Who says Massachusetts high school sports are slow as molasses when it comes to adapting to the times?
This year, the Bay State beat major college football to the punch in implementing a true playoff system. The state will crown six true state champions at Gillette Stadium this December, and there are plenty of local teams hoping to be there hoisting trophies.
So how do they qualify for the playoffs?
Who do they play once they get there — and when and where?
And what happens to teams that are eliminated?
QUALIFYING FOR THE PLAYOFFS
The goal of the football playoffs is to crown a state champion in six divisions representing all of Massachusetts, eliminating the Eastern, Western and Central breakdown that anointed 19 different state champs a year ago.
Supported and developed by the Mass. High School Football Coaches Association, the playoffs were approved by a vote of the entire MIAA last fall (every school in the state had the opportunity to vote yes or no and the yeahs won out, 161-131).
Teams will use the first eight weeks of the football season to try and qualify for these playoffs, playing seven games each (with one bye week). The state is divided into sectionals and, as in sports like soccer and basketball, teams on the North Shore will compete in the North.
“We supported it,” Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano said. “It’s a two-year trial, and I think there are still some bugs to iron out. But we had to do something with the way things were getting out of whack with the leagues. I say let’s give it a chance.”
In Division 4, which includes Newburyport, Amesbury, Pentucket and Triton, eight of 16 qualifying for the postseason. The bulk of the teams from the Cape Ann League are in this bracket. The teams that qualify for the playoffs are seeded, then follow the brackets to an eventual final, i.e., the top ranked team plays the No. 8 team, 2 plays 7, etc. Seeds and tiebreakers for qualifying are determined by the power rating system.