Back to basics: High School football teams rest, fine tune ahead during off week

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WILMINGTON — An open week between the regular season finale and start of the playoffs is virtually unheard of when it comes to high school football, but this year’s a little different after the North Carolina High School Athletic Association needed to make changes to the schedule following Hurricane Matthew last month.

While the Wilmington area received little damage and no effect on the schools, parts of the region weren’t as fortunate. Because of that, football teams in some counties are using the upcoming week to make up games postponed in October. The NCHSAA is set to release brackets following the conclusion of the regular season schedule, with seeding scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 12.

Tony Allen.
Tony Allen.

This gives postseason bound teams from the Mideastern Conference an extra week of practice leading up to the opening round of the state tournament on Friday, Nov. 18. The rest versus debate has been brought up by nearly ever local coach moving into the off week.  There will be 14 days between the last time New Hanover, Hoggard and Laney took the field leading up to their first-round playoff matchup.

“While the focus was really on the final game of the regular season this past week we did start to form some idea of how we were going to prepare for the off week,” said Hoggard Coach Craig Underwood. “The next game is always the most important and we had to keep everyone’s attention on the Topsail game, senior night, our final regular season home game.

“With that behind us, going back to fundamentals is one the most important things right now. Get back to basics over the next few days of practice before game planning for our playoff opponent,” Underwood said.

With a top-seed from league play following a share of the division title, New Hanover is using a mix of practices, a few off days and film study. Coaches will work through game coverage early in the week, with an off day on Election Day. Practices will ramp up Wednesday and Thursday followed by a rare off day during the season on Friday.

The way the schedule fell for West Brunswick really puts the cliché to test as the Trojans had its open week this past Friday. That means the green and white from Shallotte won’t get back into action for three full weeks.

From left-to-right: Dionte Hicks, Imeek Watkins and Eli Boone.
From left-to-right: Dionte Hicks, Imeek Watkins and Eli Boone.

One other factor to examine moving into postseason play is the trend for each team moving into state tournament.

A team like West Brunswick, coming off back-to-back setbacks, may have the Trojans eager to get back on the field to prove their might. But, they won’t have a chance to do that for 21 days.

New Hanover and Hoggard have put their best foot forward over the last few weeks and likely want to keep rolling. Laney is also coming off a pair of wins before getting the two week break from game action.

“I think really it comes down to being sharp,” said Laney Coach Ashaad Yeoman. “Staying sharp and focused is going to be a challenge for every team going into the playoffs from the area.

“It’s great to be healthy heading into this part of the season, but I think making sure we clean up the little things and being ready to play is the most important part of this stretch,” he said.

“Even with that, we’re talking about teenage kids and even when you have a good week of practice, you still don’t know what’s going to happen until Friday night.”

NCHSAA Football Playoff schedule

Reporting Deadline | Nov 12, 2016
Round 1 | Nov 18, 2016
Round 2 | Nov 25, 2016
Round 3 | Dec 2, 2016
Regionals | Dec 9, 2016
State Championships | Dec 16-17, 2016