With changes to the number of participants allowed at workouts, the N.C. High School Athletic Association also announced last week the adjusted playoff schedules for all sports this year.
The changes cut down team sports to 32 teams per classification for the playoffs. Football will be subdivided like in the past with eight 16-team brackets. These brackets will be predetermined to limit the amount of travel, according to the NCHSAA.
The NCHSAA eliminated the dual team tennis and wrestling state championships, and will have only individual regionals and state championships for those sports.
For the team sports, the number of automatic bids per conference will depend on the size of the league. Conferences with six or fewer teams will have one automatic seed in the state playoffs, conferences with seven or eight teams will have two automatic bids into the playoffs and conferences with nine or more teams will have three automatic bids. Any other open spots after the seeding process will be filled to wild cards based on a team’s conference win percentage.
The changes means the Sandhills Athletic Conference, in which Pinecrest competes in, will have two automatic bids across all sports.
“With this eight-team conference fighting for two playoff spots, there will be some good teams that won’t make the playoffs out of our conference,” Pinecrest Athletic Director Jeff Hewitt said. “Every game is going to be important and we will have to coach the kids up and make sure that they understand there’s no complaining and we have to play our best each time going forward.”
The Tri-County Conference will be fighting for limited playoff spots with Union Pines and the five others schools in the league.
“This definitely puts tons of pressure on coaches to get the team ready out of the gate and have their teams in midseason form early on,” Union Pines AD Chad Hill said.
Then comes the question with more room for nonconference scheduling or maybe opens up the option for the Tri-County Conference to play conference tournaments in certain sports. The NCHSAA said conferences can schedule a conference tournament as long as it stays under the contests per week and per season limits that are set for each sport. If the conference tournament has two teams left for a championship game, the NCHSAA allows for one contest past the maximum allotment for weekly contests to determine a conference tournament champion.
“It will definitely be tough because some people lean toward the strength of nonconference and some lean toward conference tourneys so either way there will be some tough decisions that will need to be made,” Hill said. “There will be a lot of brainstorming.”
All sports will be allowed to play 14 contests in a season this year, except for football that is maxed out to seven games in the regular season,
North Moore plays football with six other teams in the Yadkin Valley Conference, but in other sports the league has nine total members.
The Mustangs find themselves in a good position, unlike other schools across the state, when it comes to filling in a schedule outside of league play. But hurdles arise as to planning a conference rotation with too many conference opponents to play twice in a season to fit the 14-contest schedules.
Conference scheduling is still in the works, according to Athletic Director Chris Coble.
“We won’t quite have that problem (in nonconference) because we have a lot of local schools and even some christian schools in the area that’s schedules will line up with our teams,” Coble said. “Most of the conference stuff will have to be hammered out and it will definitely be a work in progress.”