Nick Stevens

Some teams look for signature wins

Posted September 14

When it comes to the playoffs, all wins were created equal in the past. With the new playoff system, that is not the case.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association will use MaxPreps rankings to create the playoff field and seed the brackets this year. Although we do not know the exact MaxPreps formula, we do know that strength of schedule is heavily weighed. And that means wins over good teams help more than wins over not-so-good teams.

Some teams in our area are still searching for a signature win, and the new playoff format is why the quality of wins is important.

Let's take a look at some of these teams who, if the playoffs were held today, could find themselves on the borderline of getting in or being left out.

Garner (1-3): The Trojans started the season 0-2 with losses to Clayton (35-14) and Cleveland (19-15) before beating Southeast Raleigh (47-14) in week three. Last week, Garner fell to New Hanover (41-38). Two of the teams who have beaten Garner are undefeated, which is helping the Trojans' ranking, but Garner's chances to pick up quality wins are dwindling. Leesville Road, Fuquay-Varina and Middle Creek are the only teams left on the schedule for the Trojans who have better rankings. That means the strength of schedule will fall for Garner. I think Friday's game against Leesville Road is huge – not a must-win, but close.

Leesville Road (2-2): Speaking of Leesville Road, Friday's game is huge for it too. The Pride started the season 0-2 with wins over Wakefield (20-13) and Panther Creek (38-16), but those two teams are a combined 0-8. Leesville Road isn't getting many quality points from those two wins in the MaxPreps rankings. The Pride lost to Green Hope and Wake Forest. Friday's game may not be as important for the Pride as it is for Garner though. The strength of schedule for Leesville Road will go up during conference play with games against teams like Cardinal Gibbons, Sanderson and Millbrook.

Millbrook (1-3): Millbrook has played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the state, but the Wildcats haven't beaten the top teams they've played. The only win so far for Millbrook came to winless Wakefield (39-9) in week two. Millbrook lost games to Wake Forest (34-7), Heritage (53-13) and Middle Creek (34-22). The Wildcats will play a tough conference schedule, which will help them if they're able to pick up wins, but Friday's last non-conference game against Apex is one Millbrook should win – and must win.

Sanderson (2-2): I don't think there's any doubt Sanderson will make the state playoffs, but the Spartans could hurt their seeding without a signature win. Sanderson has wins over Knightdale (34-7) and Apex (48-0), but the two toughest games Sanderson has played were both losses – East Forsyth (14-9) and Heritage (28-7). The Spartans are also members of the Cap 7 Conference where their strength of schedule will still be strong, but Friday's last non-conference game against Green Hope would go a long way to helping the Spartans.

Hillside (1-3): Hillside has also played a really tough non-conference schedule, but the Hornets haven't picked up a big win yet. Hillside's only win came in week one at New Bern (33-0), which is 1-3. Hillside has come close in every single loss though, which is helping the Hornets' ranking. Hillside has losses to Scotland County (34-21), Pinecrest (42-39) and Dudley (14-7). The strength of schedule for the Hornets will start to drop some as it enters Big Eight Conference play though, and that means Hillside has to start putting checks in the win column.

Rocky Mount (1-2): The Gryphons have been one of the top 3A teams in the state the last few seasons, but Rocky Mount has to start getting wins this season. Rocky Mount has played a good non-conference schedule though and is being rewarded for that strength of the schedule. The Gryphons have losses to Middle Creek (33-15) and D.H. Conley (60-43). The lone win for Rocky Mount game at Hertford County (47-21). A win at Havelock on Friday night would be a big one for Rocky Mount.

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