, Gloucester, MA


October 30, 2012

Editorial: School grid actions worth a try

The traditional Thanksgiving Day games pairing Gloucester against Danvers and Manchester Essex against Georgetown may not be the same.

And teams that qualify for the first round of “playoffs” just eight weeks into the season might well never have gotten even that far if the teams played out their full schedules.

So there are certainly flaws in the new statewide high school football playoff system as approved last Friday by the schools of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. And the close vote – 161 to 131 – shows that a lot of coaches and athletic directors have some significant questions about it.

But the idea of including more teams — Swampscott Coach Steve Dembowski projects that 55 percent of all schools will now make the playoffs — and the notion of basing all of the qualifiers on existing divisions makes a lot more sense than the curent format, in which teams play their slates of conference games, then seemingly bounce up and down come playoff times should certainly make for a more uniform and fair competition. And that should be the bottom line.

Is this the best solution, as Gloucester coach Tony Zerilli asked in Monday’s Times story? We’re no more certain than he is.

But as Zerilli noted, the new format, in which each team with five teams or more will get two playoff entrants, is at least an attempt at a solution. And it would, as Zerilli noted, move past the absurd prospect of a team having to play three games in 10 days — a season finale on Thanksgiving, a playoff game the following Tuesday, and a Super Bowl championship game four days after that.

It’s important to note that the new system will debut in 2013 and 2014 on a trial basis. And officials would have the option to return to the current or to yet another format if this one poses, rather than solves, some newfound problems.

But exploring a format that gives more teams — and thereby more student-athletes – the chance to be part of a state tournament is a goal well worth a try, and deserves at least a two-year trial run. Let the new playoff rounds begin.

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