Maryland expands playoff bracket due to Covid concerns, allows all 182 teams entry into tournament

Ben Sersen, Reporter

     This season, all 182 football teams in Maryland secondary schools are headed to the playoffs according to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA).

     The MPSSAA stated that the purpose of the open playoffs is “to alleviate issues associated with COVID-19 quarantines, loss of contests, and to provide an equitable opportunity for all schools to compete in the 2021 Football State Championships.”

     The Hawks, sitting at the sixth seed in their region at a modest 3-3, would require at least two wins and multiple losses for Bel Air, Elkton, or Aberdeen to get a home field advantage during the playoffs. The Hawks will face Aberdeen, who has a record of  2-3 on the season, before facing undefeated Harford Tech during the Cobra’s senior night. The Hawks will finish their season away playing the Fallston Cougars.        

          The MPSSAA also went on to claim, “This proposal strives to maximize student participation by making modifications that will provide an opportunity for all schools to make the playoffs regardless of regular season complications due to COVID-19.”

     The MPSSAA Classification Committee will review the enrollment numbers of the 182 member schools who have acknowledged they will have a football team in 2021. According to the MPSSAA, “The classification committee will evenly divide the 182 schools into six classifications  (1A, 1A-2A, 2A, 3A, 3A-4A, 4A). “

     The expansion of classifications helps teams that may finish with a mediocre record such as 5-4, will be classified differently from other teams with much easier schedules however they share the same 5-4 record. This helps teams who must compete against strong competition (which may impact their final standing) get more evenly seeded in the playoffs, providing a much needed chance for the underdogs of the regions.

     Among many other claims, the MPSSAA released their intended outcomes for this proposal, one being “An opportunity for all schools to experience high school state tournament football in 2021 after the 2020 state tournament was cancelled”

     Another intended outcome released by the MPSSAA is as follows “Encouraging complete transparency from students, families, and coaches related to COVID-19 exposures, knowing a temporary quarantine will not affect the teams opportunity to make the playoffs”

     The MPSSAA looks to ease “the pressure on local school system athletic directors to reschedule too many contests in a short period of time in order to assist their team into making the playoffs.”

     The proposal was sent to the MPSSAA by Executive Council Supervisors on September 10, the MPSSAA Football Committee took action on the proposal on September 24 and the proposal was sent to the Executive Council where final adjustments were made and the proposal was finalized.

     One of the proposed changes included policies and procedures found in the current MPSSAA Football Bulletin will be used to determine the final point standing for each region. Schools earn win points based on teams original designation as a 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A school. 

     Another proposed change was “Classifications will compete as detailed in the MPSSAA Football Bulletin through the state tournament series. The MPSSAA will make adjustments to its State Final Schedule to accommodate 6 state championship games, as opposed to the traditional 4,”

     Each of the 182 schools included in the proposal are given the opportunity to opt out of the tournament by submitting a signed letter to the MPSSAA that is received prior to the state tournament-seeding meeting on October 31, 2021.