BERLIN- When Stephen Decatur’s varsity football team and other area schools open the 2019 season next week, they will be playing under a new scheduling format that will double the number of teams that make the playoffs at the expense of a regular season game.
For years, varsity football teams at public schools in Maryland played a 10-game regular season with a points system in each enrollment bracket and geographic region determining which teams make the state playoffs. Last spring at its annual convention in Ocean City, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) approved a change from the long-standing tradition.
As a result, instead of 16 teams making the state playoffs from each region, the field will be expanded to 32 teams. To accommodate the extra week of playoff games with the field of teams doubled, each school will now play a nine-game regular season instead of the traditional 10-game regular season.
The same east, west, north and south regions will be adhered to, but instead of the top four teams in each region making the playoffs, eight teams will make the state playoffs. As a result, nearly all of the schools in each region will make the playoffs. Those that fall short will still be put in a separate pool of teams and will be guaranteed a 10th game.
Locally, for a team such as Decatur, which has reached the state playoffs many times over the years, but has fallen short in recent years, the new format gives the Seahawks a better chance to reach the post-season. There have been years when Decatur has finished with a 5-4 record or even a 6-3 mark and have been left on the outside looking in.
With the new nine-game regular season, Decatur will still play its traditional rivals in the Bayside South and Bayside North. However, the change means the annual season-ending rivalry game with Snow Hill will be moved up to November 1 this year.