Eastern Randolph primed to begin playoffs

RAMSEUR — A week off prior to opening the state playoffs might be a good omen for Eastern Randolph’s football team.

When that happened during the past spring for the state playoffs, it worked out.

“We really played our best game against Clinton,” coach Burton Cates said. “You’ve got to look at the positives.”

The situation is different, though, this season. That was an upset victory for the Wildcats several months ago.

Now, Eastern Randolph (9-0) opens the postseason as the top-seeded Class 1-A team in the West Region. The Wildcats are set for Friday night’s game against No. 16 seed Draughn (6-5), which also uses Wildcats as its nickname.

Eastern Randolph’s bye came because the Class 1-A bracket wasn’t full. Last season, a COVID-related situation allowed the team to advance through the opening round.

“We were able to get a jump on (studying) Draughn a little bit,” Cates said. 

Draughn sophomore running back Nigel Dula set a Burke County record with 478 rushing yards and six touchdowns in a 56-9 first-round romp past visiting Elkin on Friday. 

“He has got our attention,” Cates said of Dula.

Draughn’s only other postseason victory came 10 years ago.

Eastern Randolph’s stiffest test to date probably came in the season opener in August. That came with a home victory against Eastern Alamance, which hasn’t lost since and is the Class 3-A East Region’s top seed.

Eastern Randolph went on to win the Piedmont Athletic Conference.

“Our kids were focused down the stretch,” Cates said. “They wanted to be undefeated and win the conference outright.”

By Bob Sutton

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