Like any new proposal, there are some North Shore coaches who love it and others who don’t. But this new playoff system is here for at least a two-year trial basis, so everyone is learning how to best cope within its parameters.
“I love it because not just one team from our league is going to make it to the playoffs,” said Fenwick coach Dave Woods. “There’s a chance of having three teams from our league in the playoffs, maybe four.
“I think the people that were against it, once the playoffs start and the excitement of some of the local games and matchups, I think people will realize it’s a lot of fun.”
Danvers’ Sean Rogers remarked on how the new schedule puts more of an emphasis on the preseason for all teams.
“I’m not really trying to press it with my players. We’re trying to get more (done), but we’re not talking like that with the kids. They have enough pressure when the games start,” Rogers said. “We’re trying to keep the same old business. If they put the work in and stay focused, we’ll let the chips fall where they may.
“Our problem has been starting slow. We can’t start the season slow or any games slow. We have a tough schedule and we have to be sharp right away.”
Long an advocate for a revamped playoff system, St. John’s Prep head coach Jim O’Leary said the reality is that the new system will benefit many more schools than they probably realize.
“What’s disappointing is that some of the coaches haven’t embraced it,” said O’Leary. “Some ADs and coaches don’t understand what it’s all about. That really doesn’t make sense, because it will provide more opportunities for teams to make the playoffs. We could wind up facing schools with big enrollments like Lowell, Lexington, Acton-Boxborough and Peabody ... teams we haven’t played in a number of years.”
“This is the fairest way to do it,” added Ipswich’s Brotherton. “I didn’t like the old system because there were so many state champions; I think only Texas had more Super Bowl champions than we do. Now there will only be six — and that means there’s going to be a lot more pride in becoming one of them.”
Marblehead’s Rudloff is admittedly not a fan of the new system, but realizes it’s here for at least the next two years and ready to adapt to what must be done for his team to succeed.
“It actually simplifies things,” said Rudloff. “If anyone asks me ‘What do we need to do to keep playing?’, I can say ‘Just keep winning each week; that’s all.’ If we keep winning every game in November and December, we’ll get shiny new jackets and trophies when it’s all over.
“That’s uncomplicating a complicated system.”
Sports editor Phil Stacey, staff writers Matt Jenkins and Gianna Addario, and correspondent Jean DePlacido also contributed to this report.