Archive for Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Opinion: Football districts out of whack

October 19, 2005

There are few things I enjoy more in sports than heading to the field on a Friday night for a high school football contest.

Rarely does it matter which teams I'm covering, I simply enjoy pacing the sidelines, taking in the action and watching finely-tuned high school athletes do battle for 48 minutes.

Football's football and the game's the same whether you're in Olathe, Shawnee or Lansing.

But near the end of nearly every football season, situations arise that make the games different than the ones we see in the regular season.

Mismatches run rampant, shutouts show their ugly faces and a lot of the games hold my interest for less than a half.

Look no further than the city of Shawnee for a prime example.

Both of the city's major high school football programs have found themselves in the middle of less-than-desirable districts.

Mill Valley, a smallish, up-and-coming 5A school which plays mostly 4A competition throughout the regular season, winds up being thrown in a district with such powers as Olathe North, Olathe Northwest and Shawnee Heights.

Granted, all three of those schools are Class 5A schools, but they're also much larger than Mill Valley and should be paired with other schools to make things more interesting.

Don't think so?

Do scores like Olathe North 54, Shawnee Heights 0 and Olathe Northwest 42, Mill Valley 0 change your mind?

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. In the Sunflower League alone this week, five of the league's 12 schools were involved in shutouts.

After six weeks worth of highly competitive games, that's hardly any way to get tuned up for the state playoffs.

The idea behind district play is beautiful. It encourages coaches and players alike to use the first six games of the season as a tune up for the season that really counts -- the final three games of the schedule that determine which teams make the playoffs and which teams go home.

Whether you're 0-6 or 6-0 you still have a shot at the postseason under the district play scenario. The state should be commended for handling its playoff system that way. It's a heck of a lot better than the system they have in place at the Division-I collegiate level.

But even as right as the idea of districts can be, it's time the Kansas State High School Activities Association took more of an interest in pairing up teams that belong together when district play comes around.

I understand that the cream will always rise to the top and that the best teams will be the best teams no matter which squads are stuck in their districts.

But wouldn't it be better if the true powerhouses on the eastern side of the state were challenged a little before the playoffs began?

Wouldn't that make the playoffs even more exciting than they already are?

I'm not looking for major overhaul here, just equity.

It hardly seems fair that in a four team district such as Mill Valley's, two games are decided by such lopsided margins.

That doesn't do the Jags any good, and it doesn't do the Olathe schools any good either.

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