It turns out the Buffalo Public Schools football hierarchy isn’t the only one wondering if something isn’t broken, why fix it?
Olean Athletic Director Steve Anastasia and Dunkirk counterpart and football coach Mike Sarratori are of similar mindsets in that they don’t believe Section VI’s decision to change the decades-old scheduling system benefits their teams in their quest to compete for section championships. Olean and Dunkirk are the only two Class B-size schools in CCAA and most certainly would be placed in a league/division with mostly smaller schools.
Under the new points system to determine the postseason, they believe facing smaller schools during the season could potentially impact playoff seeding negatively. They also believe the new format creates too much emphasis on the value of a nonleague win and getting the right nonleague opponent.
“We’re going to have to have to play C and D schools and we don’t feel that prepares us for the playoffs,” Anastasia said. “We don’t know who’s doing the scheduling (for the league, yet). Nonleague games matter more in the points system. There could be a disadvantage based on points for seeding the playoffs.”
“I would prefer to play B or A schools for the sake of getting our kids ready for the big schools if we make the playoffs,” said Sarratori, whose Marauders reached the state semifinals in 2016.
A new Point Rating Index will determine postseason seeding in each of the five classifications. However, it’s different than the old Harbin Points System that used to seed teams for the postseason. The example Section VI football chairman Ken Stoldt provided is as follows:
If two teams in the same class play each other – the winner would receive a point plus however many points its opponent has already amassed and continues to accumulate throughout the season. It's the same formula if a smaller school beats a bigger school except the winner gets an extra half-point for the win. Same formula applies if a Section VI team plays a foe from another section in the state. If a school beats a member of the Monsignor Martin Association or from another state, there is the potential for earning bonus points based on the opponent’s respective classification.
Stoldt previously said the section tested the points system with this year’s playoff field. There would have been some seeding changes in AA with eventual champion Lancaster moving from No. 5 to 4 and Bennett moving from No. 3 to 2, which was Orchard Park’s seed, he said.
“It was pretty much the same field in the playoffs,” he told The News last month.
Nonetheless, Anastasia said CCAA as a league voted against the proposal, which passed 19-11, because they don’t think league scheduling benefits their teams.
While some Class D teams can hold their own with Class C foes, it’s different with a Class B team in the mix. Sometimes, the level of play between Class B and C teams is great enough where there may be safety concerns for participants.
The proposal has Olean and Dunkirk potentially in the same division with Southwestern, Fredonia, Allegany/Limestone, Chautauqua Lake and Cassadaga Valley/Frewsburg, according to Sarratori. State semifinalist Southwestern was clearly the cream of the crop in Class C last year, scoring at least 40 points in all but two games (a forfeit win and loss in the semifinals). The rest of these teams finished with no better than a .500 record.
“I think this way is more of a deterrent for kids and small schools to play football,” Anastasia said. “I wouldn’t want to play every weekend knowing I’m going to get my butt kicked.”
While Sarratori understands there is no perfect way for doing the schedule, he was content with the Federation model. He also didn’t mind divisions based on classification and geography, which had been used as recently as 2016 in Class B with three divisions (East, West and South). Olean and Dunkirk were in South that year along with Fredonia, Pioneer, East Aurora/Holland and Springville. The past two seasons, Classes A and B used enrollment to determine division alignment, which led to Olean being in the same division as Albion and Newfane last season. Not that the Huskies minded, even though one of the pros for the change, according to the section, was to reduce travel.
“To me, the travel is not an issue,” Anastasia said. “We went to Albion twice and Newfane once, 14 hours round trip, last year. You play who you play. We can’t change where we live.
“This isn’t an advantage to us. It’s an advantage for the Erie County schools.”
Lewiston-Porter Athletic Director Matt Bradshaw, who coached football last season, also liked having division alignments and schedules based on class size and location. Bradshaw said he’s upset with lack of discussion and lack of transparency regarding the proposal and with the voting procedure.
“The thing that bothers me about it is it was handled electronically,” said Bradshaw, who also coached the Lancers last fall. “No Section meeting with the coaches to open dialogue. Whatever the solution, it would have been nice to gather together and have a dialogue about this in two or three meetings.”
The News left a phone message for Stoldt regarding discussion of the proposal before the vote. Stoldt did not return the call.