Playoff Push Turns Up In High School Football, “Super Seven” Poll, Spectrum Sports Top 20
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Assistant Editor // October 19, 2017
7 Brevard Teams Considered Playoff Bound
ABOVE VIDEO: The only team guaranteed a playoff spot under the new FHSAA playoff point system is the Viera Hawks who clinched their district championship last Friday night with a big win over Martin Vounty.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — High school football is already into the fourth quarter of the 2017 season, and even with the unwanted break provided by Hurricane Irma, the season is flying by fast.
Since high school football is close to the end of the year, I received many texts and emails this week from people asking if I could explain the new playoff system in Florida high school football.
Aside from being complicated to understand, the new Florida High School Athletic Association playoff point structure has teams, media members and fan bases across the state paying close attention and watching scoreboards.
Social media is on fire with talk of how this team deserves to be in the playoffs and that team shouldn’t make it in. Fans and parents are also asking who and how did this new playoff structure come about.
In September of 2016, the FHSAA board of directors voted 14-2 to approve a revamped football playoff format that eliminates districts for small schools, Class 1A through 4A, bringing back at-large playoff berths for all eight classifications.
The new system, based solely on points, is similar to the one used in the state of Nebraska which factors in how teams qualify for the postseason in the four smaller classifications.
However, modifications were made due to the fact that Nebraska has nearly two million residents and about 250 high schools playing football. In comparison, Florida has more than 20 million people and nearly 480 football teams in the FHSAA.
The other caveat here is House Bill 7029, a multi-faceted education package that grants public-school choice statewide. The bill allows parents to enroll their child at any school, pending available space.
In other words, athletes can play wherever they want and be immediately eligible. That piece of legislation has been nicknamed “The Football Free Agency Bill.”
Another issue that was born through the new playoff system is coaches in 1A-4A would now have to schedule all their games, which you will find out, could be one of the flaws of the new system.
The setup in the lower classes is simple, a 16-team playoff field comprised of four teams from each region.
In the four larger classifications, (5A-8A) there will be district games. However, only the district champions are assured a berth in the 32-team field. The 16 other schools will be determined through the same points system that sets the field in the smaller classes and eliminates the second-place district team as an automatic qualifier.
Teams can also earn points, which change from week to week, based on your opponent’s schedule. The strength of a team’s schedule or lack of it will factor in this system.
While winning still matters more than anything, points are awarded based on a team’s record as well as the regular-season record of its opponents.
Most of the system focuses on the current season, the FHSAA wanted to avoid coaches booking easy schedules during the off-season for the upcoming season and decided to award points if a team scheduled historically winning programs.
Viera started off the season with 15 points since five teams on their schedule had appeared in the playoffs during the past two seasons.
With the new system, every game, like in college football, counts toward making the postseason. Compared to the old system, playoff berths were decided solely on district games.
Those that love the system, like eliminating the district runner-up as an auto-qualifier. Many felt the second-place team, in many cases, came from two, three or four team districts and made the playoffs regardless of having a bad record under the old format. For example, MCC, Holy Trinity and Father Lopez.
The FHSAA says the new system won’t be perfect and may take a few years to tweak. That’s not exactly the response a senior quarterback on the MCC Hustlers or Palm Bay Pirates want to hear with just three games to play in their high school careers.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IN BREVARD COUNTY:
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Space Coast Daily’s Zach Clark and Graham McGowan called the play-by-play as the Rockledge Raiders defeated the Palm Bay Pirates 42-6. The win was huge and means a lot in district play.
While there are two Space Coast teams, (Cocoa at no. 1 and Viera at no. 5) ranked in the Top 5 of this week’s Spectrum Sports Top 20 High School Football poll, there are only four total Space Coast teams ranked, a number that is usually one or two teams higher.
Merritt Island (18) and Heritage (20) close out the bottom of their poll but in stark contrast, if the season ended with last week’s games, seven Brevard County teams would have been heading to the playoffs.
Aside from the four teams ranked in this week’s poll, the Melbourne Bulldogs, Cocoa Beach Minutemen and Rockledge Raiders would all be post-season bound.
