The merits of the new high school football playoff system have been debated throughout Massachusetts this week by athletic directors, coaches, players and media members.
It seems the general consensus is that most people like the new system, which will go into effect next fall.
The key changes: Teams will only schedule seven regular-season games next fall. After Week 7, teams that qualify for the playoffs will be power-seeded into six sectional playoff brackets into for regions. Teams that fall short of the playoffs will round out their schedules with other non-playoff opponents. Thanksgiving rivalries will be preserved.
On the surface, it seems like a positive change to me. Since the formation of the Cape Ann League/Northeastern Conference last season, the first six weeks of each season serve as extended preseason for all intents and purposes. A team can start 0-6 and still be on track to win a league title since the league games don’t begin until Week 7.
I applaud any change that gives every game greater significance. The only downside I worried about when the proposal was announced was that non-playoff teams might play meaningless games in Week 8, 9 and 10 before their respective Thanksgiving Day matchup. I worried that a team like Triton this season would miss the playoffs and be forced to round out its schedule with unfamiliar opponents, rather than CAL/NEC out-of-divison foes.
As it turns out, there is little chance a local non-playoff team will have to schedule season-ending games against completely unfamiliar foes. All six teams from the CAL/NEC Division 3 (Newburyport, Amesbury, Triton, Pentucket, Saugus, Winthrop) will move into Division 4 North. So even though Winthrop and Saugus will drop from the CAL/NEC, there is a good chance our local teams will continue rivalries with those teams in the future in some capacity.