"I Thought You Had 45".... (2018-11-09 22:42:58)

Well, the shuffling continues on the eve of Saturday's big announcement, when the NCHSAA releases its official brackets for the upcoming state football playoffs.

And right in the thick of it, is the Watauga High football team. The Pioneers (11-0), who registered their firsr unblemished regular season record in school history (the 1978 state championship team was 13-0-1), are patiently waiting for their first-round opponent.

The Pioneers, who will definitely host in the opening round, have been tossed around in several playoff projections. The High School OT out of Raleigh, N.C., which released its supposedly last playoff projections on Wednesday, tossed out another one on Friday afternoon.

And this one has WHS seeded No. 1 in the 3AA West. It's the second time WHS has received a top seed from HSOT. They;ve also been seeded fifth, and just before today, they were seeded second.

And just who would WHS play in that first-round game? Well, Central Cabarrus, Kannapolis-Brown, and Gastonia-Ashbrook have been named as possible opponents.

But whoever it is, they will face quite a test against a very confident team. The Pioneers, who won their first Northwestern Conference championship since 2007, and their first outright title since 1980, have only given up 111 points (that's just over 10 points a game) this season. In turn, they've scored 71 touchdowns, and they're averaging 46 points a game.

The running game has been WHS' driving force. The Pioneers are averaging 350 yards a game on the ground, led by juniors Anderson Castle (498 yards and nine touchdowns) Bryce Satterfield (1,090 yards with a team-leading 14 TDs) and Jaiden Bond (1,074 yards with 12 TDs). And keep in mind, Castle suffered a wrist injury on the second play in WHS' season opener, that forced him to miss five games (he finally returned on September 28, against Alexander Central).

And the Pioneers aren't one dimensional. No sir, the Pioneers can throw the ball, too. Quarterbacks Castle and Jackson Greene have combined to throw for 970 yards and 15 TDs with just one interception. And the Pioneers have completed 58 percent of their passes (Castle .533% completion rating, Greene .610%).

Bond is WHS' top receiver with 15 catches for 210 yards (19.1 average) and a TD. Zach West has eight catches for 164 yards with two TDs. tight end Eli Suggs has seven catches, and five of those have gone for a team-leading five TDs. Grant Oliver has five catches, four of those are TDs.

Defensively, the Pioneers are led by senior linebackers Ben Critcher and Suggs. Suggs has 110 stops this year with 9.5 tackles-for-loss. Critcher has 87 tackles and 8.5 TFL, with a team-leading 3.5 sacks. Greene is third in tackles with 53, and he leads the team with five interceptions.

And the PIoneers have also reeled off some pretty big wins---like that 35-0 schellacking they handed Alexander Central (the team they were suppose to share the NWC chanpionship with) in week seven. And that dominating win against Freedom a couple of weeks later.

On top of all that, WHS has won 19 straight at Jack Groce Stadium. Their last home loss came agianst Southwestern Guilford in the opening-round of the state playoffs in 2015. And that game went into triple overtime. WHS has also won 11 straight games, one shy of the school record of 12 straight set by the 1978 team.

An impresasive resume, indeed. But, as any coach will tell you, it's a new season when the playoffs begin. Everybody is 0-0, and in a one-game match up, anything can happened. So, buckle in, the new few weeks could be a lot of fun.

The official pairings will come out Saturday, and they will be posted on GBR. Coverage of next week's first-round game will begin at 6:30 p.m., on WATA 1450 AM/96.5 FM.