In a poll conducted much closer to home, this week’s edition of the Space Coast Daily, Friday Night Locker Room “Super Seven” poll doesn’t have Melbourne or Cocoa Beach receiving one vote of consideration.
See Poll Below:
Rank – Team-Record – District Record- Points – First Place Votes
- Cocoa Tigers 6-0 (48)
- Viera Hawks 5-1, 2-0 (43)
- MCC Hustlers 5-3 (27)
- Rockledge Raiders 2-3, 1-0 (23)
- Heritage Panthers 4-2, 3-0 (16)
- Satellite Scorpions 5-1 (11)
- Palm Bay Pirates 4-2, 2-1 (6)
It is important to note that Merritt Island, a current playoff team and ranked 18th by Spectrum, is not ranked with the Brevard County voters. However, the Mustangs did receive consideration from half of the voters in the SCD/FNLR Super Seven Poll. Merritt Island will have a chance to make jump this week when they host the fourth-ranked Rockledge Raiders on the Friday Night Locker Room/ Space Coast Daily TV Game of the Week.
BATTLE OF THE COCOA’S
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Friday Night Locker Room’s Orville Susong and Steve Wilson bring you the Warner Christian vs Cocoa Beach football game from Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High School.
In the smaller regions there are currently five Brevard County teams. Cocoa and Cocoa Beach in 4A, MCC and Holy Trinity in 3A and Merritt Island Christian in 2A.
Cocoa is the top ranked team in Class 4A Region 3 and Cocoa Beach is currently the fourth and final playoff qualifier form that same region. Translation, round one of the playoffs could potentially see a battle of the Cocoa’s. (Cocoa and Cocoa Beach)
FHSAA changed the rules was to help ensure competitive balance of the larger and smaller schools.
From 2007 to 2014, Cocoa and Cocoa Beach played every year, however, the result was not very favorable for Cocoa Beach. The Tigers were 8-0 against the Minutemen during that stretch, outscoring them 398-35, or an average score of 50-5. Cocoa Beach failed to score a point in five of the contests.
The team missing from the current playoff equation are the MCC Hustlers. With a record of 5-3, MCC is currently ranked third in the SCD-FNLR Super Seven Poll but currently sits fifth in Class 3A Region 2 at 36.5 points.
Hustlers are 0.33 points behind the fourth and final playoff spot presently occupied by the Taylor Wildcats in Pierson, Florida, located in Volusia County.
THE FATE OF MCC
ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights of MCC’s heartbreaking loss last weekend in Cumberland, Maryland vs. Fort Hill.
Back to scheduling and a potential major flaw in the system. There are no mandatory district games in the lower classifications and coaches are free to schedule whoever they want. In the case of MCC, play wherever they want.
After falling just one game short of the Class 3A State Title game last season, the Hustlers returned many of the players that started on the team last year, as a result, MCC had a tough time finding teams to play MCC in 2017.
Head coach Stacey Sizemore eventually filled his teams schedule, but MCC has traveled 3,275 miles so far in 2017 to do it. The Hustlers have traveled to play in Buford, Georgia, Cumberland, Maryland and in state to Tampa Bay and Fort Lauderdale.
As if the miles aren’t tough enough on a high school football team, the level of competition has been brutal.
The combined record of the three teams MCC has lost to this season is 18-2. Those are also the only three teams MCC earned bonus points for, prior to the start of the season as Buford, Fort Hill and Bishop Moore have combined to win 10 state championships since 2007.
I’m also wondering how the Hustlers missed out on the Spectrum poll.
The naysayers could point out that the combined winning record of the five teams the Hustlers have beat is only 15-21. That would be a legitimate point but Buford outscored their last three opponents 171-7 with their only loss coming to an undefeated team in South Carolina that is the three-time defending state champ—and they only lost by six points.
Fort Hill has won 32 games in a row and outscored their last three opponents 171-28.
