No. 7 Lumberton (5-5) at No. 2 Jack Britt (9-2)
Coaches: LHS — Mike Brill; JB — Brian Rimpf.
Recent history: The Pirates and Buccaneers have met four times since the 2009 season with Jack Britt coming away with three victories, all at home. Two of those came in the postseason. Lumberton’s lone win came in overtime during the 2011 regular season.
What to watch: The 4AA Mideast is filled with teams the Pirates know plenty about including Richmond, Pinecrest and Hoke County. First, though, Lumberton will have to get past a nearby program its never beaten on the road. Lumberton coach Mike Brill reaffirmed his decision to retire at season’s end following last week’s win over Purnell Swett, so Friday’s game could be the finale to a successful career. The Pirates came out with intensity and an excellent game plan against the Rams and need a similar outing to upset the Buccaneers. In two previous playoff matchups at Britt, Lumberton lost by two touchdowns in each contest.
Keep an eye on: Jack Britt senior quarterback Mark McRae who has been banged up over the season’s last month. In a shutout win over Lumberton in August, McRae completed 14-of-21 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
No. 7 Midway (5-6) at No. 2 Red Springs (8-3)
Coaches: MW — Paul Hall; RS — George Coltharp.
Recent history: Midway and Red Springs met in the first round last season with the Red Devils winning a hard-fought 14-13 game.
What to watch: Before a potential postseason rematch with Wallace-Rose Hill, Red Springs must first get past upset-minded Midway, a team that nearly dethroned the Red Devils in their playoff opener last season. The Raiders are a wild-card selection in the 1AA ranks after snapping a five-game losing streak last week against Hobbton. Midway has scored less than two touchdown six times this season and that's not a good omen against a Red Springs defense that hit its stride during a perfect run through the Three Rivers Conference.
Keep an eye on: Midway running back Aaron Thurman, one of only five Raider seniors, scored five touchdowns in last week’s 40-21 victory over Hobbton. Red Springs hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in five straight games.
No. 6 Northwood (6-5) at No. 3 St. Pauls (8-3)
Coaches: NW — Bill Hall; STP — Trey Sasser.
Recent history: The Bulldogs have been booted from the playoffs in the first round each of the past three seasons. St. Pauls' last postseason win came in 2007 when it advanced to the third round with victories over Central Davidson and Southern Guilford.
What to watch: Coming off a third-place finish in the top-heavy Carolina 9 Conference, the Chargers have won back-to-back entering the playoffs against one of the top offenses it has seen this season. St. Pauls has scored 524 total points in 11 games, 69 more than unbeaten Carrboro who was the Carolina 9's unbeaten champ. The Bulldogs have got their mojo back the last two games with consecutive 50-point outings and that could continue against a program that's had an up-and-down season.
Keep an eye on: Jhamel Leonard, St. Pauls' senior cornerback who hasn't won a playoff game in three career tries. Along with other members of the Bulldogs' Class of 2013, they've got their sights set on avoiding a first-round letdown.
No. 8 South Robeson (3-7) at No. 1 Albemarle (10-1)
Coaches: SR — Stephen Roberson; ALB — Danny Akins.
Recent history: South Robeson’s last playoff win came in 2002 when the Mustangs advanced to the 2A fourth round and were fueled by tailback Robert Tillman.
What to watch: South Robeson squeaked into the playoff in the 1A ranks and as the last team in must travel to top-seeded Albemarle in the first round. The Bulldogs’ well-balanced offense is the most dangerous in the Midwest pod with Kevin McKinney, a 1,000-yard rusher and quarterback Deon Christian. Christian’s thrown 19 touchdown passes and just three interceptions this season. Since beating West Columbus three weeks ago, the Mustangs have taken a step back on both sides of the ball and haven’t been able to establish consistency on offense. Quarterback Kalvis Chavis should have his hands full against an Albemarle defense giving up just 8.6 points per game. The Bulldogs have won 13 playoff games the past three seasons and captured state titles in 2009 and 2010.
Keep an eye on: Albemarle defensive lineman Lee Autry who as a sophomore, leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 110 this season. His five sacks ranks him four behind senior leader Tiante Leak.