ROCKINGHAM — After using the pod system to place and seed teams for the football playoffs over the last three seasons, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association voted to eliminate it Thursday afternoon for all classifications except the 1A level.
The News and Observer first reported the decision via Twitter.
“Thank goodness,” Richmond coach Paul Hoggard said. “Although this year it worked out well for us. We have more in common with teams in the East than in the West.”
This season, the Raiders grabbed the No. 1 seed in the Mideast pod despite finishing second in the Southeastern Conference. Because of this, the team was able to have home-field advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
One of the biggest flaws Hoggard pointed out in the pod system, which was created to cut down on travel in the early rounds, was it created a “conference tournament” look to the opening round contests. The 4AA Mideast pod was filled with four teams from the Southeastern Conference — Hoke County, Lumberton, Pinecrest and Richmond. The Bucks and the Patriots played in the regular season finale, before meeting again a week later in the first round.
“Awesome…it really took away the playoff feel for the kids,” Pinecrest coach Chris Metzger said. “Going back to the old way is a better situation definitely.”
Before the NCHSAA switched to the pod system, Richmond would have received the fourth seed in the East and opened the postseason at home against Laney. A victory would have matched the Raiders against Jack Britt in the second round, instead of the third. The winner of that contest would have battled Garner in the third round, as opposed to the East Regional final.
Moving back to the previous way of seeding teams for the playoffs will not eliminate rematches especially in the first two rounds, but it will cut down on them. The 4AA Mideast pod for example featured three return contests this season — Green Hope-Fuquay-Varina, Lumberton-Jack Britt and of course Pinecrest-Hoke. The only rematches which would have have occurred in the previous format were: Jack Britt-Pinecrest and Wakefield-Heritage.
“When you get into the playoffs, you want to play someone you haven’t played,” Hoggard said. “There is no perfect way to do it. When they created this, they said in the beginning the North Carolina Football Coaches Association was for it, which is untrue. We were never in favor of it. I should know, I was on the board of directors at the time.”
Hoggard trying to finalize schedule
Hoggard said he is close to putting the final touches on the schedule for the next two years. He and athletic director Kevin Mabe thought they had it completed after a handful of schools agreed to renew contracts to continue meeting on the gridiron, but were forced to scramble to find teams when those deals feel though.
The Raiders are still searching for two opponents. Until Thursday, Hoggard was looking for an opponent for next season’s opener, but he said that vacancy was filled when Rocky River agreed to play.
The remainder of the schedule has Richmond traveling to Myrtle Beach, S.C. in Week 2 to play the Seahawks, while it will renew its rivalry with Jack Britt in Week 4 before taking on traditional rival Anson in Week 6. After a bye week, the Raiders will begin Southeastern Conference play.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.