MCC should have beat Fort Hill but questionable calls by the officials cost the Hustlers. MCC totaled 24 penalties, while Fort Hill only managed five penalties. Two personal foul penalties called on MCC during Fort Hill’s final drive set up the game winning field goal.
Many have said the Hustlers made their bed by scheduling such tough competition and must now accept the outcome.
I’d ask did they have a choice?
MCC is a class program and will accept their fate, whatever the outcome. However, keep in mind when Coach Sizemore picked up the phone to find closer opponents, many weren’t willing to play a team they knew was one of the best in the area.
Those that follow high school football closely know that MCC is one of the better teams in the area and in all of Class 3A.
Once the regular season ends, every Space Coast resident dons a Brevard County football hat and cheers for all the local teams that were good enough play extra football.
It would be interesting to see if the Hustlers can get to Orlando and there is a strong comparison that can be made between MCC and the 2015 Viera team. The Hawks faced six playoff teams during the season, including a nationally ranked team in Allen, Texas and despite losing four of those games, the level of competition faced during the season prepared Viera for a run to the 7A State title game at the Citrus Bowl.
Should the Hustlers win their final three games, finish 8-3 and miss the playoffs, a playoff crime has been committed. The postseason would be missing a team that should be there and it would surely expose a flaw that needs to be fixed in the new points system.
If the Hustlers lose one of their final three games, coach Sizemore will tell you himself, they don’t deserve to be there considering the combined record of their final three opponents is just 4-15.
CLICK HERE for FHSAA’s new point system.
CLICK HERE to see where your favorite high school team is and their chances for making the playoffs.
THIS WEEK’S ACTION
Stay tuned to Space Coast Daily for Brevard County high school football coverage each day.
Be sure to join Zach Clark and Graham McGowan Friday night as they bring you live action from Satellite high school as the 5-1 Scorpions host Fernandina Beach.
The team of Steve Wilson, Orville Susong and yours truly, Alan Zlotorzynski will bring you the game of the week between the Rockledge Raiders and Merritt Island Mustangs.
The top high school football teams in Central Florida, according to the Spectrum Sports staff
|Po||Team||Record||Trend||Week 8 Result||Week 9 Matchup|
|1.||Cocoa||6-0||NR||OFF||at Brtrm Trail (5-2)|
|2.||Jones||7-1||+1||def. Poinciana||vs. Eustis (4-4)|
|3.||Osceola||6-0||+1||def. Gateway||at Haines City (1-7)|
|4.||Winter Park||8-0||+1||def. Orlando Univ.||vs. Boone (5-1)|
|5.||Viera||5-1||+1||def. Martin Cnty||OFF|
|6.||Wekiva||6-1||+1||def. Evans||at Orlando Univ(2-4)|
|7.||Apopka||6-2||-5||lost West Orange||OFF|
|8.||Dr. Phillips||5-2||—||def. Freedom||vs. Olympia (4-3)|
|9.||Seminole||5-0||—||def. Oviedo||vs. W. Springs (0-7)|
|10.||Mainland||3-3||+1||def. Matanzas||vs. New Smyrna (4-3)|
|11.||Bishop Moore||6-1||+1||def. Tavares||OFF|
|12.||Boone||5-1||+2||def. Timber Creek||at Winter Park (8-0)|
|13.||Lake Mary||6-1||+2||def. DeLand||vs. O.C. Univ (3-2)|
|14.||Orange City Uni.||3-2||+2||def. Winter Springs||at Lake Mary (6-1)|
|15.||Flagler Palm Coast||8-0||+5||def. Spruce Creek||vs. DeLand (1-5)|
|16.||Edgewater||6-1||+1||def Lake Minn.||at East Ridge (5-2)|
|17.||Spruce Creek||5-1||-7||def Flag Palm Coast||at Jax Mandarin (2-5)|
|18.||Merritt Island||4-2||+1||def. Titusville||vs. Rockledge (2-3)|
|19.||West Orange||4-4||NR||def. Apopka||vs. Evans (3-4)|
|20.||Heritage||4-2||NR||def. Sebstn. Rvr||vs. Jensen Bch (3-3)|
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY SPORTS