Gazzolo Column: New format leaves a messy finish

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

The high school football gods have spoken.

They have sent bolts of lighting and claps of thunder down from the heavens and proclaimed there should be a new world order

in Louisiana prep football.

Nine championships in all, they proclaimed. So it is written, so it will be done.

In reality what they have left us is a mess that we must now start to clean up.

This week the postseason kicks off. It is a journey that will leave three times as many state champs as California.

How lucky we all are.

We were told that this was done for the good of the kids, that those boys all worked so hard they earned a playoff spot.

Well, checking the brackets we find

that some of those playoff teams worked so hard and played so well they

earned their postseason

positions by not winning a single game.

Yay to little Johnny, your parents must be so proud.

We won’t even get into the teams with one win, or two wins or even three wins. I would like to see a .500 record be needed

before a team is playoff eligible, but maybe that is too mean. The little guys have worked so hard.

Bless their hearts.

Some teams are so thrilled with the idea of getting into the postseason that they have decided to either decline the invitation

or are thinking of forfeiting their first-round contest.

Apparently, there is common sense still out there, it’s just not easy to find.

This was never about the kids, who will all move on after high school and for the most part live rich lives off the playing

field.

Some will think it is great they got a playoff game, but by prom that will all be forgotten. Kids move on quickly.

The adults, that is a different story.

This had politics written all over it from the very start. Coaches and school officials wanted their days in the sun and now

they got it.

Maybe there was a little touch of envy against those who always seem to win, as well.

However, I don’t see the excitement as in years past that once coveted playoff seeding. It’s not the same when you know you

are in before the first summer practice even gets scheduled.

We were told by those who wanted this change that there would be excitement all over the state. Please wake me when the third

round gets here and games matter.

The new system didn’t get Sam Houston into the playoffs and the Broncos won three games. That’s three times more than Grand

Lake and South Cameron, which did make the postseason.

But, hey, those kids tried just as hard as everybody else.

St. Louis, which is against the new system, actually benefited because the Saints likely would have been out in the old format.

Must make some people — and you know who you are who thinks SLC has a recruiting advantage — feel pretty dumb. Instead of

seeing the Saints out, the new system just pulled them back in.

All that doesn’t matter they will tell you, it is about the kids.

Well, during the year I asked kids from all sizes of teams and while the survey is far from official, not one of them said

they wanted to play against anybody but the best.

So these folks who said it was all done for the kids never asked them or if they did, didn’t care what they said.

So let’s cut the “it’s about the kids” talk.

Making the playoffs without winning a game is like giving a student an “A” who never passed a test.

Let’s hope these educators are not doing that in the classrooms.

Then again, the “F” student could be working just as hard as the “A” student.

I wonder just how many of these coaches who wanted this new select-nonselect system followed their own words.

I hope they all played every kid on their team equally no matter what the skill set, after all it’s all about the kids.

Having been to a few of their games I know for a fact they didn’t.

What I am really sorry for is what we will be missing.

Barbe, the defending 5A runner-up, won’t get to show the rest of the state it bounced back and is now worthy of being called

the best in Louisiana.

The Bucs, seeded 8th, won’t get a shot at the No. 1 team in the state, St. Augustine, like they did a year ago. They won’t

find out if they passed that test this year.

The top seed in 5A nonselect is district rival Acadiana, which has already beaten Barbe and I’m sure the Bucs would love

another crack at. It just won’t happen on the big stage.

Having talked to a few of the Barbe kids since last year’s loss, they all wanted to come back and win a title against the

state’s elite. Too bad the adults didn’t give them that chance.

All this mess will work out, championships will be won and fans will go home happy.

But for those of us who like to see true competition and love it when the best goes up against the best, we will have been

cheated.

At least it was done for the good of the kids.

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com