
With all the 1A conferences in the state now having played at least 1 conference game, I thought that I would take a look at each conference to see who are the contenders vs the pretenders.
As everyone knows, 64 of the 77 state 1A football teams will qualify for the split-class championships to be held in Winston-Salem this year.
This means that there will be 13 teams that will be practicing basketball when the 1A football playoffs begin on November 13th, which will also be friday the 13th....Pretty strange dates and numbers for sure.
As for the current teams on the playoff bubble, there are 20 teams at the moment that have won either 1 game(11), or have yet to win a game this season(9)...8 of those Teams are in the West, while the other 12 "bubble" teams are in the East.
On a more positive note, there are still 9 undefeated 1A Teams in this state, and they all deserve to be mentioned and recognized...The East currently has 4 "Unbeaten" 1A Teams in (Creswell(6-0),Manteo(7-0),Pender County(6-0) and Southwest Onslow(7-0), and each has their own storyline to follow:
Creswell last played in a state 1A title game back in 1983 when the Tigers were the final victim(28-6) to a Robbinsville football program that won 5 straight 1A Titles from 1979-83'...It's obviously very difficult to get in position nowadays to try and get back to that level of competition when you are one of the smallest 1A schools in the state with a student body of less than 200(165 per last year's ADM#'s)students to pick from....Last year was a very memorable year for the Tigers as they won the TAC with a perfect 8-0 record, advanced to the 3rd round of the 1A playoffs with wins over Rosewood and Perquimans in first and second round, before losing to Williamston(40-6)in the third round. The Tigers also finished the 2009 season with a final record of 10-2, which may or may not be the best in school history?...Anyway, this year the Tigers only returned 5 players on both sides of the ball, but are already off to another great start(6-0), meaning another banner year is likely again this year at the smallest 1A football campus in the state...Good luck to the Tigers!
Just down Hwy 64 about 50 miles or so, the Manteo Redskins are on the warpath again this year....3 Years ago was a magical year for Manteo, finishing as the state 1A runnerup with their only loss on the season(15-1)coming in the 1A finals to Elkin(28-7)...Last year, the Redskins adjusted to heavy graduation losses from that 06' team along with a head-coaching change. Former offensive coordinator Eddie Twyne took the reins as head coach when Walt Davis left for a new 3A school(South Central)...The results were mixed as the Redskins finished with a 6-7 overall record, but the Team started improving late in the year advancing to the 2nd round of the playoffs before losing to Eastern 1A Finalist, Jones Senior(46-38)....This year, the Redskins led by the Bailey Brothers, are once again storming thru the competition in the "new" 8-team Four Rivers Conference with a current 3-0 conference record. To boot, Manteo already owns a victory over conference foe and 08' state 1A Finalist(Williamston)!
Meanwhile, down in Burgaw in Pender County, Patriot fans didn't really know what kind of team that they would have this year after a very respectable 8-6 overall record last year. Of those 8 wins last season, a second round upset of #3 seed Louisburg(12-2)in the Eastern 1AA playoffs happened, before losing to state 1AA runnerup East Bladen(28-13)in the third round of the playoffs in Elizabethtown...Coming into this season, the Patriots are fairly young and inexperienced with only 12 letterman returning and only 4 starters on offense and 5 on defense...Mix with that, the change in conference affiliations from the old split-class Waccamaw conference to an all-exclusive 1A conference that was created from 6 former members of the Super-6 Conference, along with Pender County and fellow Waccamaw conference member Heide Trask...Since the season began, the Patriots have steadily improved to the point that they went on the road last week, and beat Preseason Tri-County favorite James Kenan(14-10)in Warsaw. Two other Former Super-6 members(Hobbton & Midway) have also been dispatched by the Patriots since conference play began, which has created a tie at the top of the TCC standings(3-0) with Wallace Rose-Hill(5-2 & 2-0) who they face this coming friday in Teachey.
