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October 24, 2013

GREG'S PICKS: New Albany’s fate just doesn’t seem right

There has to be a better plan than sectional games half a state away

NEW ALBANY — Friday kicks off the 2013 Indiana high school football playoffs.

It also kicks off a new tournament format — moving from five classes to six.

It’s a system that could certainly use more thought, to be as nice as I can be. My personal feeling is that not every team belongs in the tournament. If a team goes 0-9 (or 1-8 or 2-7, for that matter) in the regular season, it’s honestly just taking up space in the postseason in most situations.

Maybe if the tournament is just a tad less inclusive, we could get back to having teams play other teams from the same “section” playing for sectional championships, and the teams in the same “region” vying for regional titles.

If you look at a map of Indiana, the distance between Center Grove and New Albany in no way resembles a “section” of the state.

On Monday, News and Tribune correspondent Jon Reiter wrote the following:

 

“When New Albany fell 35-34 to Floyd Central at Buerk Field Friday night in a tough battle, it marked not only the end of the regular season for the Bulldogs, but for all intents and purposes, the end of their season overall.

“The Bulldogs finished their most successful regular season since 2008. They are just two years removed from a painful 1-9 season and went 6-3 in 2013. So there’s much to celebrate on this campaign if you’re a New Albany fan.

“Their reward for having such a successful season is to travel 100 miles north on Friday night to face off against No. 3 Center Grove in the first round of 6A Sectional 8. Game time is at 7 p.m., Bulldog fans. Good luck getting to Greenwood on time, and let’s hope there aren’t any jack-knifed semis or car-deer collisions on I-65 between here and there.

“Come on, this is ridiculous. I know that the IHSAA just went to A-6A this season, and that there are only 32 teams in 6A, but there has to be a better way than this. Let’s be honest, the entire reason they changed things this season is because of the explosion of student growth in the suburban Indianapolis schools. This setup is meant to favor those schools — not Jeffersonville, New Albany or Floyd Central.

“One New Albany coach told me the team may have to leave school early on Friday in order to make it to Center Grove with enough time to do even limited pre-game preparation. Is this the kind of message the IHSAA wants to send its member schools with regards to the importance of education?”


 

Here’s an idea: Let’s start with abolishing football conferences, go back to four classes and set up seven- to eight-team football sections or districts.

In the regular season, every team would play every other team in the section and the top four in the section make the playoffs. There would even be room for a couple of non-section games to play rivals. It would cut down travel costs and, as sad as it would be to lose the tradition of high school football conferences, new rivalries would form inside of these sections.

Here are proposed examples of some local sectionals:

 

Class 4A — New Albany, Floyd Central, Jeffersonville, Jennings County, Bedford North Lawrence, Seymour, Columbus East, Columbus North.

Class 3A — Charlestown, Silver Creek, Brownstown Central, Corydon Central, Madison, South Dearborn, North Harrison, Salem.

Class 2A — Clarksville, Providence, Eastern, Paoli, Crawford County, Mitchell, Forest Park, Southridge.

 


Not every team deserves a spot in the playoffs every year.

This is something the IHSAA should seriously consider. Let’s get back to the time when sectional games weren’t played half a state away.

On to the first-round sectional picks:

 

CLASS 6A SECTIONAL 8

NEW ALBANY AT CENTER GROVE


• Center Grove 44, New Albany 24: Center Grove probably has the best team in the entire state. The computer-based Sagarin rating has the Trojans as No. 1. So do I.

It really is a shame that the Bulldogs were given the worst of all worlds. Open with Center Grove, have to drive two hours to get there and, most people believe, be out of the game by halftime.

It’s hard to imagine the Bulldogs winning this game. They’ll have to play a perfect game and get three or four breaks, but they are good enough that it is an outside possibility.

This game will be closer than most expect, but it still likely won’t be close.

• Jeffersonville 33, Columbus North 22: Unlike New Albany, Jeff got the best of all worlds.

The Red Devils get to open at home against the most beatable team in the sectional. Of course, that doesn’t mean the Bull Dogs are bad and it doesn’t mean this will be an easy win for Jeff. It certainly won’t be.

If Jeff loses, it will be the last high school game for All-State tight end Dionte Allen. He won’t let that happen. Expect the Devils to go to Allen early and often and expect Allen to deliver.

 

CLASS 5A

So the IHSAA’s brilliant plan for Class 5A is to have some five-team sectionals. That means most 5A teams will have a week off before next week’s sectional semifinals. Meanwhile, Class 6A is playing this week with a bye week later in the tournament.

