There is one certainty, written into its bylaws, in how the N.C. High School Athletic Association configures its playoff: There will be an East and West champion. How you get to that is up for debate and years of tinkering after input from coaches and athletic directors alike.
The NCHSAA’s seeding model has no hard limit on what it means to be playoff eligible or if a team will be placed in the East or West. It rewards conference champions and overall win-loss records without respect to strength of schedule. Just win, baby.
This year’s playoff model has a few new twists. Here are the step-by-step directions:
▪ First, only conference champions (or the top team in each half of a split conference) get automatic bids. This is a change from previous years. Non-conference champs can’t jump conference champs in seeding.
▪ Everyone else makes the playoffs as a wild-card based on a 10-game, win-loss record. If you played 11 games, you get to drop a nonconference loss. If you had no nonconference losses and played 11 games, you must drop a win.
▪ If there’s a tie for the last team in, the edge goes to either a head-to-head winner (if applicable) or the team with the best conference winning percentage. If the tie cannot be broken, a random draw is used.
▪ Teams are then sorted into two brackets. The largest 32 playoff teams in each classification play in the 4AA, 3AA, 2AA or 1AA. The smaller 32 teams play in 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A.
▪ Next, the 32 teams are sorted by their longitude into 8-team West, Midwest, Mideast and East pods.
▪ The next step is to seed those pods 1-8. Conference champs go first, seeded by their win-loss records. Ties are broken either by head-to-head record, better 11-game record or, as a last resort, their most recent MaxPreps.com power ranking. This all but eliminates random draws that were once prevalent at this stage.
▪ Finally, you pit the pods against each other. The 1, 3, 5 and 7 in the East are in the same 8-team bracket as the 2, 4, 6 and 8 from the Mideast and vice versa. This is a major change from previous years intended to cut down on conference rematches in the first round.
Easy enough? Hardly. When the preliminary brackets are posted in a few weeks, expect some major changes before everyone gets it right in the end.
The Starting 11: players of the week
(Times named to The Starting 11 this season in parentheses.)
Vincent Burlingame, Panther Creek (1): Completed 14 of 32 passes for 387 yards and five touchdowns.
Jake Flowers, C.B. Aycock (2): Completed 18 of 29 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
Dontavies Harris, J.H. Rose (4): Ran 24 times for 243 yards and six touchdowns.
John Jiles, Wake Forest (1): Blocked a kick, had an interception and caught two passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
J. Johnson, Panther Creek (1): Caught 6 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
D.J. Jones, Bunn (2): Ran 25 times for 224 yards and three touchdowns, also had a 93-yard kickoff return for score.
Caiden Norman, Cleveland (6): Completed 27 of 31 passes for 433 yards and four touchdowns.
Jacob Scott, Cleveland (2): Caught 10 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
Broderick Taylor, Holly Springs (5): Ran 7 times for 216 yards and four touchdowns.
Tyrus Townsend, Fuquay-Varina (1): Ran 14 times for 233 yards and two touchdowns.
Tyler Williams, Southeast Raleigh (1): Intercepted two passes for touchdown, also had two catches for 68 yards and one touchdown.
4-point stance: top defenses
Jordan-Matthews: Shut out Carrboro, 26-0, and held the Jaguars to 4 yards passing, 79 rushing.
Middle Creek: Held Green Hope to 84 yards passing and minus-13 rushing in a 56-0 win.
Orange: In the Panthers’ fifth shutout of the year, 49-0 over J.F. Webb, they allowed just 56 yards passing and minus-2 rushing.
Southern Nash: Held Rocky Mount to 159 yards of total offense in a 21-10 victory.
▪ The N.C. Indepdendent Schools Athletic Association playoffs begin this week. All games are at the higher seed. Wake Christian has home-field advantaged in the Division III 11-man playoffs as the No. 1 seed.
▪ Orange has two weeks off before the playoffs. The Panthers had a Week 12 bye before the NCHSAA extended the regular season by one week to assist schools affected by Hurricane Matthew.
Carrboro goes to ‘Football Capitol’: Carrboro goes to one of the most tradition-rich places in the state this Friday night when the Jaguars visit Reidsville, nicknamed “Football Capitol of N.C.” There’s good reason for the nickname: Reidsville has 18 state championships, the most recent in 2009 and earliest in 1930. For those traveling with Carrboro, enjoy the old-timey feel of the Reidsville stadium – a brick press box and big billboard with all of the Rams’ accolades. But beware the Rams – they’ve won their last three games 75-0, 66-0, 57-0 and 64-0.