October 2, 2013
High school football teams and fans are wading their way through the first year of realignment by the VHSL. Before this year, schools were grouped for football based on population within their own region. The regions are now gone, and schools have been re-grouped based on population statewide.
This, in theory, will level the playing field especially in the playoffs, grouping teams of like sizes. For the first two years, most schools are keeping their traditional district matchups for the purpose of making out a regular season schedule. But that may change sooner rather than later.
This realignment also brought expanded playoffs for Richmond area schools. Before, only 8 teams made the postseason 4 in each division. Now, as many as 20 could have at least an 11th game this year. Playoff expansion was supposed to eliminate scenarios where 9-1 teams would sit home because their one loss came in district, and only a district champion made the postseason.
The 12 new “regions” of schools were supposed to have their playoff brackets finalized by October 1st, and turned in to the VHSL. There is no one uniform way for teams to qualify. The VHSL is leaving it up to the individual regions to determine how teams will make the playoffs. And here is where we’ve found a potential problem with the new system.
Region 5A South consists of Conferences 9 and 10 (Tidewater area schools) and Conferences 11 and 12 (Richmond area schools). The athletic directors of these respective schools agreed before the season on how the 5A South playoff teams would be determined. The top 8 teams from Conferences 9 and 10 would play each other, as would the top 8 teams from Conferences 11 and 12. Then, the winners of those two respective brackets would play each other for the 5A South title, which would be a state semifinal game.
Bear in mind, we are only 4 weeks into the season. A LOT of this can and will likely change over the course of the season.
The top 8 teams in Conf. 11 and 12 are (in order of power rankings): LC Bird, Douglas Freeman, Highland Springs, Manchester, Atlee, Hermitage, Mills Godwin and Henrico. Just missing this list are Prince George and Meadowbrook.
Flip over to Conf. 9 and 10, and you find that Prince George currently outpoints 5 teams that will qualify from Tidewater (Hampton, Norview, Kempsville, Great Bridge and Hickory). Meadowbrook currently outpoints 4 of those teams. But because it was agreed before the season that this Region would split up their 16 playoff teams, Prince George and Meadowbrook would miss the postseason if it started this week.
Again, because half of the regular season remains to be played, these rankings and scenarios are bound to change. And if you believe that cream always rises to the top, every team will have multiple chances to get themselves a high enough ranking to make the postseason.
This plan remains a work in progress. But it would be a shame to go through all these changes and still see teams miss out because of a decision made before they ever started practice.