Nease ended the 2017 season with a 56-21 loss to Bartram Trail last Friday, and the Panthers will miss the playoffs, thanks, in part, to the new playoff format.
The new system, which became effective this season, awards points based on several categories with a big emphasis on what it deems as strength of schedule. District champions from Class 5A to 8A receive an automatic bid to the playoffs and receive a 1 to 4 seed based on a new points system. Four wild cards will be taken from each region based on points following the conclusion of Week 11 to make up the 32-team field. Under the old playoff system, Nease likely would have made it to the Class 6A playoffs.
Nease coach Tim Krause hasn’t been won over by the new playoff formula.
“I think the old system needed to be updated, however, there are too many variables in this system,” he said. “I feel like we were a team that could compete in the playoffs and that we played a competitive schedule but were not necessarily rewarded for that.”
The Panthers finished the season 5-5 overall and 3-1 in District 4-6A.
“Although it was an up and down season record-wise, our kids battled in every game,” Krause said. “Regardless of injuries, our kids and our staff adapted and found ways to compete. I finished the season really proud of the growth of so many of our kids.”
Nease now shifts focus on next season, and Krause said the team will commit to its weight program and “making sure our younger kids are physically prepared to compete at a high level” during the offseason.
And the Panthers will have some big shoes to fill next season with the loss of several senior standouts, as well.
“We will definitely miss our seniors,” Krause said. “Guys like Jareem Westcott, Ashton Wood and Zach Sheffer have led us for the last few years and will be hard to replace. We have a number of younger players we are excited about and are looking forward to seeing them work in the offseason program to fill those roles.”
And Krause’s fondest recollection of the season?
“The way our kids stayed together as a team this year and battled in every game,” he said.