Silver liners for uncertain football fans
Florida High School Athletic Association football lessons are going to be very different next year and not everyone is happy about that.
Several coaches — including many from South Florida — have spoken out against the upcoming metro and commuter courses on social media since the FHSAA board vote Monday.
Venice state champion coach John Peacock tweeted on Wednesday that his school will apply for FHSAA to be in the metro rankings in the fall.
While not everyone is on board with the new classes, that doesn’t mean it’s a dead-end idea.
Here are a few things that high school football fans will love, even if they’re not keen on the metro/suburban split.
(A quick disclaimer: These silver liners are focused on the playoffs because the regular season will see little change other than district opponents. Subway and suburban teams can still play each other during the regular season.)
Death, Taxes, and Champagnat in the Class 2A State Championship Game…or Chaminade-Madonna in the Class 3A State Championship Game…or, well, you get the idea. One of the sad realities of recent years has been its predictability.
Seven of last year’s state champions – Venice (Class 8A), St. Thomas Aquinas (7A), Miami Central (5A), Cardinal Gibbons (4A), Chaminade-Madonna (3A), Trinity Christian ( 2A) and Madison County (1A) – were ranked #1 in the USA Today Florida Network’s Week 1 poll. Jesuit, the Class 6A state champion, was No. 2 and moved up to the top spot a week later.
Picking the winners this fall shouldn’t be so easy. Obviously, the elite teams will continue to be elite, but there will be more high-level programs in each class.
Metro 1A will include Chaminade-Madonna, Champagnat, Jacksonville-Trinity Christian, Jacksonville-University Christian, Northside Christian, Berkeley Prep, Benjamin, Cardinal Newman, Orlando Christian Prep, Clearwater Central Catholic and others. All of these teams have won at least one playoff game in 2021. Most of them reached their respective regional championship games last season. Obviously, it will play out differently this fall.
And less predictability means…
A more exciting post-season
From a fan’s perspective, this upcoming post-season could be memorable. Subway and Suburban classes, in theory, should create a more balanced playing field, which should mean better games.
Five of eight state championship games in 2021 have been decided by 18 or more points. Half of the state champions have won all of their postseason games by double digits. Obviously, these teams deserved winners, but the average fan wants to see competition and close games.
What made these past NFL playoffs so special was how exciting the games were. After the wild card round, all seven games were decided by a single score. Two went to overtime, all seven had the winning score in the final two minutes.
High school football is obviously not the NFL, and no one expects it to be, but hopefully a better balance will create better matchups and more exciting games.
Because the Subway and Suburban classes will be split into four classes each, based on enrollment, it also means new rivalries and playoff enemies. The FHSAA will reduce eight classes to four, so some teams that have had seemingly unlimited playoff success in the past could be paired with teams they were able to avoid in the playoffs under the previous format.
An all-South Florida state championship?
Okay, so part of the outrage in South Florida seems to be that the talent-rich region can’t win more than four state championships each year because its schools will be in all four metro classes. Broward County and Miami-Dade schools combined for four titles and also had a runners-up trophy in 2021. Still, for fans of the sport who want to see the best championship matchups possible and not the halfbacks regional finals, this split should make you very happy.
Regions in the fall will likely look like this: Jacksonville, Seminole, and Orange counties in Region 1, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in Region 2, Palm Beach and Broward in Region 3, and Miami-Dade in Region 4. With the reseeding of the FHSAA Final Four, this means we could see Broward vs. Miami-Dade in the State Championship game.
Last year, the de facto Class 5A state championship was the Region 4 semifinal between Plantation-American Heritage and Miami Central. The year before, the most anticipated playoff game was the Region 4 Semi-Final between American Heritage and Miami Northwestern. In 2019, it was Northwestern and American Heritage in the Region 4 Championship. If they are in different regions, those matchups will be for the state title.
It’s not hard to see how good the best clashes in title matches would be for football fans and the sport in general.