All the games count.
There’s no such thing as a meaningless game. Teams should be credited with each game from first to last. That is why the high school sport playoff systems need to change.
In Missouri high school football a team only has to win two games to clinch a berth in the State playoffs. Every two seasons teams are placed into a district with four teams with the top two teams of each district advancing into the State playoffs. Therefore, the conference and non-league games that are played earlier in the season are omitted.
This has proven to be an unreliable system for high school football. For instance, this past fall, Class 6 Jefferson City High School had an excellent football team that finished its season with an 8-2 record. It lost its final two district games to another strong program in Fort Zumwalt West and a sub-par Hickman High School, eliminating it from playoff contention. The previous eight wins that Jefferson City posted, including one against current State Champions Rockhurst High School, should’ve had determination in its playoff chances.
Instead, teams like Lees Summit North (3-7) and Pattonville High School (4-6) competed in the Class 6 playoffs. In 2010, Parkway North (7-3) and Parkway Central High School (6-4) missed the playoffs largely due to overloaded strength their district held. Instead Seckman (3-6) and Parkway West High School (3-7) contended in the playoffs. This system must change to incorporate the games played in September and early October. Playoff calibers haven’t been determining through the current district system.
Baseball is a game that is meant to be played every day. Major League Baseball has a 162 schedule over a six-month period, while high school baseball has a 20-25 game schedule in just a six-week season. A season that is much too short has an even worse playoff bracket. With a win-and-advance style, this allows a high school baseball team to show its best against an opponent for only seven innings. This is beyond frivolous. MSHAA should lengthen the regular season to a three-month season and incorporate those games into the playoff system. The beauty of baseball is that redemption is just one day away; the current playoff bracket destroys that theory.
The playoff system and district championships are also handled poorly in other sports. In basketball, one school hosts the entire district playoffs, disregarding home-court advantage. This past spring, the Statesmen hosted their district’s playoffs. Chaminade High School, ranked as the number one team in the state at the time, played a home game in Roberts Gymnasium which gave us home-court advantage in a crucial game. Such a system is also similar in other sports such as softball, baseball, and soccer. These teams’ records shouldn’t be bypassed with regards to the playoffs. There should be a home-court advantage factor for higher seeded teams and not every school should have a chance to win a State Championship.
Across the board, the high school playoff system is flawed. The way the districts and championship brackets are set up doesn’t give the better teams an advantage. With this logic, the stronger teams are not recognized for their complete success. We would like to see a change in high school sports, effective immediately.