High School Sports

Coming Sunday: Private school football playoff bracket to feature major changes

In 2016, Charlotte Latin wide receiver/defensive back Nate Berhe was lifted into the air by offensive/defensive lineman Eddie Crutchfield with the championship trophy following the team’s victory over Charlotte Christian in the NCISAA football championship game. The Hawks open the 2019 season at home Friday.
In 2016, Charlotte Latin wide receiver/defensive back Nate Berhe was lifted into the air by offensive/defensive lineman Eddie Crutchfield with the championship trophy following the team’s victory over Charlotte Christian in the NCISAA football championship game. The Hawks open the 2019 season at home Friday. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

On Sunday, when the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association puts together its 2017 high school football playoff bracket, things will look dramatically different than in years past.

Instead of teams going into predetermined brackets, all 24 teams that play 11-man football in the state will be evaluated based on 2017 results and then placed into a bracket. The top four teams will go to Division I; the next eight to Division II; and the next eight to Division III.

Four of the 24 teams will not make the playoffs.

“What we’re doing,” said third-year NCISAA executive director Homar Ramirez, “is taking results based on what’s transpired throughout the season. We will still have three divisions, but we will not predetermine who participates in those divisions like we have in the past.”

After studying the postseason tournament in his first two years, and talking to the football coaches, Ramirez felt that having teams assigned to divisions before the season begins -- something that’s done in most high school associations -- created a competitive imbalance in N.C. private school football.

Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep agrees with that, using the example of Davidson Day. A 2A program under former coach Chad Grier, Davidson Day regularly competed with or beat larger 3A schools. In 2015, Davidson Day -- which had won Division III and Division II state titles -- moved up to Division I. The Patriots beat state power Charlotte Latin 31-13 to win the 2015 NCISAA Division I state title.

“Davidson Day was good enough to play with the biggest private schools,” Estep said, “and if they stay down (in the lower classes), they beat everybody up. They were that good. This formula is to prevent that from happening. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but all I told our guys is all we can do is control our schedule and be in the top four” for Division I.

Another thing that happens in N.C. private schools is some small schools will become really strong for short periods, like Davidson Day, which did not field a varsity team in 2017, and Victory Christian, which won state championships in 2012 and 2014, but has struggled to field teams in recent years.

This season, reigning Division III state champion Statesville Christian is 9-0 and beat Charlotte Latin 21-3 on the road in September. Assigning Statesville Christian to the Division III tournament this season would likely lead to similar results from the team’s 2016 title run: playoff scores of 59-12 over Northside Christian, 47-8 over Fayetteville Trinity Christian and 58-14 over Fayetteville Village Christian in the state championship game.

Statesville Christian will likely move up into Division II or Division I this season.

Ramirez said the NCISAA will have a seven-person committee to determine playoff pairings that will meet Sunday. It will use MaxPreps ratings to help with the process, and it will consider head-to-head play, strength of schedule and look at a ranking submitted by all of the 24 football coaches. Each coach will rank the state’s teams 1-24.

Currently, MaxPreps has two traditional Division I teams from Mecklenburg County -- Charlotte Latin and Charlotte Country Day -- going into the Division II pool in its playoff projections.

Ramirez said the state has no plans to change its other playoff formats, including basketball, but Estep said coaches are closing watching what happens with football this year.

“I think they’re trying to do their best,” Estep said, “but I don’t know what the real answer is.”

MaxPreps NCISAA playoff predictions

The N.C. Independent Schools will seed teams for the playoffs Sunday. It will use MaxPreps’ rankings as part of the process. Here are current MaxPreps playoff predictions. The top four teams go Division I, the next eight go Division II and the next eight go Division III

#

School

Overall

League

Rating

Strength

1

Charlotte Christian (Charlotte, NC)

7-1

2-0

40.6

19.2

2

Davidson Day (Davidson, NC)

0-0

0-0

33.8

0.0

3

Providence Day (Charlotte, NC)

8-1

2-0

23.3

7.6

4

Statesville Christian (Statesville, NC)

9-0

4-0

23.0

-15.3

5

High Point Christian Academy (High Point, NC)

8-1

4-0

16.8

-3.3

6

Christ School (Arden, NC)

7-1

2-0

13.6

-7.6

7

Trinity Christian (Fayetteville, NC)

8-0

5-0

10.9

-24.1

8

Charlotte Latin (Charlotte, NC)

5-4

0-2

10.0

6.4

9

Charlotte Country Day School (Charlotte, NC)

5-4

0-2

9.3

11.6

10

Metrolina Christian Academy (Indian Trail, NC)

7-2

3-0

8.8

-5.5

11

Cannon (Concord, NC)

5-4

2-2

-0.3

-3.3

12

Ravenscroft (Raleigh, NC)

6-4

4-1

-1.9

-3.0

13

Village Christian Academy (Fayetteville, NC)

6-3

3-2

-4.1

-13.4

14

Wake Christian Academy (Raleigh, NC)

5-4

3-2

-5.2

-11.7

15

Concord First Assembly Academy (Concord, NC)

4-5

1-3

-9.6

-7.6

16

SouthLake Christian Academy (Huntersville, NC)

3-5

1-3

-11.1

-1.3

17

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee (Rabun Gap, GA)

3-6

1-2

-13.1

-5.5

18

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee (Rabun Gap, GA)

3-6

1-2

-13.1

-5.5

19

Harrells Christian Academy (Harrells, NC)

4-5

2-3

-18.3

-12.7

20

Asheville School (Independent) (Asheville, NC)

4-5

1-3

-22.8

-15.7

21

Hickory Grove Christian (Charlotte, NC)

5-4

3-0

-25.2

-25.7

22

North Raleigh Christian Academy (Raleigh, NC)

1-7

1-4

-28.2

-6.9

23

Northside Christian Academy (Charlotte, NC)

3-6

1-2

-36.6

-21.0

24

Christ the King (Huntersville, NC)

2-7

0-4

-44.0

-17.6

25

Fayetteville Christian (Fayetteville, NC)

0-9

0-6

-50.2

-6.5

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