New playoff format shows West is best

Seven of the state’s eight West region playoff teams advanced to this week’s four classification state semifinals. No other region is sending more than three teams.

The results are not too much of a surprise given the top three and four of the top five public schools in this week’s Maryland Media State Poll are West region teams. In addition, six of the eight West region teams in this past weekend’s state semifinals were the higher seeded team in the matchup. The lone “upset” was Middletown traveling to North Caroline and knocking off the previously undefeated Bulldogs.

To simply the new playoff system, the first two rounds of playoffs are contested on the regional level. The remaining two teams from each region — instead of playing for a region title — are dumped into a state quarterfinal round where regional alignment is tossed out the window and all teams are re-seeded. The new format allows for the possibility two teams from the same region could play their way into a state final meeting.

While this is a new format, its resembles the playoff system used from the mid-1980s to early 2000s where the postseason started with a state quarterfinal round.

When the pairings were set for this past weekend’s state quarterfinals, only one of the 16 playoff matches featured teams from the same region — and that occurred in Class 4A South where Wise faced Flowers. The other 15 playoff contests pitted teams from different regions going head-to-head.

West region teams went 7-1 and no other region had a winning record. North and East regions both went 3-5 while the South was 2-4 (removing the Wise-Flowers head-to-head contest). Interestingly, the North and East both went 1-3 in their 4A and 3A match-ups. All four 4A and 3A West representatives advance to the state semifinals.

Although the West has seven teams in this week’s state semifinals across four classes, 3A remains the only classification where an all-West final is possible. In Class 4A, West reps Quince Orchard and Northwest meet in this week’s state semifinals and the same is the case in 1A where Fort Hill and Catoctin are set to clash. The West has only one remaining 2A squad in Middletown. The West’s 3A reps are Damascus and Linganore. Damascus travels to Huntingtown while Linganore plays host to Mervo this week.

NOTES: New Town stunned top-seeded Douglass-PG 3-0 in overtime. The outcome marked only the fifth 3-0 playoff game in state history, dating to 1974. The most recent was River Hill’s 3-0 playoff win over Westlake last year. … 2A Potomac is the lone remaining South region team in the 1A and 2A playoffs. … State-ranked teams went 8-4 last week with two of the contests being higher state-ranked teams defeating lower-ranked teams. The two upsets were No. 19 Douglass-PG and No. 23 North Caroline falling to unranked opponents.

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