Last October, during the first week of 2A post-season football, the New Plymouth quarterback threw twice, completing one pass for six yards — and his team won by 52 points.
He ran four times for 118 yards as the Pilgrims piled up nearly 500 rushing yards, according to the Argus Observer, a newspaper out of Ontario, Ore.
If unusually lopsided for a playoff game, it was the predictable outcome of pitting a winless football team against one that ranked near the top of the classification by strength of schedule.
That same night, Firth whipped a one-win team 54-0, scoring two defensive touchdowns and forcing six turnovers.
These weren’t the only blowouts the 2A football playoffs saw last fall, but there’s a new rule in place for this fall – a change in the way the bracket is seeded, aimed at keeping teams that perform poorly during the regular season out of the state tournament.
In years past, each district was guaranteed a certain number of its 2A teams would qualify, and under a rule the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) approved in April, 13 of those 16 seeds remain guaranteed.
Behind the numbers
The strength of schedule math IHSAA adopted in April evaluates each team’s performance based on how its opponents perform throughout the season. Known as an RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), the math ranks teams that beat winning teams more highly than teams that beat losing teams.
The formula incorporates a team’s winning percentage, a team’s opponent’s winning percentage and a team’s opponent’s opponents winning percentage. It also gives more weight to each of a 2A team’s wins over a bigger school or an out-of-state school. It doesn’t factor in margin of victory.
Find IdahoSports.com’s report on the details online at http://idahosport....
According to IdahoSports.com, the formula adopted by IHSAA would have ranked 2017’s top 2A football teams as follows:
RPI ranking and 2017 seeding
Declo (Seed 4A)
Aberdeen (Seed 5A)
West Side (Seed 5B)
Grangeville (Seed 1-2A)
West Jefferson (Seed 6C)
New Plymouth (Seed 3B)
North Fremont (Seed 6B)
Ririe (did not qualify)
Firth (Seed 6B)
McCall-Donnelly (Seed 3A)
St. Maries (Seed 1-2C)
Bear Lake (Seed 5C)
Orofino (Seed 1-2B)
Cole Valley (did not qualify)
Nampa Christian (Seed 3C)
Melba (Seed 3D)
While the change in representation could add to the sense of urgency Central Idaho League (CIL) coaches bring to their league games, the math itself would have made little practical difference for Grangeville or Orofino last year, as both earned guaranteed playoff berths.
Grangeville High School 2018 Varsity Football Schedule
Aug. 24 at Moscow, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 vs. Nampa Chr., 7 p.m.
Sept. 7 vs. Clarkston, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 at McCall, 7 p.m. MT
Sept. 22 at Priest River, 4 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Kellogg, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 vs. St. Maries, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Orofino, 7 p.m.
Grangeville will be aiming to defend league and district titles this fall — and head coach Jeff Adams told the Free Press he is focusing on getting the Bulldogs back to the state championship game.
"I just want the best two teams to meet in the title game on a neutral field, and for us to be one of them," Adams told the Free Press Monday night, June 25.
A change in how the seeding works — the bracket will be reseeded after the first round this fall — will leave 2A coaches with a little less information than they had to work with the old way.
“We’re used to knowing who we’re playing in the next round…now it could be four or five teams, so a little more stressful,” Lumberjacks coach Craig Tefft told the St. Maries Gazette-Record. “But even then, with all our film online it won’t be too much of a problem.”
Guaranteed playoff slots remain tied to each district’s final regular season standings — and unlike last year, the CIL could see one of its three teams eliminated before the playoffs even begin. District III (four playoff teams) and District VI (three playoff teams) are both still guaranteed the same number of berths as last year, while Districts I-II, IV and V each have one fewer guaranteed seed.
But this also would have made little practical difference for the CIL last year.
The 2017 qualifiers whose first-round slots wouldn’t have been guaranteed under the 2018 rules are Wendell (which lost to New Plymouth 58-6), Soda Springs (which lost 54-0 to Firth) and St. Maries (which beat McCall 35-27). St. Maries (4-4 regular season, 5-5 overall) placed third in the CIL, but under the math involved with the new rule, according to analysis by IdahoSports.com, St. Maries would still have been a top-16 team. Under the new math, the Lumberjacks would not only still have made the playoffs — they would have out-ranked District I-II runner-up Orofino in the quarterfinals.
The new math would have made a big difference for Wendell (0-8 in District IV) and Soda Springs (1-7 in District V), whose seasons would have ended before the playoffs, as well as for Ririe (5-3 in District VI) and Cole Valley (4-4 in District III), who would have played first-round games.
The strength of schedule calculation is built to favor smaller schools that schedule bigger schools — and all three CIL teams are scheduled to “play up” multiple times this year.
Grangeville has scheduled to play 4A Moscow, 3A Priest River, 3A Kellogg and out-of-state Clarkston — games for which the formula offers a boost potentially equivalent to an additional half-a-win in the strength of schedule rankings.
“It’s a great schedule,” Adams said. “Picking up Kellogg was great. They are a tough, smashmouth team that will help us in the long run. We travel more than usual, which sucks for the school and the parents because of the money. But for the kids I have this year, it will give them some tough road tests before the regular season and hopefully the playoffs.”
St. Maries has scheduled four 3A schools and two out-of-staters for a potential strength-of-schedule boost equivalent to an additional seven-tenths of a win. Orofino has scheduled two 3A schools and two out-of-staters for a potential boost equivalent to four-tenths of a win.
But to realize the full boost, a 2A team would have to win every one of its out-of-classification games.