GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Perennial powers. Newcomers. A cross-county matchup.
This year’s NCHSAA football regional final matchups feature a little bit of everything. This week, a total of 16 teams across four classifications will compete for a trip to next week’s state championship games.
Here’s a look at the East and West regional finalists.
No. 3 Rosewood (10-4) at No. 1 Tarboro (12-1)
Tarboro is the only defending state champion remaining among all four classifications. The Vikings won the eighth state championship in school history last season. They’ve won the past five regional championships, and four of the past five state championships. The heavily-decorated Vikings are looking for their 14th regional championship overall. Tarboro has two running back who’ve eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards this season: sophomore Mason Satterfield (142 carries, 1,212 yards, 18 rushing TDs), and freshman Kamerin Mcdowell-Moore (105 carries, 1,123 yards, 20 rushing TDs).
Rosewood is looking for its fourth all-time regional title and its first since 1991. Rosewood is 0-3 all-time in state championship games. The Eagles had an impressive turnaround after starting this season 1-4. They’ve won nine games in a row since then, eliminating previously-unbeaten North Moore to advance to the regional final.
No. 6 Draughn (13-1) at No. 4 Mount Airy (13-1)
Mount Airy is looking to return to the state championship game for the first time since 2017. The Granite Bears defeated Murphy in the 1-AA West Regional that year before falling to Tarboro in the championship game. Mount Airy has a 1,500-yard rusher this year in junior Tyler Mason. Mount Airy has emerged victorious in one of its three state championship game appearances.
Draughn, a Burke County School District member located in Valdese, is playing in the regional finals for the first time in school history. Draughn has just one loss this season, a 28-27 overtime defeat against East Burke. Receiver Zach Pinkerton has 1,064 receiving yards — the 15h-best mark in the state — and 18 touchdown receptions. Junior quarterback Elijah Tillery has thrown for 2,452 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Junior Nigel Dula leads the team with 29 rushing touchdowns.
No. 12 Wallace Rose Hill (12-2) at No. 2 East Duplin (13-1)
The stakes are much higher now than when these Duplin County rivals met for a regular-season game in October. East Duplin won that game, 13-12. The Panthers are powered offensively by senior running back Avery Gaby (196 carries, 1,865 yards, 38 rushing TDs) and junior quarterback Zach Brown (1,157 passing yards, 18 TDs, five INTs).
Wallace-Rose Hill has seven state championships under its belt and is looking for another shot at No. 8 after finishing as the runner-up last year. Irving Brown and Corbin Kerr have combined for almost 3,000 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns for the Bulldogs this season.
No. 3 Burns (13-1) at No. 1 Reidsville (13-1)
Reidsville has the most regional championships (22) and state championships (19) of any North Carolina school. The Rams appear poised to add some more hardware to their trophy case. They’ve been cruising through the playoffs, defeating Madison (76-14), Providence Grove (51-25), Chase (30-0) and Maiden (35-7).
Burns has three regional final appearances, most recently in 2019. Bulldogs quarterback Ben Mauney has the fifth-most passing yards in the state (3,235) to go along with 36 touchdowns. Ryan Thompson leads the Bulldogs with 1,042 yards and 13 touchdowns on 70 receptions.
No. 3 Seventy-First (14-0) at No. 1 Northern Nash (14-0)
There’s an interesting historical tie in this game: The last time Northern Nash appeared in the regional finals was in 1986. Thirty-six years later, the Knights finally have a chance to get revenge against the school that eliminated them. Seventy-First won 15-13 in 1986. Dual-threat quarterback Keno Jones and the Knights’ offense will look to move on to state this week.
Seventy-First hasn’t won a regional final since 2008. The undefeated Falcons are led offensively by junior Anthony Quinn Jr., who has the state’s fifth-most rushing yards (2,248) this season. Senior Jayden Shotwell has added more than 1,200 yards on the ground for the Falcons.
No. 11 South Point (13-1) at No. 4 East Lincoln (14-0)
East Lincoln is back in the regional finals for the sixth time since 2017. The Mustangs’ most recent regional victory happened in 2014 when they won the 2-AA West. The Mustangs are undefeated this season.
This is South Point’s ninth trip since 2002 to the regional final. The Red Raiders have a chance to advance to the state championship game for the first time since 2016. South Point has one of the state’s top running back in Cam Medlock (1,906 rushing yards, 33 touchdowns).
No. 12 Millbrook (13-1) at No. 2 New Bern (14-0)
New Bern is playing in the regional finals for the 11th time since 1995. The Bears are looking for their first regional title since 2014, and a chance to compete for the program’s fourth state title. The Bears have several weapons on both sides of the ball, including Florida State commit K.J. Sampson on the defensive line, and a trio of players with over 1,000 rushing yards (Aronne Herring, Jayden Wallace, Damaree Tucker).
Millbrook is making its first appearance in the regional finals. Millbrook quarterback Mason Fortune has the second-most passing yards in the NCHSAA (3,8200), and Nathan Leacock has the second-most receiving yards (1,650).
No. 6 Weddington (13-1) at No. 1 Grimsley (14-0)
Both of these teams haven’t been away from the regional finals for long. Grimsley made its most recent appearance in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. Mitchell Summers is closing in on 1,961 rushing yards for the Whirlies, and Terrell Anderson now has more than 1,000 yards receiving.
Weddington’s last regional finals appearance was in 2019 when the Warriors defeated Watauga for the 3-AA West title. Junior quarterback Tyler Budge has passed for almost 3,000 yards this season, tallying 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.