When the North Carolina High School Athletic Association released its football brackets for all eight classifications, 65 schools advanced to the postseason despite having a losing record.
After the first weekend of games, 14 of these teams were still alive. The number dwindled to four following the second round that were able to continue the march towards a state title.
Nearly four weeks after the brackets were posted, there is just one still standing. And it is on the threshold of playing for a state championship next Friday in Kenan Stadium.
Parkwood entered the playoffs with a 5-6 record and was one of the final teams to be placed in the 2AA bracket. Parkwood was tagged with the No. 16 seed in the West Bracket and faced the top seeded and undefeated Franklin in the first round.
It didn’t expect to be much of a game because Parkwood was limping into the playoffs. It lost three of its final four regular season games and was outscored by an average of nearly 16 points during this stretch.
Unlike all of the other 16 seeds in the state, the Rebels won. And they did it in convincing fashion, pulling away for a 35-17 victory.
After racking up more than 400 miles in their playoff opener, the Rebels were able to stay in Union County for the second round. Parkwood made an easier 24-minute drive to Wingate to face their Rocky River Conference foe Forest Hills.
Once again, the Rebels were big underdogs, especially since they had lost to the Yellow Jackets 56-25 on the same field five weeks earlier. Parkwood completed a 41-point swing and stopped Forest Hills 17-7 to get into the third round.
Parkwood continued its strong play in its 24-14 victory over Hunter Huss. The Rebels held the Huskies to their second-lowest rushing output of the season to set up another rematch, this time with Monroe, another RRC foe. Earlier this season, the RedHawks breezed to a 46-7 victory.
The biggest reason for Parkwood being able to catch fire and be a win away from heading to Chapel Hill as been its defense. The Rebels were allowing 26.5 points in the regular season and have sliced that in half, surrendering 12.6 points during their three-playoff game winning streak.
Even though there will be a No. 9 , No. 11 and No. 12 playing tonight in regional title tilts, those teams were a combined 24-9 going into the playoffs. They aren’t the same type of underdogs like Parkwood has been during the postseason.
For this season, the real Cinderella will hit the field 45 miles away Rockingham and hopefully for the Rebels and their fans, the dance will last another week.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.