Over in Jacksonville, Coach Phil Padgett and his stable of stallions have grown accustomed to winning the last several years in the 2A class with the Stallions claiming recent back-to-back 2A titles in 2003 & 2004 after claiming the outright 2A title in 2000 when they beat Newton-Conover(14-13) for the first state football title for the Stallions...The Stallions are not unknown to the 1A class as they moved-down to the 1A class with a lot of other schools, beginning in 1985 when the NCHSAA realigned the classes,expanding the playoffs from 8 to 32 teams with 16 playoff teams in the East and West....In that first year in 85', Coastal Plains Champ(SW Onslow)advanced to the thrid round of the playoffs before losing to Clarkton(34-8). Two years later, the Stallions again were CPC Champs, and advanced to the third round of the playoffs before losing to a fellow CPC team, in Richlands(27-20). After finishing 3rd in 88' in the CPC,the Stallions once again won the CPC for the 3rd time in 89', and this time they advanced to the Eastern 1A Finals before losing to Albemarle Champion Currituck(44-14) who would finish as the state 1A runnerup to Swain County led by current-day congressman Heath Shuler(35-14)...The Stallions would win the CPC again in 90' & 91', entering the 91' playoffs with a 10-0 record before losing to Rosewood(14-10)in a huge first round playoff upset...After 2 more CPC titles in 92' & 93' didn't produce the necessary results in the playoffs, SW Onslow finished 2nd in the CPC in 94', but advanced to the 3rd round of the playoffs before losing to the CPC champ Pamlico(14-0). The Stallions would produce 2 more CPC titles in 95' & 96', while finishing with an overall record of(20-4) over the next 2 seasons. However, playoff losses to Carolina Conference members Union(2nd round) and Midway(3rd round) ended their 1A playoff fortunes until last year's realignment placed the Stallions back in the 1A class for this season....The Coastal Plains Conference members must feel like the Stallions(7-0 & 1-0) have never left as they have already started the season with 7 straight victories, while staking their claim as the team to beat in the CPC along with Jones Senior(4-3 & 1-0) who they will meet next week in Trenton.
Meanwhile in the West, there are 5 Teams that are currently undefeated in the 1A class, and they are Albemarle(7-0),East Surry(7-0),Hendersonville(7-0),Monroe(7-0) and Mount Airy(7-0), and much like their "Unbeaten" counterparts from the East, these teams too have some great storylines to follow:
For years, Albemarle lanquished in the 2A classification without a whole lot of success, and NO state 2A titles...As enrollment decreased, the NCHSAA finally placed the Bulldogs in the 1A class beginning in 1997, and they were promptly greeted by a hungry Rosman team that had finished tied for 4th in the SMC that year,picking-up steam as the playoffs began. The result was that the Tigers sent the Bulldogs packing(14-12)in the first round of the playoffs...Over the next 3 years, the Bluedogs would finish with an overall record of 28-8. Among those 8 losses was a 3rd round playoff exit in 2000 to Cummings(48-37)in a high scoring affair that would set the stage for that magical 2001 season. With legendary Bluedog Coach Jack Gaster Jr. putting all the pieces in place, and record-breaking RB T.A.McClendon running wild on the opponents, Albemarle advanced to a 2nd round playoff meeting with a Thomasville team that they had yet to beat since moving to the 1A class and joining the Yadkin Valley Conference in 97'...Unlike the defensive showdowns that have become a trademark of this rivalry, Albemarle and Thomasville put on an offensive show with the Bluedogs finally subduing the RedDawgs 43-35,which propelled the Bluedogs to the first of their 3 consecutive 1AA state titles between 2001-2003. Albemarle would finish the 04' season "Unbeaten" as YVC Champs, but Thomasville would turn the tables on the Bluedawgs in the 3rd round of the playoffs(28-21), and would later win the 04' state 1AA title for the first time before repeating as 1AA champs in both 05' & 06'. In 2007, Albemarle would come close again to the 1AA title game before losing at West Montgomery(12-7)in the 1AA Western Finals....Last year in the playoffs, was to be the final playoff matchup for the foreseeable future between the Dawg teams from Thomasville and Albemarle. The game much like previous contest between the two teams was another classic with Thomasville rallying to beat the Bluedawgs(24-13). After this third round slugfest, the RedDawgs claimed their 4th 1AA title in the last 5 years before moving to the 2A class, this year....Coming into this season, Albemarle was ranked at or near the top of most 1A polls as the Bluedawgs return a stingy defense, and a veteran team led by QB Nat Dunlap and RBs A.J.Little and Rusty Parks. The BlueDawg Trio hasn't disappointed, and neither has the BlueDawg team, starting the season "Unbeaten". Among those early season victories was a confidence-building road victory(14-13)over 2A Thomasville a few weeks back before their current 3-0 YVC mark began.
