, Salem, MA

Sports Special

September 5, 2013

Win now, play later: State pushes new playoff system through the uprights for 2013



Football fans aren’t used to looking at their favorite team’s schedule and seeing three open weeks. That’s one of the major changes in the new playoff format.

For teams in the tournament, it’s pretty easy: you play the team that corresponds to your seed (with the higher seed hosting until the sectional finals) and if you win, you play the team that won in your respective bracket.

In other sports like hockey or baseball, the state tournament is at the end of the season and when you lose, you’re done. In football, however, teams need to fill out the rest of their season.

For teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs, or lose during the tournament, there is a predetermined formula to find opponents. Teams will be given games against fellow non-playoff teams within their own division, and then against other teams that are eliminated.

For example, if Peabody doesn’t make the playoffs and neither do Malden or Lawrence in Division 1 North, the Tanners could play their old GBL rivals or the MVC’s Lancers. If Swampscott makes the playoffs in Division 4 but falls in the second round and Triton does the same thing, they could be matched up in Week 10.

“The fact that they’re doing it by record should make for more competitive games,” Peabody first-year coach Mark Bettencourt said. “A lot of schools are playing one-sided games that make you think, why bother playing? Usually it’s because of league requirements and this will even the score a little.

“If you’re having a good year and you’re 6-1 you’re going to have to show how good you are and have to play somebody who’s also 6-1 or 7-0. Or, if you’re having a down year and you’re having trouble getting wins after those seven games, they’ll find a team that doesn’t have many wins and it will be more fun for the kids to compete.”

In Division 1, there is no Central or West section, so the champions of Division 1 North and Division 1 South will play for a state title at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 7. For Divisions 2, 4, 5 and 6, the North champion will play the South champion on November 22-23. The winner will then play the winner of a Central/West state semifinal at Gillette.

In Division 3, the winners of the Northeast and Northwest will play on Nov. 22-23 with the winner facing the Southeast/Southwest winner on Super Bowl Saturday.

One other wrinkle in Division 3 is the crossover between Northeast and Northwest for losing teams. Because there are 11 teams (an odd number), a non-qualifier in Div. 3NE might play a team from Div. 3NW (for example, if Salem didn’t make it, they might face Arlington or Wakefield).

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