After 53 years of playoff football, the Florida High School Athletic Association decided to overhaul its format, implementing a points-based system this year to determine how teams qualify.
District champions still were awarded in Classes 8A-5A. Every other playoff berth was decided by how many points teams accumulated to boost their overall average (wins and strength of schedule were key).
On Sunday, the brackets were streamed live on nfhsnetwork.com, then posted on fhsaa.org.
There were few surprises.
The FHSAA was trying to eliminate mismatches and the lopsided scores that accompanied them in first-round games. And the new system mostly took care of that.
But it did create plenty of rematches with teams that faced each other in the regular season. There are seven rematches involving Tampa Bay teams, some of which met in the past two weeks.
In 5A, Jesuit and Jefferson play Friday — 11 days after facing each other in a makeup district game. The Dragons won 17-16 in overtime.
"We’ll be ready for them," said Jesuit coach Matt Thompson, who had already figured out his opponent before Sunday’s announcement.
Some grudge matches also are being renewed in the postseason. Tampa Catholic plays at Clearwater Central Catholic, marking the first time since 2012 the rivals have squared off in the playoffs.
"There’s really not a whole lot I would change about the new system," CCC coach Chris Harvey said. "For the most part, they got it right. They got the four best teams in our region in the playoffs, and that’s a good thing.
"There are some things they could change, and I certainly didn’t like having to pay $9.95 to watch a livestream to see the playoff brackets, but it’s a good start." (The brackets were released for free an hour later.)
Harvey said the system is similar to the one used in Division II football.
"I was an assistant at North Alabama and they would announce the brackets on a Sunday, just like they’re doing here. So I was already familiar with the way it works."
CCC had its bye this past week to have more time to prepare for its upcoming playoff opponent. Trouble was, the Marauders didn’t know whom they would play until Sunday.
"We had an idea of who we would play, and prepared for two different opponents," Harvey said. "At least we had a head start, even if it might have just been an extra day of preparation. It’s hard to complain too much because the new system has corrected a lot of what was wrong."
Another goal of the revamped format was to create a more fair — and balanced — field. For example, Miami Central, which won four straight state titles from 2012-15, missed out on the playoffs last season after going 6-2. The Rockets’ two losses were to eventual state champion Miami Carol City and rival Miami Northwestern (in double overtime).
All three teams, as well as Miami Norland, qualified for the playoffs from the same district, something that never would have happened under the old system where only district champions and runnerups made it.
It also made the regular season interesting, with games in the final week playing a significant role in determining postseason berths. In Class 6A, Region 3, Clearwater clinched the eighth and final spot, finishing ahead of Punta Gorda Charlotte.
The margin to determine that final spot: 0.39 points.
Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.
High school playoffs
All games 7:30 p.m. Friday. Admission is $8.
No. 6 East River at No. 3 Plant
No. 7 Gaither at No. 2 Viera
No. 5 Wiregrass Ranch at No. 4 Lake Nona
No. 8 St. Petersburg at No. 1 Venice
No. 7 Bloomingdale at No. 2 Tampa Bay Tech
No. 6 Palmetto at No. 3 Pinellas Park
No. 6 Barron Collier at No. 3 Largo
No. 8 Clearwater at No. 1 North Fort Myers
No. 7 Chamberlain at No. 2 Mitchell
No. 8 Sebring at No. 1 Armwood
No. 5 Hillsborough at No. 4 Lake Gibson
No. 6 Jesuit at No. 3 Jefferson
No. 7 Tarpon Springs at No. 2 Lakewood
No. 6 Clay at No. 3 Hernando
No. 7 River Ridge at No. 2 Zephyrhills
No. 8 Nature Coast at No.1 Baker County
No. 4 Tampa Catholic at No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic
No. 3 Calvary Christian at No. 2 Lakeland Christian
No. 4 Southwest Florida Christian at No. 1 Cambridge Christian
No. 3 Admiral Farragut at No. 2 Indian Rocks Christian
No. 4 Zephyrhills Christian at No. 1 Victory Christian