A new brand of football
It’s a whole new world in Kentucky high school football.
The move to six classes is the first major change in the football landscape since 1991, when the playoff system was last altered to include 32 teams from each class, and the first addition of state champions since 1975, when the KHSAA expanded from three classes to four.
Despite appearances, expanding to six classes does not meant that only professional boxing will crown more different champions than Kentucky football. It does mean, however, that:
- 86 percent of the state’s 223 teams will make the playoffs. Of the 192 teams that will make the playoffs, 92 already know they’re in because they’ll play in a four-team district. And 23 of those teams will qualify without winning a single district game.
- Teams will be crowned “state champions” by prevailing over as few as 33 teams (the number in Class 2A), and no more than 41 teams (the number in 1A, the largest class). That’s down from an average of 54 teams under the most recent system.
With those things said, it’s impossible to say that a 2007 championship is as impressive an achievement as a 2006 championship was. Yes, the teams will still hoist their big wooden trophies into the air come December, and the celebrations at each of those six schools will be just as sweet.
But we’ll know, at least for the first few years while the old system is still fresh in our minds. And no one will shake their heads more than the coaches in all of those other sports that have to outlast every other team in the state — large or small — to win a championship.
The argument in favor of this change that it allows more teams to make the playoffs doesn’t hold water, either, even though it’s true. If almost everyone makes the playoffs, what’s the big deal about getting in? Which is more impressive, making the playoffs in the NBA, which 16 of 30 teams currently do, or making the playoffs in MLB, where eight of 32 teams qualify?
If simply expanding playoff participation was truly the goal, that could have been accomplished by adding one more round to the postseason tournaments and eliminating one regular-season game. That exact system, with a nine-game season and an all-inclusive playoff system, is in place in Indiana, which awards five championships to its 317 teams.
But we’re going to have to live with this system for the foreseeable future and probably beyond, because there’s almost no chance now that there would ever be a move toward reducing the number of championships.
So with a new season at hand, here are some links and information that you’ll need to get ready for kickoff this weekend:
- Your first click should be to The Advocate-Messenger’s high school preview. It appeared in print on Aug. 5, but if you missed it then or just want to re-read it, it’ll be there for you throughout the season. Contained within are team pages which feature the capsule information we ran on each of the six teams we cover — Boyle County, Casey County, Danville, Garrard County, Lincoln County and Mercer County — plus links to a page with each team’s schedule and driving directions to the games it will play outside our coverage area. Rosters for each of our six teams will be added soon as well.
- Until everyone learns their favorite teams’ new district and class competition, the statewide alignment might be the most downloaded document on the KHSAA’s Web site. So get yours and print out copies for every room in the house.
- If you’re really a schedule freak, you can download team-by-team schedules for all 223 football schools. But be warned, it’s a 47-page PDF. And you can also get the schedule of bowl games being played this weekend and next, which is only a three-page file.
- The dates and times for the six state title games haven’t been widely publicized, so here they are: Friday, Dec. 7, 1A at 11:30 a.m., 3A at 3:30 p.m., 5A at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8, 2A at 11:30 a.m., 4A at 3:30 p.m. and 6A at 7:30 p.m. The KHSAA says those times are still tentative.
- Want to know if anyone you know is close to breaking a record? Then look at this link to the KHSAA’s records, where you’ll find that former Boyle County kicker Taylor Begley still holds the record for extra points in a season (97) or that Danville’s Sam Harp ranks eighth on the all-time coaching victories list with 277. (He’ll likely move up to sixth this season.) And there’s more useful and useless information you can peruse on the KHSAA’s football page.
- Finally, let me recommend the statewide previews produced by Bluegrasspreps.com. You can find a few paragraphs on every team in the state, much of it produced by the site’s own members. The information varies from team to team, but it’s all useful and it’s the most comprehensive preview out there.
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Some changes have been made to the schedules of a few local teams since they were printed in the Advocate’s prep preview:
- With little fanfare, Mercer County has added a 10th game to its schedule, and its second game against an opponent from Tennessee. The Titans will host Greeneville (Tenn.), a Class 4A school (5A is Tennessee’s largest public class) located in the East Tennessee hills between Morristown and Johnson City. The game will be played at 8 p.m. Aug. 31.
- Mercer’s game against Russell County this Saturday in the Bob Allen Pigskin Classic was moved up 15 minutes to a 5:15 p.m. start.
- Lincoln County originally listed incorrect game times for its Death Valley Bowl this Friday. Lincoln will play Bell County at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Washington County-Garrard County game at 9 p.m. Lincoln and Garrard are the only local teams scheduled to play Friday; all others play on Saturday.
- And for reasons unknown, most of the games on Frankfort’s schedule were originally listed with 7 p.m. starting times. The Panthers’ games Sept. 28 at Garrard County and Oct. 26 at Danville will both begin at 7:30.