The Reidsville Rams and McMichael Fighting Phoenix were the only two teams in the county to earn 2021 NCHSAA state playoff bids when the brackets were released Saturday afternoon. First round games begin this Friday night.
Action on deck for April 16
No. 1 seed Reidsville (6-0) versus No. 8 Southwest Onslow (4-1)
Undefeated Reidsville will host Southwest Onslow this Friday night at Community Stadium at 7 p.m.
The Rams are coming off of a dominant 42-0 win over Bartlett Yancey which brought home the 2021 Mid-State 2A regular season championship April 8.
Reidsville is averaging 52 points per game and allowing an average of 4.7 points per game while posting four shutouts over the course of the 2021 season. RHS has made an appearance in the last four-consecutive state championship games, winning three of the four.
The Rams won 58-12 over Edenton Holmes in 2016, lost 35-28 in overtime to Wallace-Rose Hill in 2017, then defeated Elizabeth City Northeastern in back-to-back seasons in 2018 and 2019 by margins of 31-28 and 14-0 respectively. Reidsville has the most state championships than any other team in the state of North Carolina at 21, but earning No. 22 will be tough, especially considering the Rams have several past state championship opponents in their bracket this year.
Among the former title adversaries include Wallace-Rose Hill (4-3), Elizabeth City Northeastern (4-2) and Shelby (5-2).
In past state championship games, the Rams lost to Shelby by a 26-18 margin in 2005, then defeated the Golden Lions 28-20 in 2007. Like Reidsville, Shelby has a rich championship tradition with a program that has won 15 state titles in 21 appearances and many fans across the state are hoping for yet another championship rematch.
Also in their bracket is another tough team Reidsville has played three times in the post season over the last four seasons in Mountain Heritage (4-1).
The Rams defeated the Cougars in the third round by a 21-14 margin on Nov. 30, 2018, 27-20 on Dec. 1, 2017 in the regional finals, and then again with a score of 45-16 in the second round on Nov. 25, 2016. Following the 2018 game, Mountain Heritage had several late-game penalties as the Rams took control and there were clearly some hard feelings between the post season rivals in that contest.
That said, the Rams, who haven’t lost a conference game since 2011, certainly have the tools to put together another championship run with a group of seniors that have already played in three state title games. It’s hard to bet against that type of experience combined with a superior talent pool.
Offensively, the Rams are led by quarterback Kyle Pinnix, wide receiver Breon Pass and running back Ste’vian Harrison—all seniors. In addition, Reidsville is deep with their skill position players with play-makers Jaden Robinson, Kahree Hayes, Jalen Galloway and Talik Hairston, there are many options offensively that make them tough to defend.
Defensively, Reidsville is strong across the board at every position, and are led up front by senior nose guard Ki Rankin, who has proved to be virtually unblockable this season.
It has certainly been a football season of firsts due to the pandemic crisis. Since the 2020 campaign was cancelled, the NCHSAA moved the sport from fall to winter and spring which included a condensed schedule down from 11 regular season games to seven on the initial schedule.
Many teams across the state had to cancel games due to positive COVID-19 tests and the Rams and Stallions were no exception. In addition to a condensed regular season, the playoffs have been scaled down as well. Typically there is a five-game road to the championship, but this season it is four. It’s a shorter road to a title for sure, but arguably more challenging due to the stiff competition in Reidsville’s bracket this season.
Southwest Onslow, located in Jacksonville, is no typical first round cupcake opponent for a typical No. 1 seed team due to the random, out-of-a-hat drawing system the NCHSAA employed this year.
The Stallions are averaging an impressive 41.4 points per game offensively, while allowing 11.2 on defense which included two shutouts in 2021.
The winner of Friday’s game will take on either No. 4 Wallace-Rose Hill or No. 5 Red Springs in the second round April 23.
No. 4 seed Croatan (6-1) vs. No. 5 McMichael (2-5)
No. 5 McMichael (2-5) will travel to take on No. 4 Croatan (6-1) in the 2AA NCHSAA first round at 6:30 p.m. this Friday.
Croatan, located in the coastal city of Newport, finished in first place of the Coastal 8 split 1A/2A Conference after closing out the regular season with a 44-29 win over East Carteret last Friday night. The Cougars are allowing 42.9 points per game offensively. Defensively, Croatan has been stingy, allowing an average of 13 points per game while notching three shutouts this season.
The Phoenix earned their spot in the post season by way of defeating Morehead 30-27 on March 12, the only other 2A member of the split Mid-State 2A/3A Conference earning McMichael an automatic bid since they were the 2A regular season champions.
Led by junior quarterback Matthew Wright, DMHS has shown flashes of what could become a solid team, especially with the play of freshman wide receiver Jace Dunn and sophomore Brady Elrod who have proven to be dependable targets who can move the chains after the catch.
The Phoenix enters the post season following a 35-14 loss to Eastern Alamance April 10.
McMichael scores an average of 14 points per game and the defense has allowed 34.9 points through seven games.