All of the regular season action on the field has concluded, but for area teams residing in Class A of the GHSA, all eyes will be on computer screens as the final step of the state playoff qualification process is about to play out.
Last Friday’s games may have made the playoff picture a bit clearer for some teams, but playoff seeding and postseason opponents won’t be known for sure until the state’s final power poll is published and any appeals have been heard.
The final rankings will be released on GHSA.net this morning and schools will have until Noon on Wednesday to file any appeals for higher seeding.
Class A’s playoff system differs greatly from the other five classifications. With split championships between public and private schools, the playoff bracket is limited to just 16 teams per sub-classification instead of the normal 32.
But the biggest difference is in the way teams can qualify. In other classifications, four teams are guaranteed to come out of each region. In Class A, only the eight region champions — regardless of status as public or private — are guaranteed a spot in the postseason.
For the remaining teams, a complex formula that considers total wins, wins over higher classified schools, and the win totals for opponents will spit out final standings from which the two brackets will be filled.
As if the system isn’t complicated enough, teams in and around Bulloch County comprise Region 3-A. This region has plenty of impact on the power poll in that it contains plenty of highly rated teams and that there is an abundance of both public and private schools.
The private school side — as it applies to Region 3-A — seems pretty clear. Calvary Day and Savannah Christian are shoo-ins for the playoffs and will both play their first game at home.
As for the public schools, the slide rulers and calculators are going to get more of a workout over the next 48 hours than the helmets and shoulder pads.
One of the biggest question marks is what will become of the Portal Panthers.
Portal’s 3-7 record doesn’t look like the mark of a playoff team, but two of the Panthers’ wins carried the bonus of coming against Class AAA schools. Also helping out is the Panthers’ brutal schedule. While Portal took its lumps throughout the season, the success of its opponents has added to the Panthers’ rating.
As of last week’s poll, the Panthers had 10 spots to jump in order to make the field. They did all that they could do on the field, but might finish just outside of the pack.
Another team whose playoff life might be determined by number crunching is Jenkins County.
The Eagles have a lofty 7-3 ranking, but they beat just one team from a higher classification and haven’t receive much support due to bad season records turned in by their opponents.
Jenkins County was clinging to the next-to-last playoff spot last week despite having a better record than three higher-ranked schools. A win over Wheeler County last week should keep the Eagles in the bracket, but they’ll likely be saddled with a low seed and a tough first round matchup.
Claxton and Emanuel County Institute are locks to make the field, but tenths of a percentage point in the ratings could mean the difference between either team opening the postseason at home or going on the road.
Claxton likely earned its first home playoff game since 2001 with a win over Johnson County last week. The Tigers were ranked seventh in last week’s poll and may take advantage of previous No. 6 team ECI — which the Tigers beat earlier this season — as the Bulldogs were crushed by Calvary Day in last week’s Region 3-A championship game.
At this point, all that is certain is that the next two days will be filled with finger-crossing, possible celebrations, and a mad dash to start preparing for playoff opponents that will remain unknown until later in the week.
Because of both Class A brackets having one fewer round than the higher classifications, all playoff teams will be off this Friday while the rest of the state begins postseason play.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.