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State football tournament vote Friday

  • SAM GARCIA
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Amherst Regional and Chicopee Comp prepare to face off Friday in Amherst. Comp won 16-14.

No high school football result under the Friday night lights will be as important as the one decided before lunch today.

The final decision on the latest state football tournament proposal will be made in a special general assembly meeting of MIAA member schools at Assabet Valley in Marlborough at 9 a.m.

That vote will determine whether a two-year trial featuring a true state tournament will begin in the 2013-14 season.

The proposal has already been passed by the MIAA Football Committee, MIAA Finance Committee and the MIAA Tournament Management Committee.

In June, the MIAA Board of Directors decided to move the decision to a general assembly instead of taking the vote among themselves.

The proposal breaks the state into six divisions, with western Mass. playing in four of them — Divisions 2, 4, 5, 6. It keeps current leagues and Thanksgiving Day rivalries intact and doesn’t make the schedule any longer.

“Easthampton will vote yes for the proposal,” Jeff Sealander, the school’s athletic director, wrote in an email. “My reasoning is that while this is not the ideal, on the State wide level we need to move forward. As a Tri-County League school I am disappointed with the current postseason in that the West no longer meets the Central for a championship game. As it now stands we play against our league teams for the championship and that is not a state title.”

Sealander was one of four local athletic directors — along with Marty Sanderson of Frontier Regional, David Keir of Smith Academy and Matt Desautels of Granby — who told the Gazette they are voting in favor of the proposal today.

“The playoff proposal will be a two-year pilot moving toward a true state title,” he said. “Also, being a relatively new program, we do not have the long standing traditional rivalry games that are a concern for many schools. I expect there will be changes as the two-year pilot plays out but we have been stalled for the past several years and need to move forward.”

WMass teams will play eight regular season games and the top four teams from each division will qualify for the tournament. Teams will play in the sectional semifinals and then sectional finals, followed by state semis and state finals. All six state finals would take place at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Among local teams, Northampton, Amherst, Belchertown and South Hadley are in D-4, while Easthampton and Frontier Regional are in D-5. Cathedral, which has players from Holyoke Catholic, is also in D-5.

A state tournament proposal was voted on by the general assembly in 2010 and soundly defeated 192-114.

This proposal appears to have significantly more backing, however, and is helped by the support of the football, tournament management and finance committees, which wasn’t the case last time.

The questions this time around are about the scheduling. Teams that miss the playoffs face uncertainty regarding their week 8-10 schedules — which will be determined by a committee — and there is concern that the importance and interest in Thanksgiving Day will still be compromised.

The entire proposal can be read at miaa.net.

EASTHAMPTON’S GARCIA HONORED — Easthampton junior lineman Sam Garcia was recognized as the winner of this week’s Massachusetts Football Coaches Association Unsung Hero Award.

Garcia, an offensive guard and defensive end, had 12 tackles (seven solo), including three sacks in Saturday’s 16-15 win against Franklin Tech.

MEDIA POLL — Losses by Minnechaug and Putnam, and South Hadley’s big win over Amherst helped the Tigers move from No. 6 to No. 4 in the WMass Media Poll. Northampton went from No. 7 to No. 8 after being shut out by unanimous No. 1 Central, while Belchertown is tied for ninth with Greenfield.

GAME OF THE WEEK — East Longmeadow at Northampton, tonight, 7.

The Spartans (3-3, 2-1 AA) are much better than their record, having lost to Foxborough, South Hadley and Central, and could still make a late run at a postseason bid.

The Blue Devils (5-2, 2-2), meanwhile, must shake off last week’s loss to Central if they are going to remain in the driver’s seat for a tourney spot.

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

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