By CHRIS HOBBS
A brief look at Friday’s varsity football games involving teams from the South Fork 2A, Northwestern Foothills 2A and Northwestern 3A-4A( all statistics are unofficial):
SOUTH FORK 2A
NORTH LINCOLN (9-1, 6-0)
at BANDYS (5-5, 2-4), 7:30 p.m.
The Knights have already locked up the South Fork 2A championship as they head to Butler Stadium with hopes of snapping a four-game losing streak in their series against the Trojans.
North Lincoln has never won at Bandys (0-2), falling 54-7 in 2011 and 53-50 in in 2017.
The Knights have been playing lights out defensively of late – they still have not given up 100 points for the year (92).
Bandys is projected to get into the state playoffs, win or lose tonight, but an upset victory would probably help the Trojans avoid the No. 32 seed and having to play the top seed on the road in the opening round.
North Lincoln, with its first conference football title in school history, should get a high seed.
If the Knights win tonight, they will tie the school record for single-season wins (10), set by the 2007 team and matched by last year’s team.
EAST LINCOLN (8-2, 4-2)
at NEWTON-CONOVER (6-4, 4-2), 7:30 p.m.
Two of the three teams tied for second place (Maiden is the other) go head-to-head at Gurley Stadium with the winner, at worst, sharing second place.
The Mustangs, led by QB Justin Barnett and RB Cole Barber, have won seven of the last eight in the series.
East Lincoln has also won three of its previous four trips to Gurley, and the Red Devils lead their series 9-8.
Both teams are projected to reach the postseason, East Lincoln for the 15th straight year and Newton-Conover for the fourth time in seven seasons.
MAIDEN (7-3, 4-2)
at LINCOLNTON (3-7, 1-5), 7:30 p.m.
The Blue Devils’ needs are pretty simple tonight – win. If they do, they will tie the East Lincoln-Newton-Conover winner for second place and they own the tiebreaker since they beat both the Mustangs and the Red Devils.
Maiden has won two straight at Lincolnton and three straight overall in a series that (since 1980) the Blue Devils lead 20-18-1. The Wolves had won nine of 10 before Maiden started its current series win streak.
QB Ethan Rhodes leads Maiden, which chases career win No. 35 for head coach Will Byrne.
Maiden will get into the state playoffs again, running its streak to 24 consecutive bids.
LAKE NORMAN CHARTER (1-9, 0-6)
at WEST LINCOLN (7-3, 3-3), 7:30 p.m.
West Lincoln will finish fifth unless there are several surprises tonight.
None would be bigger than the Knights stunning the Rebels, as Lake Norman Charter has never won a South Fork 2A game.
West Lincoln RB Canon Bridges is currently the leading rusher in the conference.
The Rebels should be in the state playoff bracket for the fourth straight season, matching a school-best for that (also 2010-2013).
NORTHWESTERN FOOTHILLS 2A
EAST BURKE (2-8, 1-5)
at DRAUGHN (6-4, 4-2), 7:30 p.m.
The Cavs have won four of their five all-time visits to Draughn and are 6-4 against the Wildcats in a series that began in 2009.
RB Josh Moore has been East Burke’s leader this season and will exit Icard with many if not most of the Cavs’ single-season and career rushing records.
The Wildcats feature QB Braxton Cox, a senior who has posted back-to-back 2,000-yard passing seasons.
WEST CALDWELL (1-9, 1-5)
at BUNKER HILL (5-5, 4-2), 7:30 p.m.
The Bears hope to be playing postseason football for the first time since 2013 next week. But the next assignment is handling the visiting Warriors tonight.
The teams did not play last year – they were in different leagues – and West Caldwell has a three-game win streak in the series, having outscored the Bears 158-3 in those three games.
Bunker Hill leads the series, with the first game in 1993, by 13-7 and that includes the Bears winning the first seven battles between the two.
QB Carson Elder is having a solid year for the Bears, who can reach six wins tonight for the first time 2013 by winning.
PATTON (4-6, 3-3) at HIBRITEN (9-1, 6-0), 7:30 p.m.
Hibriten eyes finishing unbeaten in league games for a fourth straight season, and it has already won the Northwestern Foothills 2A title.
Patton shares fourth place with West Iredell as it tries to mount a challenge against Hibriten, which has won four straight in the series by a 154-0 combined score.
Hibriten leads the series 11-1 with Patton’s only victory coming 22-20 in Lenoir in 2015.
The teams first met in 2008 and three of their dozen games are state playoff games.
Hibriten will earn its 18th straight bid into the postseason while Patton will have to wait and see if it gets an at-large bid (would be its fifth straight).
WEST IREDELL (5-5, 3-3)
at FRED T. FOARD (2-8, 2-4), 7:30 p.m.
Fred T. Foard goes for its third straight victory in the series to close the regular season and start of the second tenure of Ryan Gettys as head coach.
The Tigers have been bothered by injuries – star RB Corey Siemer was out when they beat East Burke on Monday night in a makeup game – and the Warriors skill position players pose big threats.
West Iredell has not won at Foard since 2005 (28-12) and comes in tied for fourth place with Patton.
The Warriors have missed the postseason in six of the previous seven seasons while Foard – 17-18 in its last 35 games — had gone two straight years but won’t make it in 2019.
HICKORY (3-7, 3-2)
at ST. STEPHENS (5-5, 2-3), 7:30 p.m.
Playoff positioning — and even which of the two (if either) gets into the state playoffs – are a part of the mix tonight out on Springs Road.
St. Stephens has won two straight over HHS in games at St. Stephens, but Hickory continues to lead the series since 1979 at 25-5. That includes going 11-2 at St. Stephens since 1982.
RB Cody Young leads the Red Tornadoes, who go in sharing second place with Freedom and Alexander Central.
QB Connor Williams and WR Zach Lee have helped position the Indians to, if they win, earn a sixth victory for just the fifth time in 25 seasons.
A win by St. Stephens should get the Indians into the postseason, and that would be for the second time in 11 years.
ALEXANDER CENTRAL (7-3, 3-2)
at SOUTH CALDWELL (4-6, -4), 7:30 p.m.
Always a festive game when Butch Carter, now head coach at Alexander Central, returns to Hudson to play the Spartans. He coached at South Caldwell for 15 years, leaving after the 2015 season.
Alexander Central has won three straight overall in the series and the last two at South Caldwell, pushing its series lead since 1985 to 20-7.
The Cougars are blessed with multiple offensive threats – RB Steven Montgomery and QB Lance Justice among them – and the Spartans also have key threats in QB Avery Raynor and RB Isaiah Kirby.
While Alexander Central is tied with Freedom and Hickory for second place and playing to assure getting into the postseason, that is already take care of for the Spartans.
With South Caldwell and McDowell the only 4A schools in the Northwestern 3A-4A, the winner of that head-to-head battle gets a playoff spot. South Caldwell won 50-10 over the Titans.
FREEDOM (6-4, 3-2)
at McDOWELL (1-8, 0-5), 7:30 p.m.
The Patriots seek their ninth straight series win in games played in Marion, where the Titans have not beaten Freedom since 1995.
Overall, Freedom has won four straight over McDowell, 10 of the last 11 and 14 of the last 17.
QB Jayden Birchfield leads the Patriots, who share second place with Alexander Central and Hickory.
Freedom beat Alexander Central in the regular season but Hickory edged Freedom.
If all the pieces fell into place tonight, there could be a four-way tie for second place – Alexander Central, Freedom, Hickory and St. Stephens, all at 3-3, but it would take several surprise winners.