Who's going to the playoffs? It's high school football Decision Day — or maybe weekend
High school football teams Grayson (in green) and Brookwood contend on the field Oct. 22, 2021. The weekend of Nov. 5 sees teams learn what seed they'll end up with in the postseason play — if any. Credit: Jay Gonzalez / GPB Sports
Friday is Decision Day in high school football. It's the day when postseason brackets start to emerge. Of course, it can't be just as easy as one day. So GPB Sports' Jon Nelson joined All Things Considered host Rickey Bevington to explain why the whole weekend is so important to schools and athletes.
Rickey Bevington: What happens today?
Jon Nelson: You have probably in the neighborhood of 100 matchups. So 200 teams. Maybe as many as 150 and 120 games around the state. And we get closer to figuring out who the top seeds are, who's going to get all the home games, who are the Cinderella stories making their way into the playoffs for the first time in a long time. It's that first day. We have some games on Saturday and then maybe there's some math involved. But those first steps are Friday and Saturday to figure out the postseason.
Rickey Bevington: Typically, in sports, teams have a pretty good sense going into their last game if they've made it to the postseason. Not so in high school football.
Jon Nelson: What you're looking at most of the time is the seeds for each. The way that this is structured, there are eight regions in each of the eight classifications, and so four teams from each region will make it into the postseason. So 64 and 4 is 256, if my math is right. Then you have matchups that determine who's going to be a one seed, who's going to get all the home games, who's going to be a two seed, who starts at home, who has to be on the road to be a three and a four? And there are some instances where you could have teams with the same win-loss record. Then you go into tiebreakers and things like that, and that's when math is involved, and that's when the fun starts all around the state.
Rickey Bevington: There's some math, but there's also what's been called a mini game, which sounds very cute but is actually very serious. So how do tiebreakers work?
Jon Nelson: Tiebreakers work actually region by region. The region heads get together and they sort it out. It's like, OK, well, if the tiebreaker involves two teams, it's usually what happened when they played each other. Then the winner of that one gets the seed ahead. If it's more than two, if it's three, they'll go head-to-head, figure out if there's a way to knock out folks that way. Then some regions will actually use math and go, OK, well, what happened when this team played this team? Did they blow them out? Did they win by 20? Did they win by two? Could be margin of victory. Then the mini game.
There are some regions that on Monday — they'll push it all the way back to Monday, if you still have a tiebreaker. You'll have a flip of a coin. Two teams will start. They'll play a quarter, then the winner of that quarter will play the third team and then that will determine who's your seeds and who may not even make the playoffs. I've been to mini games before. It is crazy and that happens in a couple of places here in the state, too.
Rickey Bevington: Next weekend, of course, will be the playoffs. What are you expecting?
Jon Nelson: When you have four teams come out of each region, don't look at the team. If your team is playing another team and they have a whole lot of losses because there are instances where teams that only have a couple of region games — your regions are very small — you might have three or four region games and you have to play a lot of teams from your area that don't count toward your playoffs. If you've got a team that — if that's your favorite team, they might be 3-7, they might be 4-6, they might be below .500. Look at what they're doing as they're going into the playoffs. That's where your Cinderellas happen. And believe it or not, there's probably going to be a team in the smallest classification that will be in with a 4-6, and they might be a favorite to win a state championship.
Rickey Bevington: Well, if the Atlanta Braves have taught us anything, you can be in loser early on and still take home the whole thing at the end of the day after the World Series. GPB Sports' John Nelson. Thank you for joining me.
Jon Nelson: As always, it's fun.
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