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Changes made to Section playoffs

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POSTED August 14, 2009 1:59 a.m.
The anticipated realignment of Sac-Joaquin Section conferences won’t come to pass until the 2010-11 school year, but changes to the football playoff format has been approved to begin this fall.

The realignment and postseason proposals were approved by the Board of Managers in May, but the football playoff plan for the upcoming season differs from what will be voted on for 2010-14.

The new playoff format increases the amount of teams that get in to 76 from 58, which allows deserving teams to qualify. There will also be a seeding process to eliminate lopsided brackets where the top teams are forced to square off earlier than they should.

Eight-team brackets for most divisions (Division I had 16 and the smaller ones had less than eight) were previously predetermined, and each league was allotted a certain number of berths. Last year, Manteca missed the playoffs despite finishing 8-2 overall, while 2-8 Foothill qualified.

Now, four size-based divisions (I-IV) will consist of 16 teams apiece, and there will be six in Divisions V and VI.

The seven area schools will be placed in the Division III-IV pool with other medium- to small-sized programs. East Union, Manteca, Sierra and Weston Ranch are in the Valley Oak League, while Ripon and Ripon Christian compete in the Trans Valley League.

Lathrop, a first-year varsity school, will play an independent schedule for 2009 before becoming a full-fledged member of the VOL in 2010. Additionally, Ripon Christian will be moved into the Southern League.

The Capital Athletic League, Pioneer Valley League, Solano County Athletic Conference, Tri-County Conference, Western Athletic Conference, Mother Lode League and Capital Valley Conference are also in the Division III-IV pool this year.

The nine league champions, nine runners-up and third-place teams from the CAL, PVL, SCAC, TVL, VOL and WAC will earn automatic bids, and eight will earn at-large berths. Regular-season victories will determine who gets the at-large berths, and a system is in place to break ties.

Teams will be seeded according to number of wins. Head-to-head result, league standing, combined wins of opponents and CalPreps.com rankings will be used to break ties.

The 16 teams from the largest schools in the Division III-IV pool will make up the Division III bracket. The rest will be placed in Division IV, which will be divided into two brackets of eight apiece based on enrollment. The Division IV championship will be decided by the IV-A and IV-B winners.

There are similar elements to the 2010-14 plan, but the major difference is the separation between Division II and III. The proposed plan for 2010-14 has 40 automatic qualifiers and 24 at-large qualifiers in Divisions I-IV combined. The breakdown of enrollment-based divisions will go from there, with the 16 largest schools going to D-I and so on.

The first round of the playoffs begin Nov. 20-21 for all divisions this year, and the section championships are scheduled for Dec. 11-12.

Preconditioning for football begins Monday, and the first day of practice is on Aug. 24. The season officially kicks off on Sept. 10 for some teams and Sept. 11 for most.
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