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Zach Mayo

Zach Mayo

Zach Mayo is a reporter for HighSchoolOT.com and a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. You can follow Zach on Twitter @ZachMayoHSOT and he can be contacted at zmayo@wral.com.

Is Panther Creek the real deal?


Sep 30, 2013

Dorrel McClain (5) with the ball for Panther Creek. Athens Drive High School visits Panther Creek on September 27, 2013. After trailing 6 to 7 in the first half, Panther Creek opens the offense in the second half while shutting down Athens Drive's offense. Finishing strong Panther Creek wins 28 to 7. Photo by CHRIS BAIRD

Dorrel McClain (5) with the ball for Panther Creek. Athens Drive High School visits Panther Creek on September 27, 2013. After trailing 6 to 7 in the first half, Panther Creek opens the offense in the second half while shutting down Athens Drive's offense. Finishing strong Panther Creek wins 28 to 7. Photo by CHRIS BAIRD

Through six weeks of this high school football season, each Friday nigh has unfolded in a way somewhat similar to an old episode of Lost, in that we walk away with more questions than we had when we started.

Here's one question that came up very early in the year and has continued to linger: Are the Panther Creek Catamounts a real threat?

Before we tackle that question, there's another feline-related mystery we must address. This is a question used frequently throughout the year--often mouthed with a condescending tone by opponents at the expense of poor Panther Creek. What exactly is a Catamount?

Thanks to Merriam-Webster, I can tell you the word Catamount encompasses, "any of various wild cats, including a cougar or lynx," or in this case, a Panther. Get it now? The Catamount name is unique and carries much more of a ring than being called the "Panther Creek Panthers." So quit asking what a Catamount is.

And now that we have that answered, let's talk

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Teams prepare for a dive into conference competition


Sep 23, 2013

#12 Garrett Cloer passed for 100 yards and a touchdown in Orange High School's 35-0 victory against Graham High School on Friday, Sept. 13 (photo by Will Okun)

#12 Garrett Cloer passed for 100 yards and a touchdown in Orange High School's 35-0 victory against Graham High School on Friday, Sept. 13 (photo by Will Okun)

In so many ways, high school football is a guessing game of surprise and upset. The last five weeks have seemed like one head-scratching ordeal after another, with the usual powers falling to underdogs that go on to lose just as we think they are as powerful as ever.

Week Five brought about a slew of games I thought I was clever enough to pick, only to be attacked at the end of Friday night by dozens of Twitter users orchestrating my incompetence through cyberspace. Sorry Fuquay. 

Still, we now have five Fridays of material to work with as many teams start conference play this week, and hopefully those five Fridays have given us a better indication of how the local conference races are looking and who may be hoisting the crown at the end of the regular season.

Let's take a look:

Big East 3A

Southern Nash was my pick at the beginning of the year after having some serious doubts about a new-look Hunt team. Now Southern Nash (4-0) and

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Making the case for Northwood


Sep 16, 2013

Northwood High School logo

Northwood High School logo

Before the 2013 football season began, I sat down and ranked teams in some of the more competitive conferences in the area. On paper, few are as intriguing as the Big East 3A Conference.

And as far as predictions went, I put Southern Durham first, followed by Cardinal Gibbons and Orange. Sounds reasonable, right?

But four weeks into the season, I'm noticing a problem. Northwood is being slept on, and I'm guilty as charged.

It makes sense. The Chargers of Chatham County have played a relatively unimpressive non-conference schedule that hasn't turned many heads, defeating East Chapel Hill (1-3), Southern Lee (1-3) and Jordan-Matthews (1-2) in their first three games. The team finally got some attention when they downed Carrboro on Friday, 41-19.

Although Trai Sharp was not suited up for the Jaguars in the second half, the Chargers won big over a capable opponent to earn the respect they have been looking for.

If you're still in the dark about this team, don't

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Too early to hit the panic button on local teams


Sep 10, 2013

Gibbon's Shawn Stankavage (10) looks to pass the ball as Cardinal Gibbons rolls over Ravenscroft 49 to 21 Friday night September 6, 2013. (Photo by Jack Tarr)

Gibbon's Shawn Stankavage (10) looks to pass the ball as Cardinal Gibbons rolls over Ravenscroft 49 to 21 Friday night September 6, 2013. (Photo by Jack Tarr)

It happens every year, in every sport and on every competitive level. A team loses a few early games--some that maybe they should have won--and people want to write them off for the year.

It's still early in the 2013 football season as we approach week four, but this is already happening again.

Don't take my word for it; Look at Heritage for an example. After handling Holly Springs in an impressive 49-21 victory in week one, the Huskies came out flat and were badly beaten by Panther Creek a week later. As a consequence, very few people gave them a chance against a good Knightdale team on Friday. Heritage responded with a last-minute "upset" win to remind people they aren't a bad team.

The same happened at Cleveland. The Rams suffered a big loss to Clayton in week one, which we are coming to find was due to a surprisingly capable Comet team rather than an inferior Ram team. Many of us here at HighSchoolOT--myself included--dropped Cleveland from the polls the following

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Area products gearing up for NFL season


Sep 2, 2013

The North Carolina high school football season started ten days ago. This past weekend, college teams joined in the fun.

American football will be in full swing Thursday--and then again on Sunday--when the National Football League finally kicks off and opens up the 2013 season.

At the end of the 2012 season, the NFL had 56 active players who spent their high school careers in North Carolina. This ranked the state in the No. 10 spot for most NFL products--behind power states like California and Texas but in front of Alabama, South Carolina, New York and all of Canada.

As final roster cuts have been made and NFL teams prepare for their Week One games, several players from the HighSchoolOT coverage area are poised to compete for playing time, vie for starting roles and even become star players at their positions.

Here are some local players to watch for on Sundays in the NFL.

Julius Peppers, Southern Nash: The obvious choice and the most notorious

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