How to handle the football playoffs


As many of you all know, the local high school football schedule has been a bit of the mess thanks to the ongoing pandemic.

Earlier this week, the Providence Journal first reported that the Rhode Island Interscholastic League has been having meetings regarding the playoff formats for next month’s postseason and how the constant schedule changes will be a factor.

Fourteen teams have had at least one game canceled due to the pandemic and it appears that a few more will inevitably be added to the list in the final few weeks here. Whether it is a positive test, an opposing team testing positive, close contacts, all of that, the schedule has been jumbled quite a bit each week.

According to the Journal’s report, the league is leaning toward expanding the number of playoff teams in each division and seeding them according to overall win percentages since teams will have played anywhere from four games to seven in some situations. Many teams are frustrated with the system, especially those whose games were cancelled due to issues involving the opposing club.

Overall, there really is no full-proof format that will satisfy everyone, but I think the RIIL is on the right track with this one.

First off, adding more playoff teams in a no-brainer if you ask me. I always am under the idea of, when in doubt - add a few more teams. I like small playoff fields, but when teams are dealing with unfortunate events outside of their control, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.

In terms of seeding, there is objectively no other way to operate other than win percentage. Total wins is unfair, league wins is unfair, points scored, all of that, the only fair solution is win percentage. Is it totally fair? No, I guess not, but it is without a doubt the closest that we are going to get.

As we have been saying for the last year and a half, all we can do is roll with the punches and make the best of the situation. At the end of the day, we are getting a full football season with playoffs. It has been messy at times and will likely continue to be messy, but considering the circumstances, I think that it is hard to be disappointed with the overall product.

So, I agree with the projected approach of the RIIL and feel that it is the obvious route to take. There will always be nay sayers and I can totally understand why some people would be perturbed, but there is not much more that can be done. Take it for what it’s worth and hope that your respective team has had fun and made the most of each opportunity that it had when taking the field.

To continue on the football trend, I figure this will also be a good time for me to give you my midseason thoughts on our teams. I know that we are a little beyond the halfway point of the regular season, but I am finally at a point where I have solidified some of my opinions as we start winding down and looking toward the playoffs. Hendricken

The problem with Hendricken is that it has had a rather unusual schedule this fall. The Hawks came up short against out-of-state powerhouses Catholic Memorial and Iona Prep and rolled past Cranston East for a league win, as well as picking up an impressive victory over East Greenwich.

The Hawks have lost games due to the pandemic and squared off against two out of towners. Kind of hard to make any real firm judgments. From what I have seen and heard, the offense has been electric and has used its athleticism to overcome its offensive line turnover. Defensively, outside of the two out of state games, the team appears to be solid as well.

I’m sure the Hawks will be right in the championship mix, it has just been kind of an odd schedule to this point. Pilgrim

Despite being handed its first loss by Narragansett last weekend, I have been very impressed - and surprised - by the big fall that Pilgrim has enjoyed to this point.

The Pats were inexperienced in the spring and looked a bit out of place in Division II. I figured between them getting their feet wet and maturing that we’d see an improved bunch. Did I see them immediately becoming a playoff team and one of the most dangerous units in the state? Nope.

Connor Widmer has been incredible under center, Pilgrim’s return game is the state’s best, and the defense has held its own. We’ll see how the team responds to the loss, but I have been impressed and am buying everything its selling. Toll Gate

Between a bump up to Division III and losing three-year quarterback Gresyon Pasquina, regression was to be expected for the Titans. Toll Gate has gotten off to a slow start and is seeking its first win.

We’ll see how the playoff formats shake out, but if the Titans turn things around fast, then maybe they can sneak into the postseason. It may be unlikely, but high school kids are resilient. Cranston West

The Falcons have been one of those teams, in my eyes, who’s record is not indicative of how well they have played.

West had a down season in the spring as it recovered from the loss of Cam Alves. This fall, though, it seems to be back on track and has a more than capable roster … it has just had a tough schedule.

West beat a tough West Warwick team for its lone win of the year. But with a few of the losses, you have to look at the big picture. The Falcons went toe to toe with North Kingstown and made it a game until the last quarter. West also dragged Burrillville into deep waters and saw the game slip away thanks to a questionable call in the fourth quarter.

Am I saying that they have been unlucky? No, but the schedule has been daunting and they’ve been in every game except for the most recent one when Central won 33-0. It’s always tough seeing such a solid team miss by so little. Let’s see how the Falcons finish. Cranston East

The Bolts are in a full-blown rebuild, plain and simple. The key to this season really seemed to be to simply make progress, which overall, I think they have.

Although East is winless, it had its chances in both the Woonsocket and Coventry games. It’s other two losses were blowouts, but they came at the hands of Hendricken and Portsmouth … nothing to sneeze at. Johnston

The Panthers have been a mixed bag to this point this season. Coming off a Division III Super Bowl appearance, the team has pretty much held steady this season and is currently sitting at 2-2 overall in league play.

Johnston has rolled past teams like Toll Gate and North Smithfield, but has taken tough losses to Narragansett and Burrillville. Both of those are tough matchups, but the Panthers will have to prove that they can beat the top teams before we can consider them a true contender.

Regardless, they are poised to make a playoff push here and have the experience to know what it takes.

my pitch, column


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