Last week, I likely bored most of you by discussing the changes made to the postseason format in football starting this year.
Well, grab yourself something caffeinated, because football isn’t the only sport having changes made to its playoff system.
(I recommend Cherry Vanilla Coke Zero, if you can find one of those Magic Drink-Dispensing Machines where you push buttons and have access to all sorts of flavor combinations. Word of advice: Raspberry Coke Zero sounds good, but isn’t. Or, you know, there’s always Diet Mountain Dew.)
The change I discussed last week, wherein there are no more regional championship games, is being used in all team sports.
After the sectional winners are determined, the next round of the playoffs will be considered the state quarterfinals. Technically, they aways were the state quarterfinals, but now (as I described last week) those remaining eight teams in each classification will be re-seeded for the quarterfinal round.
So, two teams from the same region can now potentially meet in the state championship game.
I originally was pretty pumped about this, due to Sparrows Point soccer moving up to Class 2A and now being in the same region as Eastern Tech.
Alas, my visions of a Pointer-Maverick state final in boys soccer will not be realized. Sparrows Point and Eastern Tech are both in Class 2A North Region Section II, so they will meet in the sectional final and one will be eliminated before the state quarterfinals.
(Note to the MPSSAA: Sorry to be so blunt, but none of the teams in Class 2A North Section I is exactly a state title contender. Regardless of geography, maybe consider putting Eastern Tech and Sparrows Point in separate sections. Thanks.)
In girls soccer, the only thing that is certain is Sparrows Point, winner of six consecutive Class 1A state titles, will finally NOT play Patterson Mill or Smithsburg if the Pointers reach the state finals.
(The Pointers have played each school three times in the state championship game during their title streak. Can you guess where there was much rejoicing when Sparrows Point was moved to Class 2A for this season?)
Two of thew strongest girls soccer programs in Class 2A, Hereford and defending champion River Hill, moved up to Class 3A, leaving ... I’m honestly not sure.
Century should be pretty good. Glenelg beat Sparrows Point in the state championship game twice (2007, 2008) but hasn’t won a regional title since 2011. Middle town has won seven state titles, but hasn’t won a region title since its last state championship in 2012 (River Hill may have had something to do with that drought).
Fallston, which has been to the state Final Four six times since 2012 (winning in 2015), is probably the most likely main obstacle between Sparrows Point and a seventh straight state title.
Another difference this season is classifications are unique for each sport, in that only enrollment numbers for schools fielding teams in that sport are counted.
Basically: Every school in the state is listed in terms of enrollment, from the largest school to the smallest. The top 25 percent are Class 4A, the next 25 percent are Class 3A, and so on.
Now, however, when schools are ranked according to student population, only schools offering that particular sport are included.
Many schools in the state, for example, don’t have field hockey teams. So, while most of Sparrows Point’s sports have been moved to Class 2A, the Pointer field hockey team is still in Class 1A.
Field Hockey, as well as volleyball, will also be using the new state quarterfinal format.
One other change this season, although it is specific to Baltimore County soccer: while the county will still have three soccer divisions, the winners of Division I North/West will no longer play the winner of Division I East/South in the county championship game.
Because there are no longer two Division I’s. There are now Divisions I, II and III, with the top two teams in Division I meeting in the county championship game.
The top seven soccer programs in the county are now in Division I. The weakest soccer programs are in Division III, with the rest in Division II.
I’d give you the specific breakdown, but the county has yet to post the new division alignments despite the season starting next week. Suffice to say, Sparrows Point is in Division I, while Patapsco and Dundalk are in Division II.
This seems like an odd format to me. So a school could finish first in Division I over a grueling regular-season schedule, then have to play the second-place team to be considered county champion?
A coach explained that under the old two-division I’s format, the better teams still had to play several lopsided games in their divisions. This way, they play the six division opponents, and are free to schedule strong teams to fill the other five or so spots in their schedules.
It still looks unfair for the division winner to have to play the second-place team again, but I guess the county doesn’t want to give up the county championship game.