KEEP POUNDING

This past week was a busy one in the high school fall sports world as the state playoffs picture starts to take clearer shape.

The volleyball state playoff was seeded on Thursday, with all three high schools reaching the postseason. Croatan had the most favorable draw at No. 4 after finishing the regular season 16-5 overall. The Cougars went undefeated in regular season conference play and captured the league tournament championship to boot.

They were pitted against No. 29 Western Alamance (6-17) in the first round on Saturday. The winner of that match will go on to play either No. 12 C.B. Aycock (18-6) or No. 20 First Flight (11-8) in the second round on Tuesday.

West Carteret (12-7) was seeded No. 16 in the bracket and lined up against No. 17 South Johnston (16-8) in the first round. The winner of that match will face either No. 1 Cedar Ridge (25-2) or No. 32 South Brunswick (4-13).

In the 2A, East Carteret was seeded No. 10 after finishing the regular season 13-4 overall and placing third in the 1A/2A Coastal Plains Conference with a 7-3 record.

The Mariners drew a first-round matchup with No. 23 Wallace-Rose Hill (13-6), the winner of which will face either No. 7 Louisburg (17-5) or No. 26 Southwest Onslow (11-10).

Football still has another week of regular season play left, but the website HighSchoolOT just released its playoff projections with a few interesting tidbits to draw from it.

In 3A football, West Carteret is currently projected at No. 8 as the top seed from the 3A Coastal Conference. To do that, the Patriots (5-2 overall) will have had to win one of their last two regular season games. They faced Swansboro on Friday and will face Croatan this coming week.

Going into last week, the Coastal had four teams in the mix for a league title, and all four are projected to make the playoffs. White Oak (6-2) is projected as a No. 23 seed, Croatan (3-5) as a No. 27 seed and Swansboro (4-3) as a No. 31 seed.

When it was announced that the new Coastal would no longer include perennial powerhouses like Jacksonville, Havelock and Northside-Jacksonville, it gave hope that other teams could vie for league championships. If all four of the conference’s top teams wind up advancing to the playoffs, the wholesale change in the conference’s competition level will have been a success.

Interestingly, the website projects East Carteret to reach the playoffs as a No. 31 seed in the 2A. The Mariners (3-4) are the only 2A team in the 1A/2A Coastal Plains Conference, but a second-place finish or an overall record over .500 would get them to the postseason.

The boys soccer regular season also has another week to play, with the playoffs getting seeded on Friday. In the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association RPI ratings, all three county teams had vastly different positions in their classifications.

The Cougars (13-2-1) were ranked No. 2 in the 3A east, West was ranked No. 27 in the 3A east and East was listed at No. 43 in the 2A east. Interestingly, HighSchoolOT has the Cougars ranked No. 17 in the eastern region across classifications.

The playoffs might very well be a flash in the pan for most county teams. No one expects any of the three football teams to go far in the postseason, not with the injuries they have sustained during the regular season.

The Croatan volleyball team may reach the third round, but advancing beyond that in a brand-new, higher classification will be a steep challenge for the Cougars. West and East, meanwhile, are likely second-round exits with tough matchups on tap for Tuesday if they advance past the first round.

West and East soccer are not built for playoff runs, but Croatan most certainly is. The Cougars are in a new classification, but they have proven every bit the match for the Coastal Conference this season and performed well during their tough nonconference schedule. If you’re looking for a deep playoff run to root for, that’s the one.

(Send comments or questions to zack@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)

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