While there has been no small amount of handwringing over the new format of the Section I football playoffs this year, just one look at the schedule for the first-ever qualifying round of the postseason has me very excited for the days ahead.
Not everyone was crazy about the new, expanded playoff format. But while some fans came into the year concerned that too much emphasis was placed on preseason rankings, the inclusion of more teams into the postseason picture seems, in practice, to have worked out quite nicely.
Of course, it helps that several programs in the Review’s coverage area find themselves in the mix this year. While three of our local programs—Rye and Eastchester in Class A, and New Rochelle in Class AA—would have been guaranteed prime seeds after rolling through the regular season with undefeated records, the new format has opened the doors for teams like Mamaroneck, which is much better than its 0-6 record would indicate.
In past years, a winless season would have caused the Tigers to be on the outside looking in, but a strong August ranking means the team will have one more chance to turn things around. And just one look at what the team has been able to do, such as losing heartbreakers against top teams like the Huguenots, leads me to believe that the Tigers have the ability to travel to Carmel on Oct. 16 and hand the Rams an upset loss.
Of course, the most anticipated playoff matchup will see the No. 1 seeded Garnets (6-0) taking on No. 16 Harrison (3-3) at home on Oct. 17. The underdog Huskies played Rye tough last week and will be looking for redemption against their rivals as the teams get set for their first-ever back-to-back games in the 86-year history of the longstanding feud.
One of the more intriguing matchups of the qualifying round, however, will take place in Class B, as Bronxville hosts Valhalla in a showdown between the No. 6 and 11 seeds, respectively.
If anyone has a valid complaint about the importance of preseason rankings in this year’s playoff format, it would have to be the unbeaten Vikings who will not have home-field advantage when they square off against the 3-3 Broncos on Saturday.
So is this new format perfect?
Probably not, especially if you ask the teams whose play outshined early predictions. But a more inclusive structure gives more teams the chance to test their mettle in the postseason. For fans and sportswriters, like yours truly? It’s an opportunity to watch a few more weeks of high-stakes football.
So I say bring it on; it’s definitely going to be a heck of a weekend.
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