Massachusetts OKs high school football tournament
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO A proposal for a state tournament for high school football passed at a general assembly of MIAA schools Friday. The proposal passed by a 161-131 margin. The state tournament will begin in 2013. Purchase photo reprints »
Starting next season, the top high school football teams in western Massachusetts will finally receive the opportunity to take on the best the state has to offer.
The state playoffs proposal was approved Friday morning in a vote of the MIAA general assembly by a 161-131 margin in Marlborough. A two-year trial run at a six-division statewide tournament will begin with the 2013-14 season.
“This is great news for football across the state, especially close to home for our student athletes,” Athol athletic director and western Mass. committee chairman Dave King said. “This will give recognition to the best football team in each division in Massachusetts and it is putting Massachusetts football back on track to legitimacy of having true champions.”
Since 2009, there have been 19 Super Bowl games throughout the state. The four divisions in western Mass. had four-team tournaments, with semifinals the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and Super Bowls the following Saturday. The Western Mass.-Central Mass. Super Bowls were done away with after 2008.
“The last time we went to the Super Bowl in 2009, we played a team in our league,” Frontier coach Scott Dredge said. “That’s not a true playoff, not the way it should be. No system is perfect, but providing one that accounts for the whole state is a step in the right direction.”
Four of the six local programs (Northampton, Amherst Regional, Belchertown and South Hadley) will be placed in Division 4. Easthampton and Frontier Regional will compete in D-5.
“The interesting part, now, will be seeing how teams start to jockey for alignment,” South Hadley coach Eric Scammons said. “The proposal recommends alignment by enrollment, which I am in agreement with personally. I know other coaches don’t agree with that and will have time to appeal the league placement. To me, it is the only way to truly start with a level playing field.
“It certainly raises the bar for western Mass. teams and provides them a platform to compete with teams to the east,” Scammons added. “This side of the state has not been afforded much respect at the statewide level. Here is a chance for us to prove ourselves.”
The four-team sectional brackets will be established after Week 7, with a possible four additional weeks of action for teams that reach the six state finals. Those will all be staged at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
A proposed state playoff two years ago was shot down by a vote of 192-114.
One of the many converts to this new plan is Belchertown coach John Mayo. He coached in Connecticut and outlined that state’s playoff system, which now has eight-team fields in six divisions.
“I think it will be fun to have something new,” Mayo said. “For us, it depends on what division we’ll be in. The teams we’re lumped in within the proposal, we don’t belong with those teams. But wherever they put us, we’ll have to deal with it and get better.”
Scammons perhaps speaks for the majority in outlining why Friday morning brought a new landscape to Massachusetts football.
“Whether the new proposal passed or not, it was time for a change,” Scammons said. “The next two years will give us an indication if a true state tournament can work. Maybe it will need to be tweaked a bit here or there. Maybe it will be scrapped and we start all over again. But it’s a refreshing new beginning for football in the state. I hope it works.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.