Kickoffs 7:30 p.m. Friday
Class 4-A West, No. 6 Mooresville (7-5) at No. 3 Ragsdale (5-6)
The essentials: Ragsdale had a bye week to work on things and took advantage of an opportunity to scout Mooresville in its 27-15 win over Page. The Tigers were playing their best football of the season before their break, winning three of four. The only loss was 33-25 at top-seeded Grimsley in a game that showed how far they've come since a 2-5 start. Ragsdale found an offensive rhythm and identity with senior QB Alston Hooker and the Tigers have been more physical. Mooresville's record is deceptive, as all five of the Blue Devils' losses have come to teams that made the playoffs (West Forsyth, Davie County, Cornelius Hough, Matthews Butler and Charlotte Mallard Creek).
Predictions: Joe Sirera — Ragsdale, 23-21 Spencer Turkin — Mooresville, 30-28
Class 4-A West, No. 9 Indian Trail Porter Ridge (7-5) at No. 1 Grimsley (10-1)
The essentials: Grimsley had a first-round bye for the second straight season and faces a team that is much more balanced offensively than it was a year ago, when the Pirates got 78 percent of their yards on the ground. They still run the ball effectively, but that shouldn't be a problem for the Whirlies, who have been stingy against rushing attacks. Grimsley made an uncharacteristic number of mistakes in a 32-17 win at Page to end the regular season — including four turnovers — but some of that inefficiency can be attributed to the emotion of that rivalry. The Whirlies have to be grateful that workhorse RB Quan Nora's ejection from that game was ruled a disqualification and he will not be suspended for their playoff opener.
Predictions: Sirera — Grimsley, 31-17 Turkin — Grimsley, 28-14
Class 3-AA West, No. 6 Mount Tabor (8-4) at No. 3 Dudley (10-2)
The essentials: Dudley's rematches with Piedmont Triad 3-A Conference rivals continue after they outlasted Southwest Guilford 29-21 in the first round. Mount Tabor rallied from a 20-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the Panthers and ultimately create a three-way tie for first place in the league, but Dudley won the draw to determine the top seed for the playoffs. The Panthers struggled with penalties and missed assignments in their first-round matchup with Southwest. They'll have to be sharper against the Spartans, who have won the programs' last three meetings. Mount Tabor's defense is its calling card, as the Spartans have held opponents to an average of 12.1 points per game, so expect a low-scoring contest.
Predictions: Sirera — Dudley, 19-14 Turkin — Dudley, 28-21
Class 3-AA West, No. 13 Northern Guilford (8-4) at No. 5 Northwest Cabarrus (11-1)
The essentials: Northern Guilford returns to Concord, where the Nighthawks knocked off Cox Mill 39-35 in the first round. Northwest Cabarrus, like Cox Mill, is a high-scoring team with an outstanding quarterback in senior Nick Wilds-Lawing (122-for-191 passing, 2,133 yards, 26 TDS, 7 INTs, 511 yards, 9 TDs rushing). One reason for optimism in Nighthawk Nation is that Northwest Cabarrus' loss was to the same Cox Mill team that Northern Guilford beat last week. The Nighthawks' defense will need to get a couple of stops and give QB Will Lenard, TE Michael Frogge and a deep group of backs a chance to win another shootout.
Predictions: Sirera — Northern Guilford, 38-31 Turkin —Northwest Cabarrus, 28-13
Class 3-AA East, No. 14 Hope Mills Gray's Creek (8-4) at No. 6 Southeast Guilford (9-3)
The essentials: Gray's Creek, which upset Southern Durham on the road last week, averages 32.9 points per game and would like nothing better than a high-scoring contest. Southeast Guilford has other plans after holding Clayton to a late touchdown in its playoff opener. Both teams want to run the ball, with Gray's Creek averaging 348 yards on the ground and the Falcons getting two-thirds of their yards via the rush. Southeast should have the edge defensively, as the Falcons haven't given up more than 21 points during their current seven-game winning streak. If Southeast can win at the line of scrimmage, the Falcons could be headed to New Hanover for the third round as they try to make a second straight run to the state championship game.
Predictions: Sirera — Southeast Guilford, 26-21 Turkin — Southeast Guilford, 28-27
Class 3-A West, No. 6 Northeast Guilford (10-2) at No. 3 Asheville A.C. Reynolds (10-2)
The essentials: This is the kind of matchup where experience usually prevails, and that appears to favor an A.C. Reynolds team that reached the third round a year ago. But don't discount coach Earl Bates' Northeast Guilford Rams. Bates has taken Morehead and Southern Guilford on improbably deep playoff runs at his previous coaching stops, and this looks like the type of game that would give him a signature win at Northeast. It won't be easy, as Reynolds has won 10 straight since losing to 2018 Class 4-A champ East Forsyth and perennial 2-AA finalist Shelby. The Rockets haven't exactly faced a gantlet since then, but they have outscored their last 10 opponents 501-49. The challenge for Northeast will be avoiding blown coverages against a Reynolds passing game that has been dangerous.
Predictions: Sirera — Reynolds, 27-17 Turkin — Reynolds, 35-20
Class 4-A West, No. 5 Glenn (8-4) at No. 4 Harrisburg Hickory Ridge (8-3)
Sirera: Hickory Ridge, 27-20 Turkin: Glenn, 28-27
Class 4-A West, No. 7 Davie County (7-5) at No. 2 East Forsyth (9-2)
Sirera: East Forsyth, 37-20 Turkin: East Forsyth, 42-35
Class 2-A West, No. 7 Newton Conover (8-4) at No. 2 Reidsville (11-1)
Sirera: Reidsville, 41-21 Turkin: Reidsville, 35-7
Sirera — 8-1 (161-31 overall, .839). Turkin — 8-1 (163-29 overall, .849).