GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 29, 2012

State votes yes on new playoff football format

Beginning next November, football playoffs in Massachusetts will become a reality.

Yesterday morning, the state’s high schools voted to enact the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association football committee’s playoff plan for a two-year trial for the 2013-14 seasons.

The entire membership of the MIAA was invited to vote at Assabet Valley High School in Marlborough, and the final tally was in favor, 161 to 131.

“I think this is great,” said Swampscott High head coach Steve Dembowski, one of the leading proponents of the plan developed by the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association. “It’s better for the kids, it’s better for their health and it’s going to be exciting.”

The plan aligns all schools by divisions already approved by the MIAA (though there is an appeal process some schools may pursue to modify divisional placement). After seven weeks the playoffs begin, with eight teams qualifying in North sectionals and playing for a sectional title as in all other MIAA tournaments. The winners will face other sectional winners before a true state champion is determined in six different divisions at Gillette Stadium nine days after Thanksgiving.

The Tuesday playoff semifinal games under the current Super Bowl format are thus eliminated.

Schools that don’t qualify for the postseason or are eliminated under this new format will have their schedule for the final weeks of the season filled out against other non-qualifying or eliminated teams, ensuring that every team plays level, competitive games in the final month.

“I’m OK with it; it’s one of those things that’s been a long time coming,” Gloucester head coach Tony Zerilli said. “They’re trying to find the best solution. Is it the best? I don’t know, but it’s an attempt at a solution. I like how they got rid of the three games in 10 days scenario at the end of the season and I think that’s something they’ve been trying to eliminate. Thanksgiving Day complicates things a little bit but we will see how it goes the first two years.”

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