The NCISAA went to a three-tiered playoff system in 2017 as a way to level the playing field in the postseason, reduce blowouts and make the postseason games more competitive.
It makes sense.
There were too many games in years past that ended in 45-3 or similar scores with the dominant teams running over their counterparts.
Since the switch, Providence Day has lost to Charlotte Christian in each of the first two seasons in Division I while Charlotte Latin (2017) and Country Day (2018) have claimed the Division II titles with less-than-stellar portfolios, including the Bucs entering the playoffs 5-5 before three wins gave them the title.
This year, there will be none of that.
“There’s a parity in our conference and our state association right now that I think is really unique,” Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep said following his team’s 27-14 win over previously unbeaten Charlotte Latin on Oct. 18. “Anybody can probably beat anybody on a given Friday night given the circumstances right now, and that makes for good football. Each year, there’s been a mega-monster sitting in this thing whether it’s been us, Latin, Country Day, Providence Day or whoever. Now everyone is back, which is unique.”
To his point, the four Division I playoff teams from last year are having great seasons with two-time defending champ Christian (with a current 5-2 record), Providence Day (6-2), Christ School (4-3) and Trinity Christian (5-2) playing well.
Providence Day and Charlotte Christian play each other this week in both teams’ regular season finale, so that outcome could clear up or further muddle the playoff picture.
The loser could find themselves in Division II for the first time this season because of how well everyone else is playing.
Country Day (8-1) and Charlotte Latin (7-1) play each other this week. The winner will join the winner of the Providence Day-Christian game in the Division I bracket.
But the big question is where will the others fall?
At 4-3, Christ School is likely to be a Division II team this season and it’s possible the same fate will be had for Trinity Christian at 5-2.
Based on record alone, Charlotte Christian could be the odd man out, but they’ve played a brutal schedule and I’d doubt they’re left out of Division I even if they lose this week since they’re the two-time champs.
That leaves the door open that the traditional “Big Four” of Providence Day, Latin, Country Day and Christian make up Division I no matter what happens this week, but that is certainly no lock because others have risen up.
Rabun Gap plays in Georgia, but is a member of the North Carolina private school association for some reason. That may be funny one day if they ever win a state title, and it could happen this year as they’re 7-2 and in the race for a Division I berth.
So is High Point Christian (7-2), Harrells Christian (7-2) and Metrolina Christian (6-3).
There will be six Division II teams and four in Division I.
There’s a chance the committee will make it the Big Four teams who make the Division I ranks, but they’ll have some compelling arguments to hear about where teams think they should fall.
But no matter how it shakes out, and like Estep said, it’s going to make for some good November football.