Bryson City – Friday’s first round playoff game offers as much intrigue as any first round matchup has offered in a long time. At it’s very heart it is a story of old versus new, the old guard versus the new era. The old guard is Swain County, one of the state’s oldest and most tradition laden franchises. The new era, is Mountain Island Charter, a NCHSAA “public” school who’s student population is generated by a lottery. In the end it is two football teams that match up well on paper, looking to move on to the 2nd round. For all intensive purposes it will be one of the better games the first round of the playoffs has to offer.
For the Maroon Devil fans, don’t pass off Mountain Island Charter as another Gladiator Sports Academy, they are not. The Raptors are a good football team. Despite only fielding football beginning in 2015, Mountain Island Charter School has not had a losing season. This year the Raptors went 7-4 overall, finishing tied for second in the Southern Piedmont 1A with Bessemer City.
The biggest problem for the Maroon Devils will be stopping the Raptors Elijah Burris. Burris is a junior running back who leads the entire state (all classifications) in rushing. So far on the season Burris has put together numbers usually reserved for folks playing on the Playstation in cheat mode. The 5’10 215 pounder has rushed for 2727 yards on 181 carries and scored 34 touchdowns. He has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this season, as a matter of fact he has rushed for over 200 yards in 8 of the Raptors 11 games. Yes, you read that right. His season high was 362 yards on 29 carries and 6 touchdowns in the Raptors 54-24 win over Community School of Davidson.
For the Maroon Devils this game is all about tradition. Swain comes into the game riding a 18 game home NCHSAA playoff winning streak. The Devils have won 58 and lost only 4 times at Swain County Memorial Stadium during the playoffs. Swain is among the state leaders in playoff wins, and has a ridiculous 35-2 record in the first round of the NCHSAA playoffs. For the Raptors this will mark their 6th playoff game.
The game plan is tried and true for the Devils, execute on every down. Establish the run, and control the ball.
But the biggest key of all for Swain, is our fans. For the home team to actually have a home field advantage the fans MUST be involved. Swain County Memorial Stadium can either be a big sterile quiet place, or as we have all seen it can be a significant home field advantage. It’s really up to our fans, which one it will be Friday. Will it be old mountain jugs and noise, or will it be Bob having to beg our fans to stand up on crucial downs?
Swain County has a current 18 game home field winning streak in the playoffs and is 60-5 at home overall during the playoffs. Numbers like that only happen because our community gets involved as a source of pride. Mountain Island has Smoky Mountain Conference experience, having played Murphy in 2016 at Murphy and then hosting Robbinsville last year (they lost both games).
So, what’s it going to be Swain County? It’s up to you to rise to the occasion for what should be a dandy!