(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
The new format will allow the top two teams from each district advance into the state playoffs who have the better district and head-to-head record.
Some reasons for the change is because of the depth in certain districts. A lot of the districts in Missouri across all classes are stacked with talented teams. In particular with the local scene, so many of the districts in southeast Missouri are so well-rounded within, that the competition in the last three weeks is very balanced and their is no clear favorite until all games are played.
"That can change every year, but that's exactly what it's for," Sikeston head coach Kent Gibbs said. "It's for those teams that get loaded up and you get two good teams in a district and now all of a sudden one of them is out already."
"I think it's a very good system because you have districts that are very tough and then you have districts that are not so tough," East Prairie head coach Jason Aycock said. "For example, you might have two very tough teams in the same district and both of those teams could beat anybody in another district."
In Class 4, District 1 Farmington (6-2) and West Plains (2-6) each have one district win after the first week, while Poplar Bluff (4-4) and Sikeston (4-4) have fell behind.
New Madrid County Central (6-2) and Perryville (2-6) have the upper hand in Class 3, District 1, while Dexter (3-5) and Kennett (6-2) lost their first week match-up.
In Class 2, District 1's case, East Prairie (5-3) and Caruthersville (2-6) each won their games against Charleston (1-7) and Malden (1-7) to gain the early advantage after week one.
"I like the idea of a second team getting to go but, I would really prefer to have eight team districts instead of just the top two in a four team district go," Charleston head coach Dan Kesselring said. "I just think that would be more of a fair thing to do than to just pop two out of the four."
Most of the local coaches seem to favor the new system because of the fact that it gets more teams involved in the state playoffs and may generate more excitement about high school football in southeast Missouri.
"It lets more athletes and students experience the playoffs and also it gets more communities involved in the playoffs and gets them some exposure," Aycock said. "I think there are a bunch of positives to it as well as some negatives. It gives teams two teams a chance to get out and experience the playoffs."
"I think its going to be a work in progress," Gibbs said. "I like the idea that anytime you can get more teams involved in the playoffs and the game of football, I think it's a good deal."
The original proposal offered to cross-bracket throughout the state. Which means that the two teams that came out of the same district would not see each other until at least the semifinal round. Due to travel time and expenses, it was determined that it would be kept more regionalized and the two teams will see each other in the second round.
"I really think when this four-year cycle is up, they will look at it again and change it and cross-bracket because I think that's what your going to find that most of the coaches are going to want," Gibbs said. "If you don't see them again until the semifinal round, then you get a truer picture to see if they were good enough to get that far, then they deserve to be there. If they weren't then they shouldn't have been."
"That's what the coaches really enjoyed about it," NMCC head coach Arlen Pixley said about cross-bracketing. "But, when the proposal went through it came to its current format.
"I think any coach is going to be in favor for it whenever they finish second in the districts," Pixley added. "I'm indifferent with it. I can see both sides of it. I like the format before that if you win your in."
One of the negatives that some coaches saw in the new system is having to play the same team twice which means having to add an extra game into the system.
"That's one of the negative things to it," said Aycock. "I feel like this year we're going to experience that if we're fortunate enough to make the playoffs. It's tough to beat a good team twice."
"I don't think it hurts anybody in particular other than the fact that you get into so many smaller schools in the one, two and three classes where we may not have as many players as some of the larger schools," Pixley said. "The potential for injury would have more of a profound effect on some of the smaller schools in those divisions than they would in the larger divisions. That's the main concern about playing an extra game."
"I know that it's probably a 50/50 with other coaches and I understand the idea of you beat somebody once you shouldn't have to beat them again," Gibbs added. "I also know that in today's world that it's a competition with kids and communities and you have to do as much as you can to generate some excitement about it."