We're now just past the halfway point to the NCHSAA state championships which will be held in early December, and now more than ever, we're starting to get a clearer picture as to who the major contenders are and which underdogs might be in the best position to steal the spotlight and make a deep playoff run.
As this week's Dynamic Fitness & Strength Deep South Football N.C. Top-25 Power Rankings are released, we're starting to see a little bit more separation between top teams in the 1A and 4A, but the gap between the top and bottom teams in the 2A and 3A remain razor thin.
In the 4A classification, Wake Forest and Mallard Creek still are head and shoulders above the rest, but as we saw in August, Scotland has proven it can play with the big dogs and depending on how the ADM's look when they're released later this month, Richard Bailey's Fighting Scots could be the odds-on favorite to win the smaller 4A bracket.
While today it seems as if Wake Forest and Mallard Creek would be shoe-ins for the 4AA title game, it's a little too premature to crown them yet because Heritage and Butler are playing some very strong football at the moment.
The one 4A team that I feel has flown under the radar but is worth taking note of is South Central from Pitt County.
As I just stated, the 3A is as close as ever. While I do feel that Charlotte Catholic is significantly better than just about anyone else, New Hanover continues to impress and Jacksonville may be another team that could sneak up and
take that next step from the regional finals to state championships.
South Iredell is a team that all of the coaches have told me to watch out for, especially now that senior Dydrion Leach has returned from an ACL injury to give Brady Pope another target, and the Vikings defensive line is as good as just about any team in the state, regardless of classification.
There still is a logjam atop the 2A ranks with a multitude of quality teams, all with a legitimate claim to the top spot. While South Point owns the number-one ranking today, I feel Reidsville, Shelby, Northeastern, Hibriten, East Duplin, and Wallace-Rose Hill are all A-list programs that are capable of winning it all in December.
The 1A seems a little more top heavy with a significant gap between first and 25th and one could make the case that it's Tarboro and then everyone else, but I'm stressing to everyone not to sleep on East Wilkes, Mount Airy, and of course you've got the SMC foursome in Murphy, Cherokee, Swain County, and Robbinsville that could make deep runs and then there is the threesome from the Yadkin Valley Conference in North Rowan, North Stanly, and West Montgomery that should also have their voices heard come playoff time.
Either way, we're getting to that nitty-gritty time where each and every Friday night is fun because with each passing week, as we peel another layer off, we're getting one step closer to playoff football where the real contenders stand up.
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