Time to Reformat South Dakota Class 11AAA, 11AA Playoff Format
The two top classes in high school football in South Dakota have just nine teams in them with eight making the playoffs. Six of the qualifying playoff teams have a losing record.
Class 11AA was split into 11AAA and 11AA starting in 2013 after the Sioux Falls metro schools developed into powerhouses that most ESD schools didn't want to deal with. They wanted their opportunity to win championships, and they have been provided that.
What's worked for the new 11AA is that the championship game is traditionally one of the most attended games of the state championship weekend. That's great and all, and the class system won't revert back because of it.
But let's talk about the road to get to the championship games for both classes and steer away from the 11AAA/11AA debate. Currently eight of nine teams make the playoffs in each class. There isn't a reward for doing well in the regular season, as teams just have to position themselves out of the ninth spot. For both classes, this essentially meant to win two games this season.
2-7. That was the magic record that could get a team into the playoffs. Four teams (two from each class) finished with a 2-7 record with one of them jumping into the quarterfinal round in each of their respective classes. Thankfully, since the system doesn't always flow this way, the 2-7 teams that did get into the playoffs at least won head-to-head over the 2-7 teams that were left out.
Two teams in Class 11AAA are into the playoffs with a losing record. The bottom four teams in 11AA finished with three wins or less.
Class 11AAA Playoff Seeding
- Washington (9-0)
- Roosevelt (8-1)
- Brandon Valley (7-2)
- O'Gorman (6-3)
- Aberdeen Central (5-4)
- Rapid City Stevens (5-4)
- Watertown (3-6)
- Rapid City Central (2-7)
Class 11AA Playoff Seeding
- Pierre (6-3)
- Mitchell (6-3)
- Harrisburg (5-4)
- Douglas (5-4)
- Yankton (3-6)
- Huron (3-6)
- Sturgis Brown (3-6)
- Brookings (2-7)
The current setup gives us a rematch in all but two games this season. Sturgis has not played Mitchell, and Yankton will face Douglas for the first time this season in the opening round.
Here's how all the other games played out.
- Washington def. Rapid City Central 52-19, Week 8
- Roosevelt def. Watertown 58-16, Week 9
- Brandon Valley def. Rapid City Stevens 30-14, Week 6
- O'Gorman def. Aberdeen Central 44-6, Week 1
Not a single game during the regular season between the schools in 11AAA were within a single possession. 16 points was the closest margin.
- Pierre def. Brookings 28-13, Week 5
- Harrisburg def. Huron 49-0, Week 3
Again, two games that were determined by more than a single possession. But hey, things could be a little different in the playoff rounds....Right?
Recent history is against that notion though. In the 2016 season, the quarterfinal rounds were won by the higher seeds in both classes by an average score of 52-16. Let that sink in for a moment.
So what would be the ideal fix? Add a 10th game to the regular season and just take the top four teams into the playoffs for both classes. This would give extra emphasis into the regular season, and put more stock into games between opponents in the same class (would be even better with a balanced schedule). This way also prevents a loss of a game, and would allow teams to have an even home/road schedule.
That's ideal. It typically doesn't work that way. I would even be fine with taking the top six of each class and giving the top two seeds a bye into the semifinals. This way a reward is given for being one of the top teams in the class during the regular season, and still allows the opportunity for a couple of wild cards to get in. No teams in 11AAA or 11AA receive a bye week as of now, so the week off could be a nice reward.
Until this system is looked at, we'll just all continue to dream of the cinderella storyline of a 2-7 football team making a run to the championship...When in reality we're stuck with more 52-16 type games.
Enjoy the games this quarterfinal round.