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RHHS not helped by region competition

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POSTED: May 6, 2013 1:52 p.m.

I hate to say it, but Richmond Hill High School’s proud soccer programs could be learning something Bradwell Institute football coaches figured out quite some time back.
Being in Region 3-AAAAA doesn’t help you much when the state playoffs roll around.
The Tigers were, for more than a decade, one of the bullies on the 3-AAAAA block and annually thumped just about everyone except Camden County.
And then they’d get into the state playoffs and, more often than not, go home after a first-round exit.
First-round exits are far from the norm for the soccer programs at RHHS, but lo and behold, the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats both were shown the door early this season, their first in 3-AAAAA.
Coincidence? Who knows.
But remember BI, where coaches tried to toughen up their schedule by scheduling better non-region opponents, though ultimately that didn’t help much. And while Camden County proved to be an exception to the rule that teams from 3-AAAAA can’t survive and win in the state football playoffs, the idea that you’re only as good as your schedule holds some merit.
That’s why coaches Steve Kollman and Robbie Flanders have long scheduled a tough nonregion schedule and did again this year.
But something Flanders said after the Wildcats’ unexpected 1-0 loss to Evans on Wednesday makes sense. He wasn’t making excuses, either. I brought the topic up, asking whether playing in 3-AAAAA had an effect.
He said it did.
“You’re having to switch on and off instead of always being on,” he said.
My interpretation: It’s not always easy to stay sharp when you’re playing a schedule in which the majority of the teams you face probably couldn’t beat a good elementary school intramural squad. And no, this isn’t a knock on the kids, who probably get their first exposure to soccer as freshmen in high school under a teacher who took soccer in gym. In this era of club soccer, they’re already so far behind the eight ball they might never catch up.
Sure, there are some exceptions to the notion 3-AAAAA can’t produce winning soccer programs at the prep level — Flanders’ alma mater Windsor Forest is one of them. But remember, Richmond Hill went 15-3 in the regular season and, at one point, mercy-ruled three straight Region 3-AAAAA teams by 10-0 scores, then played Parkview, a quality non-region opponent from metro Atlanta, and lost a match Flanders believes his team should have won.
That’s not to say 3-AAAAA doesn’t have its dangers. If Bradwell Institute had Camden County in football, the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats have Glynn Academy in soccer. The Terrors and Lady Terrors have long been soccer rivals of RHHS, but this year they took it a step further by sweeping the Wildcats and Lady Wildcats.
Still, those are the teams you want to play.
“Anytime we face Glynn, it’s always physical,” Flanders said. “That’s why we like playing them and our non-region opponents. We want to find the best quality opponents we can find.”
The problem is there just isn’t that much room on the schedule. There could be a fix of sorts in the works, however, if RHHS keeps growing. With reclassification on the horizon, Wildcats in all sports could find themselves competing in Class AAAAA, the state’s largest classification, beginning in the fall of 2014.
In the meantime, RHHS will just have to adapt and overcome. They probably will, but take it from someone who’s paid some attention to the impact 3-AAAAA has had on area high school football over the years. It isn’t always easy, or pretty.

 

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