SAN JOSE — Virtually every football coach in attendance for the Central Coast Section seeding meeting Sunday bolted out the front door as the playoff brackets were being announced.
So began the era of competitive equity as analytics ruled at the CCS offices.
Last year, the top 24 teams were split into a trio of Open Divisions based on enrollment, with three CCS champions and two runners-up advancing to the state playoffs.
Division IV and V winners saw their seasons end at that point.
Now the only way to earn a shot at a state trophy requires a CCS title. Using an intricate point system based on calprep.com computer rankings and CCS power points, seven at-large teams and 33 automatic qualifiers were assigned to eight-team brackets.
The top eight teams were slotted in Division I, the next eight in Division II and so on through Division V.
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Once the matchups became official, coaches fled to their cars to watch film and form game plans.
Here are five things we learned:
Hit or miss? Did the system work?
After the numbers were crunched and motions kept passing without any objections, CCS assistant commissioner Steve Filios put his Excel skills into good use and ranked the top 40 teams.
But even then, tiebreakers were needed.
Half Moon Bay, Los Gatos and Salinas finished with the same amount of points. One would receive the not-so-popular eighth seed in Division I, the other two would nab the top two spots in Division II.
The first tiebreaker was head-to-head. None of the teams had played each other. The second tiebreaker was common opponents, but there were none of those either.
So the third tiebreaker was the calpreps.com ranking. Half Moon Bay had the highest, so it was assigned to Division I and will play Serra, the top overall seed.
Los Gatos, meanwhile, is the No. 1 seed in Division II, followed by Salinas.
“I was sure of the points that we had, and I wasn’t sure of the other teams that we tied with,” Los Gatos coach Mark Krail said. “I scouted Serra yesterday thinking that we might play them, so that’s kind of the unknown factor of it, right? You go where you’re told based on the system and I think the system worked.
“I think if people look at the brackets, there’s going to be great games, and I think this system brings back the importance of our section playoffs as opposed to NorCals.”
Saratoga coach Tim Lugo, a co-chair at the meeting, pointed out how the playoff situation was changing even in the last weekend of play.
“You had the late game last night that determined Division III and Division IV for the most part,” said Lugo, referring to Seaside’s 29-23, three-overtime win over Monte Vista Christian. “You had some upsets during the week.
“Final weekend of the season, anything can happen. It was an interesting format. We’ll see how it goes,” he added. “You look at the matchups and I think the games are a lot more competitive this year than in years past.”
As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
“We’ll see based on the results,” St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno said. “But I think we did a pretty good job of putting folks in the right divisions.”
Silver Creek first team left out
One team that didn’t like the new system was Silver Creek.
The Raiders upset previously undefeated Branham 16-8 on Friday and clinched a tri-championship in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Santa Teresa Division with Branham and Overfelt.
But those two teams received the two automatic bids from the division, a “B” league, and Silver Creek was left to try to grab one of the seven at-large spots.
Carmel had 21.5 points and received the final bid. Silver Creek was right behind with 20.83.
“I knew it was a new playoff system that they are going off. I wasn’t very happy about it.” Silver Creek coach Aaron Noriega said. “I do understand the strength of the schedule, but if you are a co-champion of the league, what I think you should do is take somebody that barely got in. I think that anybody that is a league champion or co-champion should immediately replace those schools.”
Tough reward for Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay, which finished the regular season undefeated, notched another victory via a tiebreaker at the seeding meeting.
“It is what it is, the math is the math,” HMB coach Keith Holden said. “We’ve known that that’s a possibility for a while.”
The reward for the Cougars? A trip to San Mateo on Saturday for a showdown with top seed Serra.
It’s literally the toughest matchup for any CCS team as the Padres are ranked No. 19 in the state ,according to calpreps.com. HMB is 107.
“To me, it’s, what else is new? We’re the underdog,” Holden said. “It’s the same story for several years. It’s kind of how it goes for us.”
He added: “It’s a huge opportunity. Serra has never played Half Moon Bay High School. Throughout the years it’s always been, ‘What if? What if? What if? What if?’ And this year we get the opportunity to do something special.”
It just might not materialize into a CCS title and a spot in the state playoffs, with teams such as Los Gatos (D-II), The King’s Academy (D-III), Milpitas (D-IV) and Leland (D-V) facing easier paths as No. 1 seeds.
“Say we’d lost to Carlmont or Terra Nova. We’d be in a lower bracket, we’d get rewarded for doing worse,” Holden said. “To me, that’s a little backward, but I’m not going to sit here and pout and cry because that’s not who Half Moon Bay is.”
D-I basically a WCAL playoff
One could compare the West Catholic Athletic League with the SEC.
On Saturday, LSU and Alabama put on a show on national TV of what could be a rematch in the College Football Playoff.
At almost the same time, Serra and St. Ignatius closed out the regular season with a 14-13 upset by host S.I. in San Francisco that forced a three-way tie atop the standings with Valley Christian.
According to equity rankings, Serra (9-1) is the No. 1 team in CCS, Valley (9-1) is No. 2 and SI (8-2) is No. 3.
It’s almost as if the WCAL schedule is a grueling season-long playoff grind.
“We think so,” said St. Francis coach Greg Calcagno, the league’s representative at the seeding meeting.
Two more WCAL members were added to the Division I bracket in automatic qualifier Archbishop Mitty (6-4) and at-large selection St. Francis (4-6).
“We’re excited about being in it,” Calcagno said. “We’re excited about playing the highest level of competition as we possibly can, and I tell our kids that all the time.”
The Division I quarterfinals will feature a pair of WCAL rematches. Nine days ago, sixth-seeded Mitty lost 21-7 to St. Ignatius at Foothill College. On Sept. 27, coming off a bye, No. 7 St. Francis lost 28-7 at Valley Christian.
“We think we’re a better football team now than we were Week 4 when we played them,” Calcagno said.
M-A vs. Wilcox rematch
Twelve months ago, Menlo-Atherton first-year coach Steve Papin was a spectator at Independence High in San Jose during the CCS Division I title game — a 33-28 comeback by M-A over Wilcox.
Both repeated as Peninsula Athletic League Bay and Santa Clara Valley Athletic De Anza champions, respectively.
The teams will meet again on Friday in the Division I playoffs, just this time it will be in the quarterfinals.
“We always say last year is last year, but we stopped them from getting a CCS championship, so I know they’re going to come into M-A on Friday with a little bit of that on their mind, a little bit of revenge, a little bit of payback,” Papin said. “But, other than that, they’re a great football team, they’re going to pound the ball.”
For a brief moment at the seeding meeting, it appeared fourth-seeded M-A wouldn’t host the game — thereby missing out yet again on a chance to host Senior Night — but Papin had done his math the night before and informed his league representative about the error in the number of points announced for the Bears.
“As I was standing in the back of the room and points were being added up, something didn’t seem right,” Papin said. “I was just going to sit there at first and then I thought, ‘Let me just address this.’ I figured that was the difference in us going to them or us being able to host Senior Night and being around our fans and crowd.”
M-A finished with 71.17 points. Wilcox, the No. 5 seed, came up 0.33 points shy of playing at home.
“I think that’s big,” Papin said. “Whenever you can play a game at home, you’re more in your comfort zone than when you have to go on the road.”
Source: East Bay CCS football playoffs: Five things we learned from seeding meeting