Chinstraps and Moutpieces: New high school playoffs could still use tinkering
As this year's playoffs unfolded with a new twist Tuesday, it seems the system still could use some tinkering.
No playoff system is perfect, as college football's BCS unfortunately proves year after year, but the high school playoff system still possesses a slight problem.
Now that 32 teams make the playoff cut instead of 16, two strong teams can advance out of a district instead of one, a problem that seemed to happen often with the pre-determined districts.
But after looking at the playoff lineup, that predicament is just delayed for a game.
In one opening round game Tuesday, Hayden and Mill Valley squared off. Both teams were 8-1 coming, while the winner of that game plays Tuesday's Atchison-Tonganoxie winner. Atchison finished the regular season 6-3, while Tonganoxie was 5-4. In another opening round game, Piper (5-4) played Hiawatha (3-6) while the other side of that bracket had 8-1 Eudora against 6-3 Baldwin, a rematch of a big clash earlier in the year when Baldwin handed Eudora its only loss. Another 5-4 vs. 3-6 game was played between Rose Hill and Andover, while the winner of that game ironically plays the winner of 8-1 Holton and 6-3 Clay Center.
With deadline coming before all the games finished Tuesday, it's difficult to analyze what teams might have gotten short-changed.
Records certainly can be deceiving. A stronger schedule from a 5-4 or 6-3 team can balance out an 8-1 or 9-0 team with a light schedule. But if the Kansas State High School Activities Association were to make a small adjustment, it might make the pairings more even. If districts are broken into certain regions, those teams could be paired not according to district matchups, but as seeds in a certain region. That way, Hiawatha could play Hayden, while Tonganoxie could play Mill Valley. A 5-4 Paola or Ottawa could take on Eudora.
Certain problems can arise with this system as well. Extra mileage for teams doesn't sit well with tight budgets these days. But then again, Hiawatha has to make a hefty jaunt to Piper.
Oh well, let's see how this year's playoffs pan out before any suggestions are made to the KSHSAA. I probably would struggle a little trying to figure out where nearly 200 teams would be playing their playoff games. But playoffs should always be open for suggestions because some time, they just might make sense.
Who knows, a 5-4 Tonganoxie could run the table and finish with a pretty nice 10-4 record.
Locomotives haven't made their way through Tonganoxie in some time, but don't tell the Chieftain football team that. Various lineman have been used this year to form the self-proclaimed Tongie Train, which sometimes runs through lines during short yardage situations.
To be in the backfield or maybe even run the ball is such a lineman's dream.
The Tonganoxie High volleyball team can take a little comfort in knowing the team they battled for the substate title eventually won state. The Chieftains would have rather made the appearance themselves, but the 38-2 Lions did give coach Julie Slater her first 4A title in 18 years.
And, Lansing also gave one of its better players a reason to smile from the sideline. Senior Angela Sanders has attended most of the Lions games this year after a serious auto accident this summer left her in a wheelchair.
The Lions certainly have had fans supporting Sanders and the rest of her team. LHS fans overtook the THS gymnasium for substate. Too bad for Tonganoxie it couldn't muster a much larger crowd, especially with a No. 2 seed and a 25-12 record.
In The Sun Comes Up Tomorrow category, Lansing's Jon Garrett wins this week's award. The junior missed an extra point in the closing minutes against Tonganoxie that would have tied the game. Instead, the Chieftains held on for a 21-20 win.
But, on Saturday at the state cross country meet in Wamego, Garrett medalled in the 4A race, taking 20th with a time of 17 minutes, 10.18 seconds.
Not all athletes are finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Cross country runners from Southwestern College in Winfield recently ran down a shoplifter escaping from a retail store near one of their venues this fall.
After the fast-footed athletes tracked down the thief, they let him go after he agreed to give up the box of shoes he had taken. Unfortunately, the shoes in the box were actually his former kicks.
But, the suspect did leave behind his billfold, which was pretty helpful in finding him.