Polk County’s football team could soon be facing the most important coin flip of its season.
If Mitchell defeats Avery on Friday, that will give the Mountaineers a 3-0 Western Highlands Conference record. Polk County already has a 3-0 WHC mark, which means the two teams would finish the regular season tied atop the conference without having faced one another.
In that scenario, officials from Polk County’s athletic department and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association have confirmed the following will occur:
- A coin flip will be held at Avery on Friday night after the completion of the Mountaineers-Vikings game. Avery athletic director Jay Smith will oversee that flip.
- The winner of the coin toss will receive the WHC’s automatic 1A playoff berth and will be seeded as a conference champion.
- The loser of the coin flip will be seeded as a wild-card qualifier. This will be true even if the two teams are in different subdivisions of the 1A playoffs.
There are six total wild cards available for the 1A/1AA West playoffs this season in what will be the final year of subdivided football playoffs. Wild card berths are based on conference winning percentage; given the unlikely scenario created in the WHC, the coin flip loser, with a 1.000 conference winning percentage, is basically guaranteed a playoff berth.
The unusual WHC tie has been created by conference games being cancelled due to teams in COVID-19 protocols. That includes Polk County, which is currently sidelined and will miss its final two regular-season games. Mitchell has not been forced to be in COVID protocols to date, but will still play just three WHC games due to other schools being forced to cancel games.
Once the West’s 16 1A playoff teams – 10 automatic qualifiers and those six wild-card teams – are determined, the teams will then be split based on enrollment into eight teams for the 1A West bracket and eight teams for the 1AA West bracket. At that point, a random draw will be held to seed any conference champions in each eight-team group, then any second-place automatic qualifiers, then the wild cards and any teams from conferences with three automatic berths.
Playoff seeding will be performed on April 10. The first round of playoff games is set for Friday, April 16.