New Region Postseason Offers More Glory and Asks for More Guts

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Raise your hand if you had Chantilly, 0-10 in 2004 and 4-6 in 2005, reaching the Virginia AAA Division 6 state final last year. How about Oakton, tied for third in the Concorde District after 10 games in 2005, winning the state title that season?

Neither was crowned Concorde District champion, yet each wound up in the state championship.

So with the Northern Region this season, doubling its postseason field from four teams in Division 5 and four teams in Division 6 to eight teams in each, are we likely to see even more such teams emerge?

Most of the coaches in the region favor the new format, because the most deserving teams will almost assuredly crack the postseason, with none of them being squeezed out, and the middling teams can nurse their playoff hopes deep into October. And doubling your chances of reaching the postseason isn't bad for job security, either.

Centreville went 8-2 in 2005, losing two games by three points to eventual Division 6 region finalists Oakton and Westfield in the middle of the season. The Wildcats outscored their other eight opponents 385-111, but by not winning the district or having a high enough Virginia High School League power rating, their season ended.

Three times in a nine-year span ending in 2000, Herndon failed to reach the playoffs with a 7-3 record. Lee did not qualify with a 9-1 record in 1992 and an 8-2 mark in '97.

Those days are over.

"It's long overdue," said West Springfield Coach Bill Renner, whose team has not reached the playoffs since 1993, falling short with a 7-3 record in 2004. "Having to wait this long wasn't fair to football because other sports have had 16 teams going to the playoffs for years. If that's a good thing, then why isn't it a good thing for football, when we're marquee and make the most money?"

"If you have a tough start, your season's not over at Week Five," said first-year Fairfax coach Chris Haddock, who is trying to kick-start a Rebels program that went 79-20 in the 1990s and 22-47 since.

"You still have that carrot out in front of the kids," he said. "More teams are going to have more on the line later in the season, and that's going to be great for our region. In an eight-team playoff, you're going to have to earn it to win it."

In Virginia AAA, the Eastern Region also has adopted the 16-team format; the Central and Northwestern Regions kept their eight-team systems. The season is the same length. All the Eastern and Northern teams are playing their openers before Labor Day and do not have any weeks off during the season.

If the new system had been in place last year, the first-round matchups in Division 6 would have been eighth-seeded Herndon at top-seeded Westfield, seventh-seeded Lake Braddock at second-seeded Chantilly, sixth-seeded West Potomac at third-seeded Oakton, and fifth-seeded Annandale at Robinson. Herndon-Westfield and Lake Braddock-Chantilly would have been regular season rematches.

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