We're five weeks into the football season, which is around the time the contenders begin to separate from the pretenders. Here's what to watch out for this weekend:
Hillside (3-1) at Southern Durham (2-2)
Southern Durham is desperately in need of a win after dropping two straight games, and as a result, out of the top 10. On the other hand, Hillside has played well since falling in its opener. The defending 4A champs have been led by running back Khris Francis on offense and All-State DL Jamal Marcus on defense, making for a balanced attack. Most of Marcus' focus tonight will be on Southern Durham QB Dorian Belcher. who has played well despite the Spartans' struggles. In last week's overtime loss to Dunbar, Belcher finished with 224 yards and three touchdowns. Southern will put up a fight, but it won't be enough to take down a surging Hornets squad.
My pick: Hillside 24, Southern Durham 21
Nash Central (4-0) at New Bern (3-1)
Ever since defeating two-time defending 2A state champ Tarboro to start the season, Nash Central has been on a tear. Credit quarterback Jalen Hendricks, who has excelled as a dual threat with 658 total yards, six touchdowns and zero turnovers. New Bern's offense has been just as electric of late. After giving up 51 points in a loss to Havelock, the Bears have put up 114 points (!) in their last two games. Though I doubt they'll put points at the same ridiculous rate, expect the 4A Bears to extend their win streak against the 3A Bulldogs.
My pick: New Bern 30, Nash Central 24
Millbrook (3-1) at Broughton (1-2)
Millbrook should have the advantage in this contest, but the main intrigue comes at the tailback position. Of course, Millbrook boasts the nation's top running back in Keith Marshall, our cover boy for the ESPNHS September mag. Meanwhile, Broughton is led by recent Va. Tech commit Chris Mangus, who had 251 rushing yards and three scores in leading the Capitals to their first win of the season.
My pick: Millbrook 24, Broughton 17 (Oh, and I've got Marshall winning the yardage battle against Mangus)
Myers Park (3-1) at No. 2 Butler (3-1)
Who would have thought these two teams would have the same record when they met up? Myers Park is off to its best start since 2005, when it ended up reaching the state semifinals, but Butler is...well, Butler. Minus a few lapses, the Bulldogs have looked like their scary selves since losing to No. 1 Mallard Creek. Expect the four-headed offensive monster of QB Riley Ferguson, RB Josh Glisson and WRs Uriah LeMay and Zach Ferguson to keep chugging along.
My pick: Butler 40, Myers Park 21
Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.