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EDGY: IHSA approves football playoff changes

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EDGY: IHSA approves football playoff changes

While Chicago was getting ready for what would turn out to be the Blackhawks' third Stanley Cup win in the last six seasons, IHSA football fans celebrated an important change to the football playoffs beginning this fall, according to Monday's IHSA press release:

"Class 1A-6A will be seeded in two geographic brackets 1-16, eliminating the previous mileage component within the Policy that would change the bracket to quadrants if certain travel mileage distances were exceeded. Class 7A & 8A will now be seeded 1-32."

My take on this latest change? It just makes sense.

Back in 2002, when the whole mileage component was added by the IHSA in response to growing concern regarding travel costs, it made sense at that time.

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But with leaving this rule in place for 12 years, I felt that it began to water down the overall quality and appeal of the IHSA state playoffs, especially in the larger classes. It seemed like we saw the same opening round matchups, grouping all of the same teams. Win the regular season DuPage Valley conference or the (St. Louis area's) Southwestern conference. Your reward would frequently be playing --essentially-- a conference tournament in the state playoffs. You needed to survive a second go-around against a team that already knows you too well. One year of that happening? It's interesting. Twelve years? Not so much.

Simply put, the IHSA football playoffs (in the larger classes in particular) became which two best geographically placed teams could get to the state finals instead of just the best two teams regardless of location playing for a state title. I've argued for years that, in many cases, the best state playoff games happened in the quarterfinal round.

Also lost under the old system was the entire educational aspect of traveling. Coaches, players and fans alike will tell you that nothing beats the experience of traveling to play a team you've never faced. Or getting to play in a different part Illinois that you might not ever see in your lifetime. Ask St. Rita or Lincoln-Way East, or O'Fallon or East St. Louis...all teams who have made multiple trips downstate and upstate during the regular season about the value of making trips outside of its own back yard. To a coach and administrator they will agree that kids benefit from those road trips.

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Under this new tweak to the state football playoffs, we still might not see the best two teams get to a state title.

But for the first time in many years, I feel have a playoff system that at least makes more sense. 

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Maine West

Head coach: Jason Kradman

Assistant coaches: Steve Piha (Def. Coordinator), Mike O'Brill (DB/ST Coordinator), Tony Manicke (LB/Head JV Coach), Dan Wilson (OL) Russ Swenson (TE) Ryan Willett (QB) Matt Boswell (DL) Trent Greco (WR) Kyle Prater (WR) Mike Smith (Head Frosh Coach) Joe Duszynski (Frosh Asst.) and DJ Frey (Frosh Asst.).

How they fared in 2017: 7-3 (4-1 Central Suburban North Conference). Maine West made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Warriors lost to Benet Academy in opening round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Mundelein

Sept. 1 @ Fenton

Sept. 7 vs Elk Grove

Sept. 14 @ Hersey

Sept. 21 vs Glenbrook North

Sept. 28 @ Maine East

Oct. 5 vs Vernon Hills

Oct. 12 vs Highland Park

Oct. 19 @ Deerfield

[MORE: 65 Days to Kickoff - Elmwood Park]

Biggest storyline: Will history repeat itself? Can the Warriors post back-to-back IHSA state playoff appearances? If so, it'd be a first for the Des Plaines high school.

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Jake Bellizzi, FB/LB Krystian Garbicz and WR/DB Ely Grimmer

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will need to replace standout TE Matt Kentgen (now at Butler). He was a multi-year starter and team leader last fall.  

EDGY's Early Take: Maine West, coached by Jason Kradman, has been one of the area's better success stories. Kradman took over the Warriors program in 2014 and guided the Warriors to their first state playoff appearance since 2002. With 13 returning starters back from a season ago (seven offense, six defense) and a program-wide boost in overall numbers and excitement, look for the Warriors to have a good shot at playoff football once again this October.

62 Days to Kickoff: Lincoln Park

62 Days to Kickoff: Lincoln Park

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

 

School: Lincoln Park

Head coach: Vince DeFrancesco

Assistant coaches: Steve Karoff, Grant Magnuson, Tyler Clark, Brandon Randolph, Alex Green and Tom Dellota

How they fared in 2017: 8-2 (7-0 Chicago Public League Chicago Big Shoulders Conference). Lincoln Park made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Lions lost to Alton in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ IWT Speer

Sept. 1 vs. Kenwood

Sept. 7 vs. Hubbard

Sept. 14 @ Phillips

Sept. 21 vs. Lane Tech

Sept. 28 vs. Taft

Oct. 5 vs. Westinghouse

Oct. 12 vs. Raby

Oct. 19 vs. Morgan Park

Biggest storyline: The Lions' new conference. Can Lincoln Park keep its winning ways when they start playing in the CPL/Illini Land of Lincoln this fall?

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Dane Romberger and DB Jalen Jenkins

Biggest holes to fill: The Lions will need to reload on the offensive side of the football this summer with just three starters back this fall.

EDGY's Early Take: Coach Vince DeFrancesco's Lions have been on a nice roll, getting to the IHSA state playoffs in each of his past three seasons (four straight for the school overall). However, the price for the Lions' success is extremely high. The CPL Illini Land of Lincoln is loaded. The schedule includes the likes of Kenwood, Hubbard, Phillips, Raby and Morgan Park...just to name a few. If the Lions can develop their less experienced offense this summer, all the better for them.