The Freedom football team will open the NCHSAA state playoffs at home for the second consecutive season and seventh this this decade, while Draughn returns to the postseason after a seven-year hiatus.
Both teams learned their draws on Saturday afternoon as brackets were released by the state.
Freedom (7-4) earned the 3A West’s No. 8 seed and faces No. 9 West Rowan (7-4) on Friday in a rematch of a first-round game in 2016 won by the host Falcons, 33-14. The teams also met in the opening round in 2009 as West Rowan won at home en route to its second straight state title in a string of three straight title game appearances.
The winner plays either No. 1 Crest (9-2) on No. 16 Erwin (5-6) the following week in the second round. The Patriots and Chargers played Sept. 20 in Shelby, with Crest scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of a 51-48 win in which Freedom led by double digits twice in the second half. Leading Pats receiver Desmond Caldwell missed that game with an injury.
That victory started Crest’s current streak of seven straight to end the regular season, capped by Friday’s win over Kings Mountain, a team that spent time at No. 1 in the state for several weeks this season.
The two teams also played in round two of the postseason in 2010 in Morganton, a 34-7 Crest win as part of its five-game win streak in a head-to-head series that dates back to 1977.
Freedom is 1-6 in its last seven playoff games with its only win in that span coming in 2015 in the first round at home vs. Patton.
Draughn (7-4), which recently wrapped up just its second winning regular season all-time, hits the road to open the playoffs for the first time ever. The Wildcats are the No. 11 seed in the 2A West bracket and visit No. 6 Chase (9-2).
Those teams met every year from 2013-16 as conference foes. The Trojans won the first and last meetings, and the Wildcats won in both 2014 and ’15 on last-second field goals.
Draughn opened the 2011 and ’12 playoffs at home and is 1-2 all-time in the postseason.
Chase’s playoff drought was one year longer than Draughn’s as the Trojans last reached the postseason in 2011, reaching the second round. That season, Chase and Freedom were involved in a Week 11 fight in a game in Morganton, after which the Patriots were ruled ineligible for the playoffs.
The winner of that first-round game advances to face either No. 3 Brevard (9-2) or No. 14 Hendersonville (5-6). Draughn and Brevard faced off in nonconference action early in both the 2017 and ’18 seasons, with the Blue Devils winning big both times.
Freedom is joined in the playoffs by fellow Northwestern 3A/4A Conference schools No. 2 Watauga (10-1), No. 9 Alexander Central (8-3), No. 12 South Caldwell (4-7) and No. 14 Hickory (4-7), with only the Red Tornadoes in the same 3A draw as the Patriots.
Draughn is one of four Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference schools to continue on. The others are No. 3 Hibriten (10-1) and No. 10 Bunker Hill (6-5) and No. 16 West Iredell (6-5), all of which are in the 2AA bracket.
Paul Schenkel can be reached at email@example.com or 828-432-8950.