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NYSPHSAA may add at-large teams to state football tournament

Imagine a scenario in which Lancaster and Jamestown, West Seneca West and West Seneca East, and Clymer/Sherman/Panama and Maple Grove played each other twice during the same football postseason.

While the chances two teams from the same section meeting for a New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship already exist in boys ice hockey, the scenario may soon be coming to football.

The NYSPHSAA Executive Committee will hear a proposal regarding the possibility of adding a rotating at-large team in Classes AA, A and D to the state tournament, potentially beginning as soon as this season. The at-large teams would be sectional championship game runners-up and their inclusion would make sure each of the five classifications in the tournament have eight teams in each bracket.

The measure is set for discussion during the association's meeting Friday in Saratoga Springs but wouldn't be voted upon until May, according to NYSPHSAA spokesman Chris Watson.

Last season, Section II champions in AA, A and D all received byes to the state semifinals because there were only seven champions to fill out the brackets for each class with the imbalance being on the eastern side. Section VII did not have Class AA or A champions since its schools are small. Section IX did not have a Class D champion.

Adding an at-large team that rotates from section to section each year would eliminate that scenario from happening over the next seven years according to the proposal, insuring competitive balance to the bracket. If approved, Section VI's turn in the rotation would be 2025, the final year of the agreement. Section III's runners-up would be the first to earn at-large bids in the three classifications in 2019, if the plan is approved.

“I’m all for it,” Section VI Chairman Ken Stoldt said. “We’ve had some good teams lose in sectional finals. The team that loses would have to travel, but ultimately we want the best two teams in the state finals."

“When a team gets a bye they’re able to heal up, rest up and get an extra week of preparation,” said Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy, who guided the Red Raiders to a state championship in 2014. “That’s a huge advantage going into the state semifinals. ... You want things as equitable as possible. One team having a bye is not equitable.”

Stoldt said there is a very good chance the measure will be approved, when reached by The News on Thursday.

While Stoldt and Langworthy are all for sectional runners-up serving as at-large teams, Lancaster coach Eric Rupp believes the state playoffs should consist of champions. But he’s also not down with a team having a bye into the semifinals.

“Honestly, I have mixed feelings because if you don’t win a sectional championship I’m not sure you should be in the state playoffs but I’m sure the state is trying to remedy the bye situation. It’s a double-edged sword,” Rupp said.

Eight is enough

Frewsburg not only won’t be merged with Randolph for the coming football season but it will take the leap and tackle eight-man football for the first time, according to Stoldt.

Stoldt said Frewsburg will likely play a schedule consisting of eight-man teams from Section V.

“If it’s the difference between eight-man football and no football, I’m 100 percent behind eight-man football,” he said.

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