MATTHEWS — The wait continues for the Butler football team.
NCHSAA football playoffs across the state kick off Nov. 16 but the Southwestern 4A champion Bulldogs have a first-round bye in the Class 4AA playoffs after finishing atop of the conference standings with a 7-0 record.
Butler (9-2) will face the winner of the Nov. 16 game between conference rival Myers Park and Providence at home Nov. 23 in the second round. When Butler takes the field next week it will be the first time since Oct. 26 that the team has been in action.
Butler earned wins over East Meck (Nov. 2) and Independence (Nov. 9) after those teams were forced to forfeit their final two games of the regular season after being involved in fights during games the latter part of the season.
Butler coach Brian Hales said the team has responded well during the layoff. The first week of the layoff there was a fatal shooting at the school and students were out of class for two days before returning.
“The first week, there was a lot of things going on around school, so that first week was kind of a wash anyway,” Hales said. “Last week, we focused on keeping everybody’s retention level high and making sure we were repping through a lot of stuff. Since we don’t know who we will be playing, the focus is about us.”
Butler has had several spirited scrimmages since their last game. The first-team offense has gone up against the first-team defense.
“We have got after it a few times,” Hales said. “We’ve got some good competition within our team. But this week, the weather is going to be a challenge. But we have been able to get into the weight room and look at a film, as well. It’s like taking the college bowl season approach where we make sure what we need to do on the field. It’s a balancing act, making sure we stay fresh and sharp but also make sure we are healthy for the 23rd.”
On paper, Butler has won its last eight games and they have won their last six on the field, including a 51-6 win over Garinger on Oct. 26. Butler’s two losses this season are to top-ranked Mallard Creek (36-28) and Richmond (30-19). Butler is the No. 3 seed from the West and is in the bottom half of the bracket with No. 2 seed Richmond, which faces either No. 7 West Forsyth or Ronald Reagan on Nov. 23.
If everything plays out, Butler and Richmond could face off in the regional semifinals on Nov. 30. Mallard Creek is the top seed on the upper half of the bracket while Ardrey Kell is the No. 4 seed. The regional finals are set for Dec. 7 with the championship game slated for Dec. 14. The playoffs were pushed back a week after the regular season was extended because of Hurricane Florence.
Butler will see a familiar foe in their first playoff game as the Bulldogs defeated Providence 42-21 on Sept. 12 and they claimed a 39-22 victory over Myers Park at home on Oct. 5.
In their nine games played on the field, Butler is averaging 38 points an outing while surrendering 22 points a game. Butler’s balanced attack is averaging 236 yards rushing a game and 154 yards passing.
Senior quarterback Christian Peters is 101-of-198 passing for 1,386 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has thrown six interceptions. Senior Keyon Lesane, who missed two of the Bulldogs’ nine games that were actually played, is the Bulldogs’ top receiving target with 24 catches for 378 yards and four touchdowns. Lesane has also rushed for 294 yards on 35 carries.
Junior running back Jamal Worthy leads the rushing attack with 783 yards on 116 carries for 15 touchdowns. Worthy also has 15 receptions for 225 yards and two more touchdowns. Classmate Quasean Holmes has rushed for 599 yards on 104 carries and has scored 11 touchdowns. Holmes also has 16 catches for 157 yards.
In all, five Butler players have at least 100 yards rushing on the year while seven players have at least 100 yards receiving on the season.
The defense has been equally effective. Butler has 11 interceptions on the year with Donovan Law and Lesane having three each. Senior linebacker Brandon Masone leads the defense with 96 tackles, including 14 stops for loss. Darius Law has 64 stops while Raevon Freeman has 58 stops. John Park has 49 tackles, including 13 for loss.
“I think once we got to conference, we settled in,” Hales said. “We have our rotations down in all three phases.”
Hales said the Bulldogs will be ready to play no matter who the opponent is on Nov. 23.
“It’s tough to beat a good team twice in the same season,” Hales said. “But I think our kids are pretty humble, and they are eager to get on the field.”