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Expanded playoffs: Good thing or bad?

By By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
Nov. 14, 2001
Is bigger better?
That's the question area football coaches and fans are pondering after the first week of an expanded playoff system by the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
Nearly all coaches like the change.
In last week's first-round contests involving Classes 2A, 3A, and 4A teams, the No. 1 seeded teams won all 24 games over the No. 4 teams.
And some of the scores were downright ugly. Clarksdale ripped Canton 55-6, Picayune pummeled Bay St. Louis 45-14, Charleston danced on South Delta 41-7, Collins clobbered Carthage 47-7, Eupora erupted for a 56-19 win over Mantachie, Wesson crushed Kemper County 49-8, and St. John pelted Enterprise 48-6.
Only one game involving No. 1 and 4 seeds, Provine's 33-27 win over East Side, was decided by less than a double-digit margin. The average margin of beating in the 24 games involving top seeds was 27.7 points.
And that cost $7 to watch.
No. 4 teams didn't always mind taking a big loss as Enterprise veteran head coach Jud Gartman and Kemper County rookie head coach Undray Scott explained of their situations.
Playing in a league with Taylorsville and Bay Springs, the Bulldogs have stayed at home several times in recent years.
And consider Kemper County, which didn't win a game in 1999 or 2000. Kemper made the postseason with a 2-8 record and got trounced 49-8 at Wesson, but it wasn't all gloom and doom for the Wildcats.
Where the expanded playoff formula did make a difference was in games between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. Several regions showed they had more than two quality teams as the No. 3 teams won seven of those 24 contests.
One of the No. 3 teams to win was West Lauderdale, which hammered three-time state champion Forest 55-22.
Take Region 5-3A for example. No. 1 Newton County whipped Morton 34-6, No. 2 Philadelphia got by Velma Jackson 35-28, and West whalloped Forest.
The argument doesn't apply to Class 1A and Class 5A, which begin their playoffs this week, as they only have four regions, while 2A, 3A, and 4A have eight. Some regions have six teams with four making the playoffs. That's an NBA-ish 67 percent.
In Class 5A, four of eight teams qualify, while in Region 5-1A, for example, four of 10 teams advanced to the playoffs.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at mstamper@themeridianstar.com or call him at 693-1551, ext. 3235.

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