Saturday, August 18, 2018

New preps football playoff system does what it sets out to do

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, then posted on

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.


Class 7A

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

Preseason football: Hillsborough 29, East Lake 23

Preseason football: Hillsborough 29, East Lake 23

TAMPA — When moving on to your third football program in four seasons, it helps to have a familiar face on the scene to help make things click faster.For Hillsborough quarterback Charlie Dean, fresh from playing for Tampa Catholic last fall, that per...
Published: 08/18/18
Preseason football: Clearwater Central Catholic 24, Wiregrass Ranch 14

Preseason football: Clearwater Central Catholic 24, Wiregrass Ranch 14

WESLEY CHAPEL — Clearwater Central Catholic, held to 11 yards rushing in the first half, turned on the power game behind senior Casey Levy, whose 120-yard performance helped carry the visiting Marauders to a 24-14 win at Wiregrass Ranch.Levy’s lone t...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/18/18

Preseason football: Tampa Bay Tech 54, Brandon 6

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Tech earned all the momentum it needed heading into next week’s sizable test at Armwood.The Titans powered by visiting Brandon 54-6 in a preseason classic on Friday night. The game was cruising along until a 20-minute lightning dela...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/18/18

Preseason football: Tampa Catholic 36, Robinson 15

TAMPA — First-year Tampa Catholic coach Jeris McIntyre hasn’t named a starting quarterback yet, but Dylan McCain shined in his job interview Friday, running a Crusader offense that scored 22 points in the second half on the way to a 36-15 preseason v...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/18/18

Preseason football: Jefferson 53, Newsome 0

LITHIA — Jefferson’s Tyler Thomas needed less than a quarter to throw down a challenge to the area teams: Catch him if you can.Unsuspecting Newsome, playing host to the preseason classic, never had a chance in the 53-0 loss on Friday.Thomas, a senior...
Published: 08/17/18
Updated: 08/18/18

Preseason football: Sunlake 22, Lakewood 20 (one half)

ST. PETERSBURG — Following two lengthy lightning delays, Sunlake used two blocked punts and several key defensive stops to knock off Lakewood in an abbreviated preseason game, 22-20.Matt Paduani led the way for the Seahawks, notching two touchdown ca...
Published: 08/17/18

Preseason football: Alonso 7, Countryside 6

TAMPA — The end result was a one-point decision — a 7-6 victory for Alonso over Countryside on Friday in a preseason game.First-year coach Ron Perisee preferred to dig deeper into his Ravens’ performance than the final score."I am just proud of the f...
Published: 08/17/18

Preseason football: Land O’Lakes 26, Wesley Chapel 0

LAND O’LAKES — From the very first play Friday night, Land O’Lakes asserted its presence over Wesley Chapel in preseason action.A botched snap, recovered by the Gators, set up a 27-yard flea-flicker touchdown from quarterback Ethan Forrester to Jacob...
Published: 08/17/18

Preseason football: St. Petersburg 10, Northeast 0

ST. PETERSBURG — Tonio Shavers rushed for a short touchdown as the St. Petersburg defeated Northeast, 10-0, in a shortened preseason game Friday.Lightning caused an hour-long delay at the end of the first quarter and when the teams returned they deci...
Published: 08/17/18

Preseason football: River Ridge 44, Pasco 24

NEW PORT RICHEY — River Ridge rode the arms of quarterbacks Kyle St. John and Travis Hawks on Friday night en route to a 44-24 preseason win over Pasco."(St. John and Hawks) both played really well tonight," River Ridge coach Ryan Benjamin said. "The...
Published: 08/17/18