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The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Salem quarterback Matt Hill (middle, 14) throws a pass against Heritage during the 2012 VHSL Group AA Division 4 semifinal. Heritage defeated Salem 24-16 to reach the state final, but the Pioneers will play in Group 3A this season.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
A) Ask a fan of a school that was in Group A last year to explain how it works. The 2011 and 2012 Division 2 and Division 1 playoffs used the current format.
B) Balance. Where in 2012 there were 64 teams in Division 6 and just 42 in Division 4, this year the groups of football-playing schools are more even (52 in 6A, 52 in 5A, 52 in 4A, 53 in 3A, 49 in 2A and 47 in 1A.
C) Changes. Patrick Henry (River Ridge), Carroll County (River Ridge), Franklin County (Piedmont) and Marion (Hogoheegee) are in new districts.
D) Districts. A district champ doesn't qualify automatically for the playoffs. There won't even be district standings in the River Ridge and Piedmont districts because not all the schools play each other.
E) Enrollment. Schools are classified strictly by the number of students in grades 9-12. The numbers used are the March 31, 2012 average daily membership figures.
F) Four hundred, seventy-five. All schools with an enrollment 475 or lower automatically fall into Group 2A or 1A.
G) Groups. Each one is divided nearly in half, taking geography into account.
H) Had to go down. In the past, many schools in urban areas elected to stay in Group AAA despite enrollments that could have allowed them to be Group AA. Now they have no choice. Twenty-eight former Group AAA schools are now either in Group 4A or 3A. Six former Group AA schools have dropped down to Group 2A.
I) Impact. Defending Group AAA Division 5 state champion Lake Taylor is now in Group 4A. So is Phoebus, which won seven Division 5 championships between 2001-11. Conversely, three-time reigning Division 4 champ Briar Woods moved up to Group 5A.
J) Jam-packed schedule. Fans of Richmond schools might see one. Fourteen Richmond-area schools that did not make the 2012 playoffs would have qualified under the new setup.
K) Keep your receipts. The big question is what the financial impact will be.
L) Location. If teams have to travel farther for early-round playoff games, how many visiting fans will show up?
M) Moving down. Timesland teams in new divisions include William Fleming (Group 4A), Christiansburg, Hidden Valley, Blacksburg, Lord Botetourt, William Byrd, Staunton River and Magna Vista (all Group 3A), Martinsville and Marion (both Group 2A) and Fort Chiswell (Group 1A)
N) Numbers. Thirty-two teams qualify in each of the state's six groups, for a total of 192 statewide. That's up from 168 playoff teams in 2012.
O) Out. Four Timesland teams that made the 2012 playoffs - Bassett, Bath County, Craig County and Eastern Montgomery - would not have qualified had this year's system been in place.
P) Points. Making the playoffs is all based on each team's average score on the VHSL Rating Scale. Official averages are released by the VHSL office in Charlottesville.
Q) Quantity and quality. The Rating Scale points have changed slightly, with differing values for each of the six groups in descending order of size. The big benefit still comes from defeating good teams, but playing a schedule full of large schools helps.
R) Regions. They old ones are gone. Teams no longer play for a region title. Each half of each group will produce two semifinalists.
S) Seeding. It's all done 1 through 16 on the VHSL Rating Scale within each half the state in each group. In the first round, No. 16 is at No. 1, No. 15 at No. 2, etc.
T) Terminology. The six classifications are no longer called "divisions" as in "Group AAA Division 6." The new terminology is "Group 6A," "Group 5A," etc.
U) Uncertainty. Groups 6A, 5A and 4A will not necessarily use the No. 1 vs. No. 16, No. 2 vs. No. 15 rule for first-round pairings. They are being allowed to devise a more geographically-friendly format.
V) Variety. In most cases, the new playoff format should allow for fewer rematches of a regular-season game.
W) When do the playoffs start? First-round games are the weekend of Nov. 15-16. A team must win five playoff games to win the a state title.
X) X marks the spot Dec. 14. Group 6A and 5A championship games are at UVa. Group 4A and 3A games are at Liberty University. Group 2A and 1A games are at Salem Stadium.
Y) Youth. Playoffs, pairings, seedings, enrollment, groups ... it's still high school football with kids representing a school and a community.
Z) Zzzzz. A few followers of high school football on the internet keep track of VHSL Rating Scale points as a late-night to early-morning, weekend hobby. Thanks for your service, but get some sleep at some point, guys.
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