Eastern Randolph Wildcats look for deep playoff run

Eastern Randolph coach Burton Cates has watched his team move into a good spot going into the postseason. (Randolph Record file photo)

RAMSEUR – Eastern Randolph doesn’t have a bye to begin the state playoffs this year.

But the Wildcats have lots of other factors going for them in the Class 1-A West Region.

Eastern Randolph (9-1) is the No. 3 seed with Friday night’s home game against No. 30 seed Cherryville (2-8).

A year ago, the Wildcats reached the fourth round after holding a first-round bye for the second season in a row as the No. 1 seed in the region.

“We would like to make it one more at least,” coach Burton Cates said. “We’ve got a chance because we’ve got some great kids and they’re playing hard.”

Eastern Randolph holds a nine-game winning streak after winning 22-21 on Friday night at Randleman to win its third consecutive Piedmont Athletic Conference championship.

That game ended the Wildcats’ streak of five consecutive shutouts, but the defense continues to be a huge positive factor.

The leading tackler is senior inside linebacker Luis Garcia. Defensive end Jani Norwood, who’s committed to play collegiately for North Carolina, has been an anchor on the defensive front.

Norwood didn’t play full-time on defense as a junior, but that role has expanded this year.

“We changed the tune a little bit,” Cates said.

Three starting linemen play on offense and defense for Eastern Randolph. That’s a situation facing many Class 1-A teams, and it has mostly worked out for the Wildcats.

“Everybody plays a vital role,” Cates said.

The Wildcats lost senior Ian Moore, who played as an offensive guard, to a season-ending knee injury a few weeks ago.

Eastern Randolph has posted double-digit win totals in each of the last three full seasons (discounting the pandemic-adjusted 2021 spring season). One more victory is needed to reach another 10-win season.

“We’ve improved each week throughout the year,” Cates said. “We’ve had kids that have kept improving and improving.”

The Wildcats were a No. 1 seed in each of the past two years, receiving opening-week byes. Cates said having a game this week is generally a good thing as long as injuries are avoided.

Eastern Randolph will have home games for at least the first three rounds if it advances.

By Bob Sutton