Christopher:

It appears to me that you are struggling a bit with something that lots of beginning printers struggle with - the difference between the role played by adjustments to exposure and the role played by adjustments to contrast.

It is best (in my mind) to use adjustments to exposure to make sure the tones come out the way you want them to. And it is best (in my mind) to use adjustments to contrast to make sure the different details in the scene differentiate between themselves the way you want them to.

In most cases, a single contrast grade, and an exposure aimed at the mid tones, will get you there (or almost all the way there).

The special benefit (in my mind) of split grade printing is that it allows you to relatively easily fine tune those adjustments for the various sections of the print.