Every Maryland public high school football team will qualify for the playoffs this season, and the state will crown six state champions instead of the usual four in the sport.
Both of those drastic changes resulted from the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s approval on Friday of a proposal to alleviate issues associated with COVID-19 quarantines, loss of football contests, and to provide an equitable opportunity for all schools to compete in the 2021 state football championships, according to a release issued by the MPSSAA.
The proposal will allow all 182-member schools playing football to enter the 2021 state tournament. So, Frederick County’s 10 public school teams are now all eligible for the postseason regardless of how they perform during the regular season.
Two extra classifications were added to prevent each class from having extra rounds of playoff games because of the newly adopted open-playoff format.
The tournament policy changes only affect the 2021 season, according to the MPSSAA release.
While most other MPSSAA sports have used an open-playoff format for decades, football continued to limit participation in the postseason to teams that earned berths via a points system that factored in team records and strength of schedule.
But teams that have games canceled because of coronavirus-related precautions, either at their own school or an opponent’s, might have their postseason bids jeopardized under the playoff format used in previous years.
In fact, Friday’s Frederick High at Tuscarora football was canceled due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to an email from Tuscarora. The Cadets are enjoying their most successful season in recent memory, and while one missed game might not have prevented them from earning a postseason bid under the previous format, it remains to be seen if they will have more games canceled in the future.
The strongly approved proposal from the MPSSAA Executive Council, which received majority support from the state football committee, follows the same playoff format with the exception of adding two classifications to allow all member schools to compete out of an eight-line regional bracket in one of six classifications.
Schools will compete out of their regional bracket, with the top two schools after the opening two rounds of playoffs advancing to the state quarterfinals. The championships will feature six games the weekend of Dec. 4-6.
The MPSSAA Executive Council gathered feedback from coaches, athletic directors, school administrators, and local superintendents of schools, who supported a structure that matched the other open fall sport tournaments of girls field hockey, boys and girls soccer, and girls volleyball and removes any concern of playoff implications when dealing with COVID-19 situations during the regular season.
Regions for state tournament competition were developed and approved by the MPSSAA Classification Committee. The MPSSAA Executive Council approved the classifications as part of passing the change to the state tournament policies.
The MPSSAA will begin to announce weekly point standings following Week 4 contests. All teams will earn points based on the existing point system criteria, and any school has the right to withdraw from the state tournament prior to the state tournament seeding meeting.
As for Frederick County’s 10 public-school football teams, here are their regional classifications: Brunswick, Class 1A North; Catoctin, Class 1A North; Frederick, Class 3A West; Linganore, Class 3A West; Middletown, Class 2A West; Oakdale, Class 3A West; Thomas Johnson, Class 4A-3A West; Tuscarora, Class 4A-3A West; Urbana, Class 4A-3A West; Walkersville, Class 2A West.