I hope Seventy-First fans appreciate how big a deal Friday night is, and that a part of state high school football history belongs to them.
Now that all state football championship games are played on neutral college fields, the Eastern football final is the biggest game that a high school can host in its own stadium.
Thanks to the seeds of the teams left in the Eastern 4-A bracket, Seventy-First will enjoy that opportunity Friday when conference rival Scotland High School travels to Loyd E. Auman Athletic Field on Raeford Road for this year’s Eastern final.
The winner will advance to next Saturday’s 4-A state championship game at Duke University’s Wallace Wade Stadium.
Here’s some more history for you. Did you know that Wallace Wade Stadium is the only place other than Pasadena, California, to host the Rose Bowl? It’s true, and if you ever go to a game at Duke you can find a plaque that pays tribute to that historical event.
Back in 1942, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor that we’ll remember the day of the Scotland-Seventy-First game, there was genuine concern about the Japanese trying something similar on the West Coast.
A packed football stadium would have been an inviting target some feared, so when the matchup of Wallace Wade’s Duke team against Oregon State was announced, it was decided to move the game to Durham.
Duke was 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in that year’s Associated Press poll while Oregon State was 7-2 and ranked No. 12.Even with the home field, Duke fell to the visiting Beavers 20-16.
But back to that piece of history I mentioned earlier that Seventy-First owns. Care to guess where the last 4-A state championship game was played at a high school stadium in North Carolina?
It was at Seventy-First’s Loyd E. Auman Athletic Field in 1986.
Alex Gaines kicked a 19-yard field goal on the game’s final play to lift the Falcons to a 3-0 win over West Charlotte for the 4-A championship, the second won by Coach Bobby Poss when he led the Falcons.
Since then, all 4-A title games, and eventually the games in all the classifications, have been at neutral fields.
The record: 87-26
I only missed one last week, which means I’m 11-2 for the postseason. Unfortunately, with fewer games to pick, you’ve got to be perfect for the season percentage to go up. Going 2-1 for the week dropped me to 87-26 for the season, which brings the percentage down to 77.0.
Scotland at Seventy-First - I’m not surprised Seventy-First is the only Cumberland County team left standing in this year’s N.C. High School Athletic Association state football playoffs.
Falcon coach Duran McLaurin has put together one of the most consistent programs in Cumberland County since returning to his alma mater in 2013.
After going 5-6 his first year back, McLaurin’s teams have never had fewer than nine wins a season and never missed the state playoffs.
This year’s run to the 4-A Eastern final is the Falcons’ deepest advance under McLaurin.
Then again, Scotland is no stranger to the postseason. The school’s football Twitter account noted that the Scots are in the Eastern finals for the third year in a row and the sixth time in eight years.
Scotland has 100 wins in football this decade, which ties it with 4-AA power Wake Forest. The two schools are three behind Charlotte Mallard Creek with 103.
This game boils down to two guys, Scotland’s Smiley McQueen and Seventy-First’s Kyler Davis.
The key for Seventy-First is to contain McQueen as much as possible, let him run free between the 20s but keep him from hitting one of those home run plays he’s famous for that puts Scotland on the scoreboard.
Versatility is critical for Davis, who can hurt Scotland with his arm and his legs. The Falcons need him to put as much pressure on the Scotland defense as possible, while at the same time putting Scotland in a hole and forcing the Scots to come up with more points than they’ve been able to score in many of their games.
Scotland already lost to Seventy-First 21-6 at Seventy-First on Oct. 12, so that’s plenty of motivation for a Scotland team that has been preaching an us against the world mantra during the postseason.
But let’s not forget what happened between Scotland and Seventy-First just one year ago. I’m sure it’s going to be plastered on the locker room walls at Seventy-First and mentioned in pre-game speeches.
Seventy-First lost not once but twice to Scotland last year by lopsided margins of 63-26 and 56-35.
This is Seventy-First’s opportunity for payback in a big way, and a chance to earn the school’s fourth trip to the state championship game and its first since 2008.
I like the Falcons in this one.
Seventy-First 22, Scotland 19.