There was plenty of excitement from the sports community as the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association passed a new high school football playoff system. Wilmington head coach Mike Barry, however, wasn’t sharing that enthusiasm.
By a 161-131 vote, a new system that will declare six state champions was approved. The format will go into effect next season and will allow more teams to play in a bracket style format to reach the title tilt.
Barry’s concern, however, is one shared by others. Because Tewksbury and Wilmington will be placed in Division 3 Northeast, it is possible the Wildcats and Redmen would play the Saturday before Thanksgiving in a postseason game, then again less than a week later in their Turkey Day contest.
“I personally don’t like it,” said Barry. “It doesn’t really protect Thanksgiving Day. Tewksbury was in favor of (the new system), but most of the schools around us were not.”
Also among the concerns Barry has about the new set up is the size of the schools Wilmington will be competing against. Barry used Somerville as an example, a school with 900 boys compared to the 470 enrolled in Wilmington.
The Wildcats would also compete against schools like Salem, Danvers, Beverly and Tewksbury if they hoped to work their way into a state title game.
Another challenge of the new system will be scheduling. Teams will receive more points in their non-league games for victories against teams in higher divisions. However, there would not be much motivation for those large schools to play smaller teams like Wilmington because they would receive less points for a potential victory.
Some of the coaches who were against the plan also took issue with the fact that the possibility remains that teams could end up playing each other three times in one season.
As an example, Woburn and Winchester play each other during the regular season and also on Thanksgiving. Then if the teams meet in the playoffs, it would mean three meetings in one year.
Despite his objections to the change, Barry said when next season rolls around it will be far from his mind.
“Once the season starts, there is no complaining. It’s football,” said Barry. “These are the cards you’re dealt and you find a way to play better and try to qualify for the postseason.”