Preview of 3A: Important figures and plot points for the regional finals in the East and West.

Preview of 3A: Important figures and plot points for the regional finals in the East and West.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs are typically highly competitive in the 3A classification, and this year is no exception.

This season’s state championship is wide open with no clear front-runner.

The regional final round for 3A showcases two thrilling matchups between teams that have achieved some level of success in their individual histories.

Which teams will compete against each other in the 3A state championship: Dudley vs. Seventy-First, Hickory vs. Northern Nash, Dudley vs. Northern Nash, or Hickory vs. Seventy-First?

This is a guide to the plot lines and important figures to be aware of in the Eastern and Western finals.

3A East Final: (13) Northern Nash @ (2) Seventy-First

This game is a repeat of the 3A East regional final from last year, with Northern Nash, the previous state runner-up, facing off against the undefeated Seventy-First team in Fayetteville.

Northern Nash faced challenges towards the end of the season, but still managed to make it to the regional final. They showed their prowess in the fourth round by defeating top-ranked Havelock 42-21.

Elijay Pitt, a senior, has successfully taken on the role of quarterback this season despite previously playing as a defensive back. He has thrown for 1,994 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only four interceptions, with a completion rate of 62%. The Knights’ defense may not be exceptional, but they have consistently made crucial plays when it mattered most throughout the season.

Seventy-First has been hailed as having the strongest defense in the state this year, regardless of classification. The team only allows opponents to gain less than 100 yards through the air per game and limits rushing yards to just 101 per game. They have an impressive record of 39 sacks on quarterbacks and are the best in the state at limiting yards per attempt to 4.4. Their junior quarterback, DeAndre Nance, is a standout player with 1,437 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, as well as 1,411 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns.

Northern Nash Seventy-First

Overall record of 13 wins and 1 loss, with a conference record of 5 wins and 1 loss.

14 wins overall, with a perfect 7-0 record in conference play.

Common Opp. 1-0 1-0
MaxPreps Rating 31.8 35.1
MaxPreps SoS 5.3 2.4
Points Scored/Game 45.4 43.3
Yards Gained/Game 314.0 450.3
Turnovers/Game 0.8 N/A
Passing Yards/Game 149.9 103.7
Completion % 63.6% 67.6%
Passing Yards/Att 10.6 9.8
Passing TDs 28 15
Passing INTs 4 2
Rushing Yards/Game 164.1 346.6
Rushing Yards/Att 6.9 10.1
Fumbles 7 N/A
Points Allowed/Game 18.6 7.3
Shutouts 3 6
Yards Allowed/Game 334.3 182.5
Takeaways/Game 2.1 1.7
Pass Yards Allowed/Game 122.1 81.5
Completion % Allowed 48.4% 44.0%
Pass Yards/Att Allowed 5.9 4.8
Interceptions 14 17
Sacks 15 39
Rush Yards Allowed/Game 212.2 101.0

Yards rushed per attempt allowed.

5.7 3.5
Forced Fumbles 14 5

The West Final match between (4) Dudley and (2) Hickory ended with a score of 3A.

Dudley has not won a state championship in two years, whereas Hickory has been striving for their first victory since 1996.

This game showcases two of the top scoring teams in the state. Quarterbacks Andrew Attmore (Dudley) and Brady Stober (Hickory) have been highly successful passers in North Carolina this season. Attmore has thrown 51 touchdowns with only four interceptions, while Stober has thrown 44 touchdowns with four interceptions.

There will be several college-level receivers playing in this game. Dudley has three juniors who have either surpassed 1,000 receiving yards or are near reaching that mark: C.J. Neely, Nas Newkirk, and Koredell Bartley. All three players have caught the attention of college recruiters. Newkirk has received an offer from Georgia, among other schools. Hickory’s junior receiver, Jamien Little, has had a breakout season and received an offer from NC State.

Both teams possess powerful running backs. The Dudley junior pair of L.J. Southern and Jayden Brown together have accumulated 1,967 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Hickory’s junior running back Isaiah Lackey has single-handedly rushed for 1,615 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Hickory’s defense hasn’t been exceptional this season, especially when you compare the numbers allowed to Dudley’s. However, the Red Tornadoes have faced some stronger offenses over the fall than Dudley has. Dudley’s biggest advantage might exist in the trenches, where possibly no team in the state is bigger.

Dudley Hickory

Overall record of 14 wins and 0 losses, with a conference record of 7 wins and 0 losses.

14 wins and 0 losses in total, with 7 wins and 0 losses in conference play.

Common Opp. 1-0 1-0
MaxPreps Rating 36.4 34.7
MaxPreps SoS -1.0 7.3
Points Scored/Game 53.6 46.0
Yards Gained/Game 522.4 449.4
Turnovers/Game N/A 0.6
Passing Yards/Game 293.4 245.6
Completion % 72.8% 69.7%
Passing Yards/Att 13.6 11.9
Passing TDs 53 44
Passing INTs 5 5
Rushing Yards/Game 229.1 203.8
Rushing Yards/Att 8.9 7.4
Fumbles N/A 3
Points Allowed/Game 10.4 21.4
Shutouts 2 0
Yards Allowed/Game 222.0 401.2
Takeaways/Game 2.1 2.0
Pass Yards Allowed/Game 115.3 168.9
Completion % Allowed 50.0% 54.8%
Pass Yards/Att Allowed 5.1 7.7
Interceptions 16 17
Sacks 51 19

Game Average of Allowed Rushing Yards

106.7 232.3
Rush Yards/Att Allowed 4.0 8.4
Forced Fumbles 16 4