Albemarle might have started the season with four straight nonconference losses, but none of that matters now.
The Bulldogs (5-5, 3-1 YVC) are the 2023 Yadkin Valley Conference champions.
Senior running back Malik Watkins had two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the third quarter, to propel Albemarle to a 14-7 win at North Stanly (7-3, 3-1 YVC).
With Albemarle and North Stanly both at 3-1 in conference play, the Bulldogs’ victory gave them the tiebreaker to earn the 2023 YVC crown. It also snapped a nine-game series winning streak for the Comets in what had been a one-sided local rivalry.
Thanks to their title win, the Bulldogs received the top 1A seed from the conference for the NCHSAA state playoffs, while the Comets notched a 2A berth with last week’s win at Mount Pleasant.
No. 6 Albemarle will host No. 27 South Davidson (4-6, 1-5 Central Carolina) on Friday in the 1A bracket, while No. 9 North Stanly hosts No. 24 T. W. Andrews (6-4, 4-2 Mid-State) in the 2A bracket.
Monroe 56, West Stanly 6
On the road against the top team in the Rocky River Conference, West Stanly was handed a 56-6 loss by Monroe.
The Redhawks (9-1, 5-0 RRC) finished with 215 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns to stay finish their conference schedule undefeated. The Colts (5-5, 2-3 RRC) managed 127 yards on the ground but scored only once, courtesy of quarterback Jett Thomas.
West opened the season with three wins but finished the regular season with five losses in its last seven games.
The Colts, however, still earned a playoff berth. In the first round of the 2A bracket, 27th-seeded West Stanly will travel to face the sixth-seeded Randleman (9-1, 4-1 Piedmont).
Union Academy 14, South Stanly 12
South Stanly let a late lead slip away as Union Academy picked up its second win of the season — and first since Sept. 1 — with a 14-12 victory Friday.
Down 12-7 in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals (2-8, 1-3 YVC) pulled ahead with eight minutes remaining in the game as quarterback Parker St. Clair rushed for what ended up being the game-winning touchdown.
The Rowdy Rebel Bulls (4-6, 1-3 YVC) finished their regular season losing four of their final five games but still earned a playoff berth after entering the season with 12 consecutive losses.
No. 25 South Stanly will hit the road to face the No. 8 Bessemer City (5-5, 3-3 Southern Piedmont) in the first round of the 1A bracket.