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Realignment: Football scheduling simple luck of the draw

by Joey Crandall

So how is the scheduling for Northern 4A football going to work now?

Simple as drawing names out of hat. Literally.

Whereas every other sport will now essentially see every Northern 4A team at least once during their respective seasons, football teams will only play eight out of the other 10 possible opponents during any given season.

Coaches discussed two possible proposals for arranging scheduling last spring.

One was to subject each school to a formula combining total wins, playoff wins, wins at the JV and freshman levels and other similar criteria. The top two teams in the formula would not see the bottom two teams in the formula and on down the line.

“I liked that proposal,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “It wouldn’t have affected us much. We were among the top four or five under the criteria, and it was based on your total program’s ability. It gave the lower-ranked teams a chance and forced the top teams to hand in there against the best 8 teams, in theory.”

The other, which ended up being the reality, was for 11 schedules to be drawn up and each coach select one out of a hat.

“It’s luck of the draw, you can get a slightly tougher schedule or a slightly easier schedule,” Rippee said. “It doesn’t matter too much, because if you want to win the region, you are still going to have to beat the best teams.”

Still, the random draw leaves open the possibility that some teams may miss rivals on the schedule.

“It’s possible to not draw Carson, of course,” Rippee said. “But if we wouldn’t have drawn them, they would’ve been the first team we wanted to add (everyone can add up to two “non-conference” games). I don’t think there is any argument. Our rivalry is the best in the league.

“There is no rivalry out there like Carson-Douglas. It may not have counted toward the league standings, but we will always want them on our schedule. The kids would want it that way. Both sides would want it that way.”

A particular point of contention during the spring meetings was whether or not to cut the playoff field from eight teams to six.

The coaches kept it at eight, something Rippee was vocally in favor of.

“Some people say having eight of 11 teams make the playoffs kind of dilutes the privelege,” he said. “That’s just not true, especially when you look at the 11 teams remaining.

“In football around here, there is just so much parity and so much time and work put in to every season. Basketball plays their season and then plays games all spring and summer. Baseball plays their season and then goes all summer. Football, all the work you put in gets packaged into nine or 10 games at best every year.

“It’s not like the old days where no matter how good you were, you were always playing for third place. It’s truly anyone’s game any more and there’s too much that can happen to limit the playoffs to just eight teams.”

Rippee pointed out Galena’s run into the regional title game last year.

“They come out of the three seed to make it that far, and with their record, they may not have even made the playoffs under the six-team model,” he said. “Things happen, you have a young team or you have kids injured early and you catch fire later in the season. Just because you had a tough start, you miss the playoffs?

“These kids play and work hard and it doesn’t hurt anyone to have an extra two games in the first round of the playoffs.”

Another point that Rippee made was the 2003 Reno squad that qualified fourth out of the Sierra League and went on to win the state title, defeating his own Tigers in the regional championship game.

“Obviously that’s one that hurts us, but under this model you leave the eventual state champion that year out of the playoffs,” he said. “You just never know what will happen. There’s too much that can happen during a football season to punish a team for a tough start or a rough end to the regular season.”