It seems the NCAA’s move to Indianapolis a few years ago has affected the IHSAA, and it’s become nearly as incompetent in its decision-making.

 

CLASS 4A SECTIONAL 24

• Boonville 26, Silver Creek 22: I don’t know how I hear from coaches that their upcoming opponent is “better than its record.”

In the case of Boonville, it’s true. The Pioneers have lost eight games in a row, but they’ve often been competitive with good teams.

This is the Dragons’ first home playoff game and it could be their first playoff victory. This is a tossup, but I’m going with the Pioneers in a dogfight.

• Evansville Reitz 42, Owen Valley 14: If the Dragons beat Boonville, their reward will be the 6-3 Panthers (speaking of better than their record). Reitz has won as many regional championships in its program’s history as Silver Creek has won games (six apiece). Again, does Reitz and Creek being in the same sectional seem right?

• Evansville Central 62, Seymour 21: As bad as it was early in the year, Seymour’s offense has been pretty prolific when quarterback Austin Sutton has been healthy. Unfortunately, the Owls are surrendering nearly 60 points per game.

• Jasper 49, Evansville Harrison 13: It hasn’t been the best year for Evansville football and 1-7 Harrison has epitomized the mediocrity.

 

CLASS 3A SECTIONAL 31

• Charlestown 27, Corydon Central 8: Just three weeks ago, Charlestown had arguably its best performance of the season in a 35-0 win over the Panthers. It was one of four shutouts in the Pirates’ last five games.

Injuries have slowed Charlestown a bit. Darren Taylor, who is likely out for the season, was a big reason for the rout of Corydon. His absence will not be enough to make the rematch competitive.

It will be a little closer. But without some bad breaks, the Pirates will pull away late.

• Salem 21, Brown County 7: It has been a stellar first season for Salem under coach R.J. Hartsfield. It should continue at least one more week as the Lions clinch their first winning season since 2009. The 2009 season was the last as head coach for Brian Motsinger, who is now assisting Hartsfield in returning Salem to a winning program.

• North Harrison 49, Mitchell 14: Mark Williamson is another Mid-Southern Conference coach who has done a nice job turning around a program. The 4-5 Cougars have won three of their last four and nearly beat 7-2 Paoli a week ago.

• Brownstown Central 65, Washington 15: The Hatchets snapped a nine-game losing streak a week ago. This column has been awfully negative. Just thought I’d point out something positive.

 

CLASS 2A SECTIONAL 39

• Crawford County 20, Clarksville 14: The only way the draw could have gone better for Clarksville, which is still searching for its first win, would have been to host winless Indianapolis Manual.

The pairings have given the Generals a shot.

I spent much of last season bashing Alan Hess and the Wolfpack. While the Pack have only won two games, the improvement they made has been astonishing. Wins over Springs Valley and Indianapolis Washington — combined with close losses to Forest Park and Eastern — has made Crawford’s season one of the most successful 2-7 campaigns in the state.

It’ll be a battle, but Crawford should leave Clarksville with its third win. Amazing for a program that a year ago looked like it may never win a game again.

• Paoli 38, Eastern 12: In what could be known as the “Rich Man/Poor Man” sectional, Eastern had a pretty good chance of drawing a team it could beat in the opening round.

Instead, Eastern drew a 7-2 Paoli team that has won five straight games. The 2014 season should be kinder to the Musketeers.

• Providence 71, Indianapolis Manual 0: If Manual shows up this time, this matchup could be the ugliest first-round games in the state. Manual is the very definition of a team that shouldn’t be anywhere near a “playoff.”

If Pioneers’ coach Larry Denison wanted to, his team could beat the Redskins by triple figures. Of course, the Pioneers don’t want to be charged with bullying.

I don’t think Providence will be able to help itself scoring 60. It may reach 70 or 80 without trying, and Manual has almost no chance of putting a point on the board.

• Milan 34, Triton Central 27: Milan has won four of its last five. Triton Central has lost two of its last four. I know I’m supposed to be impartial, but it sure would be nice for Providence not to have to go TWO HOURS FOR A SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL next week.

 

Sorry for shouting. It’s sectional time. I hope I haven’t taken too much of the joy out of it. That certainly wasn’t my intent.

I am honestly looking forward to a great postseason of Southern Indiana football — but honestly, something has to be done.

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