On High School Football Hector Longo
---- — The recent approval of a new football playoff system in Massachusetts was greeted with mixed reviews.
“The Merrimack Valley is rich in rivalries, and those rivalries could be compromised,” explained Andover’s E.J Perry. And he is a proponent of the new system, which will begin next fall.
The key points:
6 true state champions will be crowned, all in title games held at Gillette Stadium.
144 teams will qualify for postseason play.
In the North Sectional, Divisions 1 and 2 will have 12 teams, with 8 qualifying for playoffs in each.
Divisions 4,5,6 will have 12 teams each with 6 teams qualifying in each.
Division 3 will be split into a 12-team Northeast and a 12-team Northwest with each having 8 qualifiers.
League titles and rivalries are to be respected in what amounts to a seven-game regular season.
League champs and runners-up after the seven-game season earn tourney berths, followed by “at-large” qualifiers determined a point-qualifying system that rewards victories over higher-ranked teams.
“I’m not happy with it at all, most of all because it bumps us up into Division 1 from Division 2,” said Lawrence High’s Mike Yameen, who will join the likes of Andover, Everett, St. John’s, Central, Chelmsford, Methuen and Lowell among others in Division 1 North.
“After seven games, if you don’t make the playoffs, who knows who you are going to be scheduled against? It’s not in our hands.”
Perry and Central Catholic coach Chuck Adamopoulos pointed to the fact that the new proposal makes it a tournament, like other sports play.
Adamopoulos’ Raiders have finished with at least a share of second place the last five seasons with no postseason games to show for it.
Under the new format, Central would have made it all five years.
“These teams are our rivals, and we play them in all sports,” said Yameen. “But now, who knows who you play in weeks 8-9-10 if you don’t make the playoffs.”
Then, there are the traditional Thanksgiving rivalries to think about.
Say, the MVC divisions remain the same. Central and Andover could play each other in weeks 1-7, again in the playoffs and then see each other on Thanksgiving.
“I’m interested in trying something new, and I think it will stimulate interest,” said Perry. “I think it’s good that we try it out.”
What happens to the MVC? Andover, Central, Lawrence, Methuen, Chelmsford and Lowell would play in Division 1 North. Tewksbury, Billerica, North Andover and Haverhill end up in Division 2 North, while Dracut drops to Division 3 North. The league breakdown could remain just as it is. Haverhill A.D. Tom O'Brien said, "It's up to us to say who we schedule, how we set up our divisions, decide champs and say who goes to the playoffs." But would it best serve the interest of the league to make the MVC Division 1 all the D1 North participants. Meaning as it stands, pending appeals, Lawrence and Methuen move up and Billerica move down? That will probably be answered when the league ADs meet next week.