Mount Hebron Coach Larry Luthe is concerned, and so are River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen and Long Reach Coach Pete Hughes.
They've looked at the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's new regional alignment and are worried about their playoff chances. The teams remain in the 3A East region, but the region now consists of 14 teams instead of 11. As in the past, only four teams from the region will make the playoffs.
"Just from a percentage standpoint it's tougher because it's easier to make the playoffs when four of 11 teams make it, but now you've got four of 14 that are going to get in," Van Deusen said. "You also have to look at what teams are in the region. When we were looking at it, we saw that there were a lot of teams that won a lot of games at year."
Every two years, the MPSSAA separates public schools into four classifications based on enrollment, with the largest schools competing in 4A. Each classification is broken into four regions -- North, South, East and West -- based largely on schools' proximity to each other to cut down on travel expenses.
The county's 3A schools -- River Hill, Mount Hebron, Long Reach, Centennial and Wilde Lake -- competed the past two seasons in 3A East against teams from Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. Now the region is composed of Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford County teams and J.M. Bennett from Wicomico County.
A complex point system is used to select teams for the playoffs. Teams earn points based not just on victories but on the classification and records of their opponents.
River Hill, which went 10-0 in the regular season last year, is one of seven teams in the new 3A East that finished 7-3 or better. Five of those teams made the playoffs: River Hill and Long Reach coming out of the old 3A East, Severna Park (3A South), Bel Air (3A North) and Aberdeen (2A East).
"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," Luthe said. "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."
Said Hughes: "If you lose more than one game, then you might not even get in, and that's crazy. It makes no sense."
There is some good news, coaches said. The county 3A schools will not compete in the region tournament against teams from Prince George's County, which has produced some of the top teams in the state.
Howard County's 2A schools -- Atholton, Glenelg, Hammond, Howard, Reservoir and Oakland Mills -- are in the 13-team South Region, with schools from Prince George's, Calvert and Charles counties.
"There is not a lot of room for error, that's for sure," Glenelg Coach John Davis said. "We went 7-2 last year and got the second seed, but if we go 7-2 again this year, I think we'll be very lucky to get the fourth seed. But there's nothing we can do about it except just win our games. But I think our region is probably too big, and we're going to have to drive two hours just to scout teams."