You likely won’t hear any complaints from local coaches about the new high school football playoff system.
The goal of athletic directors and principals who voted in favor of the new system was to keep more teams in the hunt for a state championship late in the season.
As we get ready to kick off the final week of the regular season, each of the local schools — Newburyport, Amesbury, Triton and Pentucket — is in control of its own destiny when it comes to qualifying for the postseason.
Pentucket (5-0 overall, 5-0 CAL) has already clinched a Cape Ann League Kinney Division title and can lock up the top seed in Division 4 North with a victory over North Reading tonight.
Amesbury (3-3 overall, 3-1 CAL) will clinch second place in the CAL Baker Division and an automatic berth in the Division 4 North tournament with a victory over Manchester Essex tonight.
The simple rule is that if you finish first or second in your league, you are in. That could be altered — if too many teams gain automatic bids in a certain sectional — but it won’t be in Division 4 North.
That leaves potential wildcard spots for Triton (4-2 overall, 2-2 CAL) and Newburyport (3-3 overall, 2-2 CAL). Both teams control their own fates heading into the final weekend, although neither will earn an automatic berth for placing in the top two in the CAL Kinney Division. However, since there will not be eight teams among the 16 in Division 4 North that finish in the top two in their respective conferences, Triton and Newburyport have a chance to earn wildcard berths.
Triton will almost certainly lock up a wildcard berth with a victory tonight over Masconomet, a Division 3 Northeast playoff team. Newburyport will also likely lock up a wildcard berth with a victory over Saugus tomorrow.
We’ll have to wait until the end of the playoffs to fully judge the new playoff system, but it seems to be working at this point in the season. It’s late October, and four local teams are still in the hunt for a Super Bowl.