Monday, November 29, 2021
Nov. 29, 2021

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Martinez: New format won’t set 4A, 3A Week 10 football playoff matchups until after regular season ends

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

We are heading into Week 8 of the high school football season, and it’s time to start thinking about the postseason and potential matchups.

And normally, we could do that to a certain extent.

For example, in Class 3A, Mountain View has already clinched a share of the 3A Greater St. Helens League title and the No. 1 seed from the league to the Week 10 playoffs.

In previous years, the matchups for Week 10 state preliminary games already would be set. In previous years, we could look and see that, for example, the 3A GSHL No. 1 team will host the Metro League No. 5 team. And then it would just be a matter of figuring out who the No. 5 team from the Metro might be.

But that’s not how it will work this year.

This year, there will be a committee of coaches and administrators who will meet on Sunday, Oct. 31 and create matchups for those Week 10 games.

To clarify, the Week 10 games – games played on Nov. 5-6 — are not part of the state tournament. State tournaments are capped at 16 teams, and the football state playoffs will open Nov. 12-13.

For Class 3A teams, the committee that will meet on Oct. 31 will be creating 16 matchups among 32 teams from all across the state. The winners of the 16 games will advance to state, where another committee – the WIAA seeding committee – will meet on Sunday, Nov. 7 to seed and set the 16-team state tournament.

Mountain View athletic director and football coach Adam Mathieson said the idea was proposed last spring, and he voted against it, along with District 4’s other representative, Evergreen Public Schools athletic director Cale Piland. But ultimately, Mathieson and Piland were in the minority.

The idea behind these committees for Week 10 surely was sparked from the positive reaction the WIAA seeding committees have received since being instituted a couple of years ago.

And the previous predetermined Week 10 format – one in which Team A from this league would play Team B from that league – could potentially create one Week 10 matchup between two very good teams while creating another matchup of two teams that are, let’s say, less impressive.

Having a matchup committee for Week 10 could help prevent that scenario, but Mathieson is not so sure.

“I’ve served on the WIAA committees and I think they’ve worked really well,” he said. “But even when working with 16 teams, it can get kind of tricky. But now we’re going to be working with 32 teams, that will be even harder. I’m not sure how that is going to work.”

For the 4A teams, the committee that will meet on Oct. 31 will only be setting matchups for 11 playoff games between 22 teams from the state’s western districts – Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4. The east side of the state will still sort out their five state berths as they’ve done in the past – two from the Big 9 Conference and three from the Greater Spokane League/Mid-Columbia Conference.

There is a concern that a league champion with a less-than-stellar win-loss record might find itself playing a more difficult Week 10 matchup than it would have under the previous arrangement. Mathieson points to Camas as a potential example.

The Papermakers opened their season 0-4 against top Oregon teams West Linn, Central Catholic, Jesuit and Clackamas. But if Camas wins this week against Skyview and next week against Union, the Papermakers would be the 4A GSHL champion.

But is it possible the committee might not be impressed with a 5-4 record and give the Papermakers a tougher Week 10 matchup? Or could the committee even – although this seems very unlikely – send Camas on the road in Week 10?

“Nothing is guaranteed,” Mathieson said. “So we don’t know.”

Or what about this? What if Skyview, Camas and Union all finished tied after Oct. 29 at 2-1 in league? It’s possible.

Then the committee would be meeting on Sunday, before those three teams could meet in a three-team tiebreaker to see which two teams advance to Week 10.

To be clear, nothing changes in the postseason for schools in the lower classifications. Those teams will still play their Week 10 district playoffs as normal.

Four teams from the 2A GSHL will play four teams from the 2A Evergreen Conference, and three teams from the 1A Trico League will play three teams from the 1A Evergreen Conference.

But for 4A and 3A schools, they will be playing the waiting game after their regular seasons conclude.

That could be the hardest part for coaches like Mathieson, who likes to start preparing for his next game 30 minutes after the previous one ended.

And with Mountain View playing its final game on Oct. 28 – a Thursday – against rival Evergreen, the wait for Mathieson will be more than 60 hours before he finds out the Thunder’s Week 10 opponent.

“I’m kind of a traditionalist,” Mathieson said. “I liked the way things were. You know, if you win your league, at the end of the season you know who you will be playing in the playoffs. But now, we’ll all be in the dark until 1 p.m. on Sunday.”