ELKIN - High school football playoff action kicks off tonight around the state.
Three local teams punched their tickets into their respective postseason bracket, the North Carolina High School Athletic Assocation announced last week, with two squads opening at home in the first round.
Elkin and Starmount will host their opening-round matchups, while East Wilkes will hit the road for its first game.
The Buckin’ Elks, the 1A conference champions, welcome Mountain Valley Conference opponent Alleghany to Grissom Stadium tonight in the first round.
The Elks finished the regular season with a 6-4 mark and a 5-3 record in conference play, including a sweep of the 1A side of the split conference en route to the title and a No. 1 seed in the Midwest pod.
Quarterback Josh Strickland and running back Jamiles Hayes will power Elkin’s offense against the Trojans, but the defense will be key for the Elks advancing.
Elkin’s D, led by Jamey Cranford, Mitchell Abbey and Kody King, has not allowed more than 21 points in the final five contests and will have to continue its strong play tonight.
During that stretch, the Elks limited Alleghany’s passing attack to 20 points in their big 35-20 victory on October 12. Hayes led Elkin offensively with four touchdowns on the night.
The Trojans finished the year sixth in the conference standings at 3-8 and 3-5, including a 13-7 win over West Wilkes in the season finale.
In Boonville, Starmount is in unfamiliar territory after last Friday’s 14-7 loss to Wilkes Central in the conference title game - heading into the playoffs coming off a loss.
But head coach Scott Johnson said he’s preparing his team to focus on tonight’s game, not what was lost in Moravian Falls last week.
“It’s the next game we want to win and that’s all I’m focused on. All that stuff in the past I can’t change. We’ll just start a new streak,” he explained.
The Rams return to the field tonight against Carver in an intriguing 4/5 opening-round matchup looking to bounce back.
Starmount’s deep rushing attack, led by Chaston Martin (1,006 rushing yards, 15 TDs), will have to lead the Rams against the Yellow Jackets.
In the first head-to-head meeting between the local programs, Starmount’s stout defense will look to limit Carver’s offense, which is averaging more than 26 points per game. The Ram D still boasts the state’s top-ranked unit, allowing just 4.7 points per game, led by Zach Worley (100 tackles), Michael Wood (78 tackles) and Will Lambert (six interceptions).
Despite the loss to Central, Starmount finished second in the standings at 9-1 on the year and 7-1 in conference play. The Yellow Jackets finished the year at 5-5 and 4-1 in the Pac-6 Conference.
In Ronda, East Wilkes punched its ticket into the 1AA postseason on the final night of the season with a 23-8 victory over Ashe County in West Jefferson.
The Cardinals were rewarded with a tough draw against unbeaten and defending 1AA state champion Swain County in the first round.
The Maroon Devils finished the regular season with a perfect 11-0 record and 6-0 in the Smoky Mountain Conference and are the No. 1 ranked 1A team in MaxPreps’ rankings.
East finished 2-8 on the year and 2-6 in the MVAC.
All games kick off at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
To download the full bracket, go to nchsaa.org.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.