By Lance Hickey
North Buncombe – For the first time since 2014, North Buncombe football has qualified for a berth to the NCHSAA playoffs in a road game.
The 16-seeded BlackHawks will play at first-seeded Northwest Cabarrus in Concord on Friday night.
“We are excited about our opportunity to play Northwest Cabarrus, the number one seed in our bracket, and represent our program, school and community here at North Buncombe,” said head coach Brandon Allen.
Following North Buncombe’s loss to Asheville, questions persisted whether the BlackHawks would remain in playoff contention with its bye on the final week of the season. North Buncombe’s point of concern came primarily from the 2017 edition of West Henderson football (among other instances), which, despite a 6-5 record of its own, did not make the playoffs. The BlackHawks finished the regular season with the same record of 6-5, a quality mark that proved to be enough for a 2018 playoff berth.
North Buncombe faces a steep test in Northwest Cabarrus in Concord. The Trojans head into the matchup against North Buncombe undefeated with an 11-0 record.
“Northwest is an extremely talented team with great size and speed,” Allen said. “They are very deserving of their number one seed, going 11-0 on the season. They play in a very tough conference and have beaten some very talented and well-coached teams,” he said.
With six wins, the Allen-led BlackHawks have taken a tremendous step in its quest to rebuild the football program. Led by an energetic, disciplined and demanding coach in Allen, a notoriously stingy defense and offensive stalwarts Caden Higgins and Skylar Jutras, among others, the BlackHawks turned their fortunes around. And they are ready for their next challenge.
“We want this (making the playoffs) to be our expectation year in and year out,” Allen said. “Our players and coaches have worked so hard and overcome so much adversity this year. They truly have an unbelievable work ethic and relentless attitude,” he said. “This is a direct result of our strength and conditioning program here at North Buncombe.”
North Buncombe found out its playoff fate over the weekend, and now looks to continue its convincing run. The playoffs include three rounds, regionals and the state championships, which will take place on December 14 and 15. Kickoff for the game at Northwest Cabarrus High School is set for a 7:30 pm start.
“I am honored to continue to lead these young men and look forward to watching them play this Friday,” Allen said.