For the first few weeks, I've used this space to preview the big football games during the upcoming weekend, which I hope you enjoy. But I think it's time to spice things up. So now, along with the usual preview, I'm going to offer my bold prediction for each game's outcome, giving you a chance to either congratulate my prophetic ability or (more likely) bash my attempt to channel Swami-like powers.
No. 7 Jack Britt (2-1) at No. 5 Scotland (3-0)
Before the season, Jack Britt coach Richard Bailey raved to me about Scotland's athletic ability, saying they will definitely be a team to watch this year. When I talked to Bailey on Thursday, his tune hadn't changed too much, except this week he was looking through a bit more critical of an eye, as the Buccaneers travel to face the Fighting Scots.
"[Scotland] has some of the best skill people I've seen in a long time. It's like preparing for Butler a couple years ago in the state title game," Bailey said. "Their offensive line and defensive line aren't as dominant, but their skill guys are incredible.
"You might be able to beat them up front, but nobody will outskill them."
And so will go tonight's battle between top-10 teams. Quarterback Kwashaun Quick leads the Fighting Scots' attack, using his dual-threat ability and wisdom gleaned from starting since his freshman year to spread the field. Combating Quick will be a Buccaneer defense that has overcome preseason questions and played solid football, though Bailey wouldn't mind seeing them play a little more physical.
On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneer offense has been formidable, with Mark McRae showing progress at quarterback while Lindon Watkins exploded last week for 222 rushing yards and one score against No. 10 Southern Durham. Scotland boasts great talent at linebacker and in its secondary, but like Jack Britt, is prone to give up big plays. Take, for instance, the 28 points it surrendered to New Hanover last week.
Defense will be the difference in this contest. Since both teams can light up the scoreboard, defensive stands could be at a premium and as a result, critical to the game's outcome. (Jack Britt averages 30.3 points while Scotland puts up 38.7 per contest.)
Another factor could be strength of schedule. Though the Fighting Scots have looked impressive, their 3-0 start has come against struggling Seventy-First and Marlboro County (S.C.) programs as well as a New Hanover team that's beat two 1A schools.
On the other hand, Jack Britt has faced quite the challenge, defeating Pinecrest and No. 10 Southern Durham while losing a tough one to a budding Lumberton squad.
"I'm not trying to create bulletin board material here, but Scotland's schedule hasn't been too tough so far," Bailey said. "Hopefully they haven't played a team as good as we are, and we're the only team that will try to run the ball against them. Our plan is to run, run and then get down to the goal line and score have a play-action touchdown. But of course, that's always easier said than done."
Prediction: Jack Britt 35, Scotland 30
Southeast Raleigh (3-0) at No. 9 Wake Forest-Rolesville (2-1)
There's a good chance that this battle could shake up the rankings. Southeast Raleigh is knocking on the top-10 door, as quarterback David Washington has channeled his inner-Vick by putting up 300 total yards on the regular. But of course, the Cougars are also potent, with tailback Chris Love emerging as a consistent threat.
Prediction: WF-Rolesville 28, Southeast Raleigh 24
Middle Creek (2-1) at Garner (3-0)
Still abuzz from Thursday's back-and-forth battle between Green Bay and New Orleans? This prep contest could be similar. With tailbacks Juwan Moye and Demetrius Fairley on a tear, Garner is averaging 360 rushing yards and more than 42 points during its 3-0 start. Meanwhile, Middle Creek has scored more than 37 points per game behind quarterback David Salmon. Middle Creek is still riding high from its double-overtime win against Fuquay-Varina last week, but there's no doubt that Garner is one of the state's best.
Prediction: Garner 35, Middle Creek 24
No. 6 A.L. Brown (3-0) at Porter Ridge (3-0)
Porter Ridge is a 4A school, but en route to its 3-0 record with 59 points per contest, the Pirates have only faced 2A and 3A squads. That trend will continue tonight when they face Class 3A's A.L. Brown, but the outcome could be a bit different. The Wonders have been on a roll behind Damien Washington's nine touchdowns in three games. And we all know the Wonders are disciplined with former Butler coach Mike Newsome at the helm. As seems to be the trend this week, this could be another shootout, as Washington and Pirates QB Lee McNeill mano-a-mano on offense.
Prediction: A.L. Brown 35, Porter Ridge 28
Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.