When the NCHSAA realigned the teams at the end of last season, the Northwest Conference did some realigning itself as 4 2A teams joined 1A conference foes Bishop-McGuinness,North Stokes,East Surry and Mount Airy to form the new split-class 1A/2A NWC...As of today, the four 1A teams are atop the Split-Class NWC standings with 2 familiar 1A teams at the top of the standings in "Unbeatens" East Surry and Mount Airy...The Granite Bears are fresh-off winning their first-ever 1A state title last year, doing so in record fashion, while also finishing with a perfect 16-0 record. That winning-streak has continued, and has become the current 23 game-winning streak for the Bears...Most pollsters were reluctant to place the Bears at the top of the Preseason Polls due to the loss of so many seniors from last year's state champion...However, Mount Airy left NO doubt earlier this season, that this year could be just as special as last year,traveling to Thomasville and ending the 2A Bulldogs 17-game winning-streak in a battle between the 2008 state 1A & 1AA Champs...Since then, the Bears have won 5 more games in a row, including 3 NWC games which included friday night's 54-0 victory over North Stokes...A game in which the Vikings offense could only manage 57 total yards, which included 8 rushing yards....A short trip down the road is the Campus of the East Surry Cardinals who have been a perennial 1A powerhouse since the new millineum,thanks in large part to the heady wisdom of head Coach David Diamont. In spite of the great success in the last 10 years, the Cardinals have yet to claim any of the hardware that the Granite Bears or Bucking-Elks(4-1A titles since 2002)have claimed the last several years....Last friday, the Cardinals looked as though they might finally lose their first conference game to a team other than Mount Airy or Elkin, but the Villians of Bishop-McGuinness could not make a halftime(7-3) lead hold up as the Cardinals scored in the 4th quarter to claim a crucial 9-7 win to remain "Unbeaten", and tied atop the NWC standings with Mount Airy...The epic showdown between the two County neighbors will likely have the 2009 NWC crown at stake, and that game will come in the season finale in Pilot Mountain on November 6th!
In Hendersonville, there is a lot of excitement coming-off last year's Western Regional Finals' appearance, which resulted in a loss to Thomasville(28-21). This year, the Bearcats returned most of their skill players from last year's team, including QB Ben Walgenbach who along with WR Daniel Orr are part of the 09' Preseason All-State team....This season didn't start so well for the Bearcats as they lost Walgenbach to separated shoulder in the final preseason scrimmage at 4A T.C.Roberson...His replacement, Jr. Desmond Whiteside filled-in admirally in his absence to keep the Bearcats unblemished on the season. With his injury healed,Walgenbach returned for the crucial matchup with powerful 2A Mountain Heritage, which the Bearcats won thanks to 2 rushing and 2 passing TDs from Walgenbach...The Bearcats joined the 1A class beginning in 1985, but have never played in a state 1A title game, losing in the Western Regional Finals in 2003 & last year.
For the first time in their history, the Monroe Redhawks(7-0 & 4-0) are now a 1A team, and they have made that transition with flying-colors as they sit tied atop the revamped Rocky River Conference with their nearby 2A neighbor from Forest Hills. With capable Jr. QB Jalen Sowell and veteran WRs and RBs to handle the offense, the Redhawks are at the top of most offensive categories in the state, and could seriously challenge the Yellowjackets of Forest Hills. That game this year will be in front of the home folks in Monroe in the season finale, and will likely determine the 2009 Rocky River Champ.
As for other Tidbits from around the state 1A this past week, the Murphy Bulldogs survived a late rally from Robbinsville, putting themselves in the driver's seat for the 2009 SMC title with an 18-16 win.
In the far Northeast corner of N.C., North Edgecombe is off to a 3-0 start in the TRAC for the first time since they finished as a state 1A runnerup to Elkin in 2003.The Warriors' fans will get to see whether there are any other parallels between this team and the 2003 next week when the Warriors travel to face Preseason TRAC favorite, Weldon...Meanwhile, fellow conference member Gates County(4-4 & 2-1)has already won more games this year, than the past 3 years combined with their only conference loss coming to Weldon...Another key matchup at North Edgecombe on October 30th could earn the Red Barons a home playoff game if they are fortunate enough to beat the Warriors?
In the battle between 1A Columbus County foes last friday, East Columbus(2-4 & 1-0) proved that they are the team to beat as they bested West Columbus(3-4 & 0-1) to take control of the 1A portion of the Split-Class Three Rivers Conference. The Gators are also the only 1A team in the state that has a losing-record, while sitting atop of their conference.
In closing, I would like to congratulate the Andrews Wildcats on winning their first SMC game in the last 10 years as they got 3 rushing TDs from Jordan Collins in the Shutout win over the Rosman Tigers whose current losing-streak has now reached 12 games overall.
Didn't plan on it that way, but started this thread with a good story about a Tiger team only to finish this thread with a not-so-good story about another Tiger team.
Anyway, hope everyone enjoys the great amount of research that it took to put this together!