3A-4A Northwestern Conference:
Favorite: Freedom (3A)
Contenders: Watauga (3A), Alexander Central (3A)
Rest of the Conference: Hickory (3A), West Caldwell (3A), St. Stephens (3A), South Caldwell (4A), McDowell County (4A)
Notes: Freedom gets a slight edge over Watauga with Alexander Central right on their heels. Hickory could make some noise this year.
3A-4A Patriot Conference:
Favorite: South View (4A)
Contenders: Terry Sanford (3A), Cape Fear (3A), Overhills (4A), EE Smith (3A)
Rest of the Conference: Pine Forest (3A), Westover (3A), Gray's Creek (3A), Douglas Byrd (3A)
Notes: South View is a moderate favorite to win the conference. Terry Sanford and Cape Fear will be no easy out. Darkhorses include Overhills and E.E. Smith. Overall, a very good conference.
3A-4A Mideastern Conference:
Favorite: Hoggard (4A)
Contenders: New Hanover (3A)
Rest of the Conference: West Brunswick (3A), Laney (4A), South Brunswick (3A), North Brunswick (3A), Ashley (4A), Topsail (3A)
Notes: Hoggard may not be as good as last year and the same holds true with New Hanover. Laney might be the darkhorse in this conference.
3A-4A Eastern Carolina Conference:
Favorite: Conley (3A)
Contenders: Rose (3A), South Central (4A)
Rest of the Conference: New Bern (4A), Eastern Wayne (3A), CB Aycock (3A), Southern Wayne (3A)
Notes: I don't see any team within the conference that will stop Conley from scoring at will. Rose will improve while South Central will rebuild. New Bern has some issues, especially with no head coach on staff.
4A Northern Athletic Conference:
Favorite: Wake Forest
Rest of the Conference: Rolesville, Knightdale, Wakefield, Corinth Holders
Notes: Wake Forest and Heritage may not be as great as they were in 2017. However, both are still on very solid ground. The rest of the conference will struggle.
4A CAP-7 Conference:
Favorite: Cardinal Gibbons
Contenders: Sanderson, Millbrook
Rest of the Conference: SE Raleigh, Leesville Road, Broughton, Enloe
Notes: Cardinal Gibbons gets the nod to win this conference. Sanderson and Millbrook will be playoff contenders. SE Raleigh will be on the rise.
4A South Wake Conference:
Contenders: Fuquay-Varina, Middle Creek
Rest of the Conference: Apex Friendship, Holly Springs, Apex
Notes: Garner has the tools to make a deep run in the playoffs. Fuquay-Varina will also be much improved. Middle Creek could make some noise but still has a few unknowns for me to move them any higher.
4A Triangle 6 Conference:
Favorite: Green Hope
Rest of the Conference: Athens Drive, Jordan, Riverside, Cary, Panther Creek
Notes: Green Hope is a solid favorite to win the conference. Athens Drive and Jordan should fight it out for 2nd place in the conference.
4A Sandhills Conference:
Favorite: Jack Britt
Contenders: Scotland, Richmond County, Pinecrest, Seventy-First
Rest of the Conference: Lumberton, Purnell Swett, Hoke County
Notes: On paper, Jack Britt is the favorite to win the conference crown. Scotland and Richmond County are right in contention too. Pinecrest and Seventy-First are solid playoff teams. Overall, this is one of the toughest 3 conferences in the state.
4A All-Metro Conference:
Rest of the Conference: Grimsley, Ragsdale, NW Guilford, High Point Central
Notes: Page will easily win this conference and be in contention for the 4AA state crown. The rest of the conference will be weak although Grimsley could surprise.
4A Central Piedmont Conference:
Favorite: East Forsyth
Contenders: West Forsyth, Glenn
Rest of the Conference: Davie County, RJ Reynolds, Reagan
Notes: With the exception of East Forsyth, this conference may not be quite as strong as 2017 when it was a brutal conference for foes. East Forsyth should win this conference although West Forsyth and Glenn will be in the mix.
4A So. Meck 7 Conference:
Contenders: West Mecklenburg, Harding
Rest of the Conference: Olympic, South Mecklenburg, Ardrey Kell, Berry Academy
Notes: Providence is a slight favorite over West Mecklenburg and Harding. Olympic and South Mecklenburg should be improved over their 2017 teams. Ardrey Kell might surprise while Berry Academy still looks for a head coach.
4A I-Meck Conference:
Favorite: Mallard Creek
Contenders: Hough, Vance, North Mecklenburg
Rest of the Conference: Mooresville, West Charlotte, Lake Norman, Hopewell
Notes: Mallard Creek is poised to repeat at I-Meck champions although Hough and Vance will keep them alert. Hough has an influx of talent come in while Vance will be a very strong team. North Mecklenburg is by no means a slouch...they could sneak into the top-3. Mooresville, West Charlotte, and Lake Norman will fight it out for 5th place. This is the premier 4A conference in 2018.
4A Southwestern Conference:
Contenders: Myers Park, Hickory Ridge, Porter Ridge
Rest of the Conference: Independence, East Mecklenburg, Rocky River, Garinger
Notes: Butler is the clear favorite to win the conference crown. Myers Park, Hickory Ridge, and Porter Ridge will all be fighting it out for 2nd place. Independence might be the darkhorse although 2019 might be the year the Patriots will shine brighter. I would not dismiss Rocky River as they have shown that they can stay within striking distance of many teams.
The way too early top 25 4A rankings:
1. Mallard Creek
4. Wake Forest
7. East Forsyth
9. Cardinal Gibbons
10. Jack Britt
11. Myers Park
12. South View
13. Hickory Ridge
15. Porter Ridge
16. Richmond County
19. West Forsyth
20. Middle Creek
23. North Mecklenburg
24. West Mecklenburg