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Running a reversal on new playoffs

We're two weeks away from the first-ever Section VI football quarterfinals for Class AA, A and B.

When the new playoff format was announced early this year, I wasn't a big fan because the high school football season had had a be-all, end-all vibe to it. It was similar to college football -- every league game really mattered.

Well, it turns out every game still does. Just ask Frontier.

The Falcons, despite being in the large school top 10 for most of the season, beating Lancaster and playing No. 1 Orchard Park the toughest anyone has all season (14-12), is out of the playoffs.

Another reason I frowned on the new format was the fact that four out of six teams would make the playoffs from the AA and A divisions. Doesn't sound like a tough thing to do, does it?

Well, certainly it was easier in some divisions than others. For Frontier, losses to Clarence and Jamestown meant those teams will make it and the Falcons won't.

Which brings us to other advantages of the playoffs' new, ahem, Frontier (sorry Falcons).

Under the former format, only the top two teams in each division would make the playoffs. If that were still in place this year, Jamestown and Clarence would be left out. Meanwhile, the second-place team in Class AA North, Kenmore West, would be in.

With all due respect to Kenmore West, it hasn't been voted into the top 10 large school all year while five of the six teams from Class AA South have been there. The AA South teams are 4-0 against the AA North, so you couldn't have blamed South coaches for crying foul.

Just a scan of the standings shows other benefits of this year's expansion.

*Williamsville South had a great turnaround season. Last year, it is out. Sure, South lost to Sweet Home and Grand Island, who plainly deserve the two top spots in A North. But now, Will South will cross over and get a playoff game on the road. Two of Will South's three possible A South opponents are teams it has already beaten. Last year, South is out and one of them are likely in.

Also, only one of those three teams -- West Seneca East, Cheektowaga and Amherst -- would have made the playoffs last year, and it would likely have come down to grab-your-calculator tiebreakers. Some tiebreakers will still likely be in play in A South this year, but they'll determine playoff position, not whether they're in or not.

*Class B was the best argument for expanding the playoffs since it has the most teams, and it's fittingly the best example.

This year, Lackawanna, Fredonia and East Aurora will all make it out of B South -- last year one of them would have had to stay home. In B North, Maryvale would have been out after early close losses to Depew and Alden -- this year the Flyers' three-game win streak give them another shot.

*In Class C, Allegany-Limestone went from 0-9 last year to 4-2 this year. Sure, the Gators would have earned a consolation bowl bid by finishing third, but "making the playoffs" sounds a whole lot better.

It should be noted that all teams -- whether they make the playoffs or not, or even if they lose in the first-round of the playoffs -- will play a ninth game in a reformatted consolation system.

So Section VI, nice job. The new format is a hit.

Next up, schedule more nonleague games against Monsignor Martin schools!


On the Web

At the Prep Talk blog:

*Read this flip-flopper argue with himself: Check out the column I wrote in the spring about the playoff format.

*Last week, I asked "Who's No. 2?" My answer was Canisius. After a great 22-12 victory over St. Francis, I've got the same answer. St. Francis is now 0-5 with losses to two of the best teams in Ohio (St. Ignatius and Cardinal Mooney), one of the best teams in New York (Aquinas), an above-average Long Island team (Holy Trinity) and a top 10 team from Western New York (Canisius).

So is it crazy to vote for St. Francis in the top 10? I don't think so. Read the "How The News voted" post.

*Polling place: Vote on the best performances from Week Six, make your picks for the polls and tell us what rivalry game you'd go to this year.

*I'll conduct the fifth live chat of the season at 7 p.m. Wednesday.


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