Severna Park's football team was rewarded with its second consecutive playoff berth after going 7-3 last fall, but if the squad posts the same record this season, it may not have as much to celebrate.
That's because the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's new regional alignment moves Severna Park from the 11-team 3A South Region into the 14-team 3A East Region, where more teams will vie for four playoff spots.
"Now if we go 8-2, there's a chance we might not even make the playoffs," Coach J.P. Hines said. "And that's unfair."
Every two years, the MPSSAA divides public schools into four classifications on the basis of their enrollment, with the largest schools competing in 4A. Each classification is broken into four regions -- North, South, East and West -- based largely on proximity to each other, to minimize travel expenses.
The county's 3A schools -- Severna Park, Northeast and Annapolis -- have competed for two years in the 3A South Region against teams from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. Those three schools have been moved to the 3A East, where they will compete against Howard and Harford county schools and J.M. Bennett in Wicomico County.
Besides having more schools in their region, the Anne Arundel County 3A schools also could be affected in the playoff hunt because they play in a more competitive league than other schools in their region, coaches said. A complex point system is used to select teams for the playoffs. Points are based not just on victories but also on the classification and records of opponents. So while Severna Park could get bonus points for victories against 4A schools in the Anne Arundel league, the team also faces more highly competitive teams than Howard or Harford county teams, which could affect its record.
"Severna Park coaches feel the same way I do in that I could foresee a team going 8-2, and even 9-1, and not make the playoffs," said Larry Luthe, who coaches at Mount Hebron in Howard County. "What bothers me is that there are some teams in some other regions and classifications who play in weaker leagues and have weaker schedules, and they could go 6-4 and make the playoffs, and our region will have a team go 8-2 and not get in. That would be a shame."
Anne Arundel County's 4A teams -- Arundel, Broadneck, Chesapeake, Glen Burnie, Meade, North County, Old Mill and South River -- remain in the East Region along with Thomas Stone and newcomer Leonardtown of St. Mary's County, which moved up from 3A.
Southern, previously in the 2A South, has been moved into the 10-team 2A East Region, where it will face teams from Queen Anne's, Wicomico, Talbot, Worchester, Harford, Dorchester, Cecil and Caroline counties and will confront a challenge to make the playoffs similar to that of the county's 3A schools. Southern does not play any team in the 2A East Region during the regular season.
"We play in a harder league than some of the other teams in our region," Hines said. "But if we do get in, then I think we have a much better chance of winning the region than we did when we had to play teams from Southern Maryland."
Coach Mike Marcus of Old Mill said the new alignment for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years is advantageous for the county's 4A teams. Last year, Broadneck, Old Mill, Arundel and Patuxent, which is now a 2A school, qualified for the region tournament.
"The odds are in our favor to get four teams in the playoffs," Marcus said. "You have Thomas Stone and Leonardtown and the rest of the teams are from our league, so it's logical that we could get all four spots in the region tournament. It's not a perfect system, but it is what it is."