Friday, November 9, 2012 —
Union Academy (5-6) at Albemarle (11-1)
The Albemarle Bulldogs, long time members of the Yadkin Valley Conference since 2009 and before 2005, face a Union Academy Cardinals program that will be a conference opponent next year.
Albemarle hosted Union Acad-emy in a scrimmage earlier this season and has used that experience along with film to prepare for Friday’s second-round matchup in the 1A playoffs.
Rasheed Rushing (1,556 yds., 19 TDs) is the Cards’ offensive leader of the team despite having suffered a high ankle sprain early in the season and turf toe against Piedmont.
However, according to Albemarle head coach Danny Akins, teams should not just focus on Rushing alone as the team has weapons, including through the air. The Cardinals have thrown for more than 900 yards as a team with seven touchdowns but Union has been picked off 10 times.
Union Academy runs an offense similar to Albemarle, which head coach Robert Rushing said makes preparing for the Bulldogs a little easier, but added that in a game situation that “things just go out the window.”
Rushing also added that the Cards are looking forward to joining the YVC after playing in what he called “one of the toughest conferences in the state” in the 1A/2A Rocky River Conference.
Albemarle may also be without their second-leading tackler in linebacker Fuquan Wiggins, who suffered a knee injury on a cut block in the second half of the Bulldogs’ 63-0 win over South Robeson last week. His status for Friday is not yet known.
Otherwise, Akins said the Bulldogs are healthy and have had a good week of practice despite distractions like early release this week.
“They have stayed focused for Friday night,” Akins said, adding that the two teams are similar in size and that the game should be a good contest.
Rushing said that the Cardinals had to keep their offense on the field and manage the clock in order to have a chance to win.
“We can’t outrun them; we can only run at them,” Rushing said adding that Union Academy had to keep it simple and “just play football.”
South Stanly (9-3) at East Columbus (8-4)
Motivation for some members of the South Stanly football team in Friday’s 1A second-round road game at East Columbus might harken back to the 2011 baseball finals when the Gators rallied to beat the Bulls.
For others, the chance to avenge a loss earlier this season to Albe-marle might provide more motivation as the winner of Friday’s game would travel to the Bulldogs should Albemarle top Union Academy.
South faces a Gators’ squad that had one of the toughest schedules in the state, including non-conference losses to top-ranked teams like 1AA Southwest Onslow (24-20) and 2A powerhouse South Columbus (27-16). East finished second to Red Springs in the standings, losing 19-16 to the Devils.
In the latest poll on MaxPreps, the Gators are ranked 12th in the state just behind another Stanly County team, Albemarle, and have a strength-of-schedule mark that is only behind Monroe for having the toughest schedule rating of the teams in the top 15.
After that loss, the Gators went on a tear, winning their last four games by a combined score of 208-30, including a 52-6 win over North Stokes in the first round of the 1A playoffs.
Nick McClure is the Gators’ leading rusher with more than 1,000 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns.
Ricky Ratliff and Derrick Young are both capable quarterbacks for the offense, according to Kasell.
Kasell said that the team’s defense has been “truly a group effort” in limiting teams to 149 points while the East offense has scored 392.
One defensive leader is middle linebacker Henry Baldwin, who broke a bone in his hand against Anson County but came back two weeks later.
South head coach Tasker Fleming said that the Bulls are healthy going into Friday, adding “I try every angle to motivate [the team]. I mentioned that getting into the final eight of the state is an honor and playing against Albemarle again would be a fun challenge.”
Fleming also said that East will come with a lot of pressure on defense and that South “has to create running lanes for out backs and keep their offense off the field.”