Monday, 02 December 2019 19:35

COLUMN: Why Richmond's win over Myers Park wasn't an upset

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Contributor Deon Cranford explains why Richmond's 35-32 win over Myers Park wasn't an upset win. Contributor Deon Cranford explains why Richmond's 35-32 win over Myers Park wasn't an upset win. Jimmy McDonald — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM – The official end to the 2019 football season in North Carolina is less than two weeks away, and with it, athletes from eight schools will earn state championship bragging rights and memories that will last a lifetime.  

While there will never be a truly perfect postseason formula for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to use when seeding the 112 eligible playoff teams, the inclusion of the adjusted MaxPreps rankings definitely has its merits. 

However, allowing an algorithm to determine how good a team is when compared to others can be a tough pill to swallow, especially when home field advantage is on the line.  That brings us to Friday night’s epic clash between Richmond and Myers Park high schools.

So, why exactly were the Raiders the No. 1 seed in the 4AA West?  What forced the Mustangs to make the trek from the Queen City to Rockingham?

Scheduling is the biggest part of it.  Richmond’s 11 regular season opponents were a combined 71-49.  If you include its two playoff opponents (Myers Park and Hough), only two of Richmond’s 13 opponents ended the season with a losing record. 

The Sandhills Athletic Conference’s results during the non-conference portion of the season played heavily into Richmond’s favor as well.  Richmond, Scotland, Pinecrest and Jack Britt high schools all entered conference play at 4-0. 

What helped even more is that all four of them had no overlapping opponents, meaning games like Scotland’s win over 8-3 Southeast Guilford and Jack Britt’s win over 9-2 South View helped Richmond’s ranking later when the Raiders swept the conference.  Had Scotland, Pinecrest and Jack Britt recorded wins over the same opponents, Richmond wouldn’t have received the same lift in ranking points.

Also in the SAC, Seventy-First and Hoke County high schools finished 3-1 in non-conference play.  For ranking purposes, it didn’t hurt that Richmond’s seven conference foes entered conference play with a combined 24-8 record. 

On the flip side, Myers Park’s 11 regular season opponents finished with a combined 50-70 record.  The Mustangs only defeated five teams during the regular season with winning records and two of those (Butler and Hough) were also defeated by Richmond.  Victories against Olympic (8-4), Hickory Ridge (8-4) and Porter Ridge (7-6) rounded out the Mustangs’ remaining quality wins.

In the playoffs, Myers Park argued its claim to the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a dominating 48-7 victory over Ardrey Kell (11-2).  This argument breaks down quickly when it’s considered that only three of Ardrey Kell’s 11 victories were against winning teams (Olympic 8-4, West Mecklenburg 6-5, Harding 6-5). 

Ardrey Kell received a forfeit victory for an un-played game against Catawba River High School and its remaining seven opponents were a combined 24-55.

The Southwestern 4A Conference helped Myers Park out a little with Butler (8-3), Hickory Ridge (8-3) and Porter Ridge (6-5) entering the playoffs with winning records.  Porter Ridge went on to come up just short in a great battle with 4A West No. 1 Grimsley High School, but both Hickory Ridge and Butler were dispatched pretty quickly from the postseason.

The issue here is that Charlotte has been accepted as the high school football capital of North Carolina for so long, that fans and media outlets in the Queen City tend to assume that even their average and below average programs are still better than many of the good teams out there. 

The reality is that Mecklenburg County is very top heavy each year, boasting four or five high-quality 4A teams, while many of the midrange schools are padding their records by mowing down the likes of Berry Academy and Garinger. 

Using the Simmons rating system, probably the most popular rating system in North Carolina, Richmond entered Friday’s contest ranked No. 1 with a rating of 170.8.  The Mustangs followed behind closely in No. 2 with a rating of 167.7. 

The difference was clearly strength of schedule.  Myers Park’s strength of schedule (prior to playing Richmond) was 47th, while Richmond’s was 10th.  This system, as well as the MaxPreps rankings, identifies the mediocre teams who are surviving by defeating weaker teams and ignores the idea that Mecklenburg County teams are just better because they are Mecklenburg County teams.

This same system has Cardinal Gibbons, a team Richmond defeated 45-28, in third place with a rating 164.4 and a strength of schedule of 14.  Scotland is 12th with a rating of 150.5, Hough is 13th with a rating of 148.6, Butler is 20th with a rating of 143.8, Pinecrest is 39th with a rating of 138.1, Jack Britt is 42nd with a rating 137.6, Hickory Ridge was 44th with a rating a 136.8, and Hoke County was 49th with a rating of 135.2. 

Based on the Simmons ratings, Myers Park beat three of the state’s top 50 teams (that includes all classifications).  Richmond defeated two of those same three schools as well as five more.

Every rating system had Richmond placed above Myers Park except those being produced by Mecklenburg media.  Underdog stories are fun, but this was not one.  Richmond was ranked No. 1 and seeded No. 1 because they were No. 1.  This was no upset.  Honestly, considering how closely ranked the two teams were, could it have really been an upset either way?

Following Richmond’s 35-32 win on Friday, the Mustangs were dropped from No. 2 (or No. 1) to No. 4 in both the MaxPreps rankings and the Charlotte Observer Sweet 16.  If Myers Park was the solid No. 1 that everyone believed it to be, why would it drop to No. 4 after coming up short by just three points in an almost evenly matched game that was not decided until the final second? 

Why did Vance (who is in the same bracket) leapfrog them in both the MaxPreps rankings and the Sweet 16 without even playing them?

Vance entered last Friday’s contest at West Forsyth with a 10-2 record against the fourth strongest schedule in the state.  The Cougars split their two meetings with an always tough Mallard Creek team that was ranked No. 4 in the Simmons ratings with the second strongest schedule in the state. 

Vance also had wins against 9-3 Huss, handed Heritage (12-1, Lynchburg, Va.) its only loss so far this season, and competed in the IMeck Conference, which has been much stronger this season than the Southwestern Conference.

Vance is Charlotte’s new champion and they probably should have been the moment they knocked off Mallard Creek.  Vance has a couple of blemishes on its record, but unlike Myers Park, the Cougars have that big game experience.  They know what it’s like to have to play four quarters against strong competition.  They aren’t going to be intimidated by Richmond’s mystique, fans and light show. 

If Richmond wants to play in the school’s ninth state title game, it’s going to have to do something it has never done before.  Beat four Mecklenburg County schools in a single season.  Get your coats, blankets and cowbells ready; it’s going to be another wild night at Raider Stadium.