Last week we looked at the local 6A football programs and how their scheduling will be impacted by recent PIAA reclassification. Now we'll take a look at other schools in the region and how they might be affected.
What about the six 5A programs that will be competing with 30 5A schools around the district for just eight playoff spots? What kind of record will it take to break into the top-eight out of 30-plus schools?
“I don’t know one coach who could be happy with not having the possibility of making the playoffs after going 7-3,” William Penn head coach Russ Stoner said. “It takes most teams four or five weeks to get a rhythm and see what they have. If they go .500 in that stretch, they can be out of the playoffs at that point.”
And what about Dover, a 5A school playing in the YAIAA’s Division II which has five 4A teams and a 3A team? How can that help their district rating within a point system that weighs wins and losses differently based on which class your opponent is in? In other words, in the District 3 playoff system, playing against schools in smaller classes isn’t helpful for trying to reach the playoffs. Wins don’t enhance your ranking, while losses can only hurt it.
York County Tech, Biglerville, Bermudian Springs and Littlestown can echo the same sentiment being the biggest schools in Division III and playing down to smaller schools four weeks of the season.
The 3A schools in Division III (Bermudian Springs, Biglerville, Littlestown) play all 2A and 1A schools other then York County Tech.
That puts those schools at a disadvantage, Biglerville head coach Alex Ramos said, because beating 2A and 1A competition does very little for your district rating but a potential loss would be crushing.
"There will be a team that goes 9-1 or 8-2 and doesn't make the playoffs and I do not agree with the 'let's-see-what-happens-if-it-happens' approach," Ramos said. "There's no way a team that has one or two losses should pack up their equipment Week 11. I'm all for getting classifications closer in number, that's great for schools like South Western, Spring Grove, New Oxford, etc. with the 'monster' schools, but something can be done so that the amount of schools in the classification is relevant to how many qualify for the playoffs. If that means byes in some classifications but not in others, so be it. That's not happening in 5A and 3A where they have the most schools and the least amount of qualifiers."
And what about Eastern York? The Knights are a 3A school in a division with all 4A and 5A opponents, which looks great for the strength of schedule. But because of the small percentages of teams that actually qualify for the postseason, the 3A and 5A classes may have the biggest complaint. Only four 3A schools qualify for the playoffs out of 15 across the district and eight of 30 5A schools reach the postseason. The top-four teams in 3A last season were all 8-2 or 9-1. That's quite a feat to just reach the playoffs.
"There is likely no format that will ever get 100 percent approval, especially from outspoken people like football coaches," Eastern York head coach Jeff Mesich said. "I'm in the camp of coaches that are concerned about the percentages of teams that make the district playoffs under the new system compared to the old. I think the most fair thing to do for everyone would be to do something similar to what I am familiar with from District 7. I'd like to see the district football committee set the sections in each class. For example, we have 15 teams in 3A so we could easily have an eight-team section and a seven-team section put together. Then we could have the top-four or top-eight teams make the playoffs — the top-two or top-four from each section. No need for power rankings and worrying about non-conference opponents beyond trying to keep rivalries alive."
The idea behind allowing fewer teams in the postseason was to shorten the season and to eliminate the first-round blowouts that the district has become accustomed to.
That makes sense. But to shorten the season, why not start in late August instead of September? Ramos suggested cutting a second scrimmage in August and starting the season a week earlier to allow for an extra playoff week at the end of the season.
"I'd rather have an opportunity to play in the playoffs at Week 11 than a second scrimmage, I can't imagine a coach out there who wouldn't," Ramos said. "District 3 was unwilling to make the whole district start at that week."
York Tech will be a 6A team playing all 3A schools and smaller, but the Spartans have managed just two wins combined in the last two seasons against those same teams anyway. Do they move up divisions, play the other big schools and hope to somehow improve their win total against the Dallastowns and Red Lions of the league?
These are questions that are going to need answered in the next two years and if the system seems to put the YAIAA teams at a disadvantage, what is the possible solution?
"I think the new system is flawed and some glaring negatives will show when this upcoming fall is over," Ramos said. "In my opinion, a team will have to win all 10 games or go 9-1 in 3A, but I don't see many 8-2 or 7-3 teams making the playoffs. I'm not saying it can't happen, I'm just saying it's not likely."
The flip side of the coin: District does make changes
Well District 3 has started to make changes to the power ranking system to alleviate some of the concerns rather than try the "wait and see, then do damage control" approach. Each team’s rating is calculated by taking the sum of 55 percent of the team’s weighted winning percentage plus 45 percent of their opponents’ weighted winning percentage. So the keys are your record and the strength of your opponent.
But one change that has been made with the new classifications is that the differential between weighted wins and weighted losses for each class will be a difference of .1 as opposed to .2 — which is what it was last season.
“We felt that with six classifications in football, basketball, baseball and softball, keeping the differential at .2 would hurt the smaller schools when they tried to schedule larger schools,” District 3 webmaster Rod Frisco said. “By reducing the differential, it closes the gap between all schools and should ease scheduling concerns, especially since some leagues will have schools in three different classifications just within a section or division.”
Feel a little better, YAIAA fans? Losing to a smaller school or beating a bigger school won’t skew the ratings as much as they did before.
The values for wins and losses for each of the classifications is still to be determined. Frisco and District Treasurer Bobby Baker will test data this summer, present a revised system to the district committee at the Aug. 9 meeting, then roll out the new plan to the leagues at the annual league meetings in mid-August, Frisco said.
"It won't mean as much this season to beat or play a team larger than yourself this season as it did last season," Mesich said. "I see the new system as a positive for most everyone, in that if your team does make the playoffs you will be playing teams much closer to your size. There will still be some matchups in big-school classifications that will have larger enrollment differences, but from 4A down the schools are much closer together than in the old four classification system. If we would make the playoffs, we will not be playing schools with 150-200 more in enrollment anymore. In the larger sense, having six champions instead of four is good for everyone also."