North enjoys rare territory

North Davidson wide receiver Ashton Phillips runs after a catch for more yards against Davie County earlier this season. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

North Davidson football coach Mark Holcomb ended last season just wanting to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

He enters Friday night hoping to get out of the second round of the playoffs.

The Knights, winners of their first postseason game in a decade last week, host Dudley at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Palmer Field in Welcome. North defeated Western Guilford 45-17 in its 4-A opener. North moved to 12-0 with that win, setting a school record for wins in a season in the process.

The Panthers certainly won’t be a pushover, and they will come into Welcome expecting an upset. Dudley went 5-1 in the Metro Conference, losing only to league champion Page. Dudley beat Reagan 44-22 last week in its first-round matchup.

Holcomb is excited that his team is still playing football, instead of turning in equipment after a first-round letdown. “It felt good to get that first one out of the way,” he said. “I’m hoping we can get another one this week.

“They’re a fast team, they like to run the football, they’ve got pretty good size. Some of their offensive linemen are not as big as we’ve seen, but they get after it. They play hard.”

Dudley will run a shotgun spread offense to try to create space for senior quarterback Richard Hayes, who is the Panthers’ leading rusher. For North fans, it may be a lot like watching last year’s squad after Karsten Miller went down, when Tevin Tuttle jumped in and ran plenty of wildcat keepers.

Like most opposing coaches, Dudley’s Steven Davis’ primary concern is the Knights’ defensive front, led by Andrew Mayton and Shy Tuttle. “They’re a well-coached football team,” Davis said. “It’s gonna be a hard-nosed, gut-it-out football game. They’ve got some real good football players on that team; I’m very impressed.

“What really concerns me the most is the defensive line. Those guys are, whew, tough to deal with. Trust me.”

North will also operate out of the shotgun spread, but quarterback Chase Mitchell isn’t the primary running threat. Devonte Moore (800 yards and 9 TDs) is the most explosive back on the Knights’ offense, but Conlee Hunter (854 yards, 12 TDs) is a gritty runner who can also break a big play. Mitchell (1,258 yards passing and 11 TDs) keeps defenses honest with the ability to find the open receiver down the field. Ashton Phillips, Eli Moore and Jordan Santana are all capable of making big catches.

It will likely be a battle of wills, as Dudley wants to establish the run first, just like the Knights do. “We’re a running team, we want to run the ball and control the clock,” Davis said. Hayes has run for nearly 1,800 yards for the Panthers, and thrown for 1,400.

But Holcomb hopes, like it has done all season, the community will rally around the Knights and guide them to another victory. “We hope so, we want it to be huge,” he said. “We want everybody to close everything down.

“We’d like for ‘em to close the Food Lion down Friday and get everybody there.”

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or