Pigskin Preview 2011: Northwestern 3A/4A

If recent history has taught us one thing, it is that the Northwestern Conference championship won't be settled until the final week of the regular season. For the past two years Hibriten and Alexander Central have entered the final game tied in the standings.

This is the first of a series of 52 conference previews leading up to the start of the 2011 North Carolina High School Football season.
Projected Conference Finish
1. Hibriten
2. Hickory
3. Alexander Central
4. South Caldwell
5. Watauga
6. St. Stephens
7. Fred T. Foard

In 2009 Hibriten dominated the Cougars for the crown but last year Alexander Central kicker Jeremy Whisnant split the uprights in overtime to give the Cougars their first conference championship since 1983.

Will 2011 be much of the same or will someone else step up to the table and claim their share of the glory?

To do so teams will have to find a way to neutralize Hibriten's advantage on the line of scrimmage. The Panthers will be very strong on both sides of the ball with senior center Nathan Schultz leading the charge up front. If teams allow them to impose their will in the trenches, the Panthers could cruise to the title.

Alexander Central could be equally as dominant up front as Hibriten but graduation hit the Cougars hard at some key skill positions. Gone is quarterback Kyle Kinnaird who was the catalyst in Tom Harper's offense. This year the Cougars will be relying on Nick Salyer to be the signal caller. Salyer rushed for nearly 700 yards as a junior.

Hickory could be the wildcard to make some noise and has been the talk of most coaches in the league. The Red Tornadoes have been down in recent years but could have the most speed and skill talent in the conference.

Kyle Johnson has potential be the best player in the league and could lead Hickory to their first conference championship in years. Johnson passed for 1,500 yards as a junior with 16 touchdowns.

Not to be forgotten in the championship talks is South Caldwell. The Spartans won 9 games a year ago and still feel they can contend at the top level. If Devin Potter can break loose in space the Spartans will be in contention against everyone on their schedule. Potter rushed for over 1,500 yards in 2010 and is a dangerous threat out of the backfield.

Our Call
Expect Hibriten to once again take charge of the conference and take home another trophy but it wouldn't shock anyone to see Hickory make a serious charge at the Panthers.

Surprise Team
If you are looking for a Cinderella story for this year, look no further than Watauga. While the Pioneers only won 3 games last year, their senior class is the core of that team and they've worked extremely hard in the off-season. If they can find a way to get running back Kyle Chambers in open field, they could hurt you.

Dates to Remember

August 19th.
South Caldwell at Freedom
Statesville at Hickory
A.C. Reynolds at Watauga

August 26th
Tuscola at Hibriten
Newton-Conover at Hickory

September 16th
Hibriten at South Caldwell

September 23rd
Davie County at Hibriten

September 30th
Hickory at Alexander Central

October 7th
South Caldwell at Hickory

October 14th
Hickory at Hibriten

October 21st
South Caldwell at Alexander Central

October 28th
Alexander Central at Hibriten

Contact Chris Hughes at chughes@carolinapreps.com

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