SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The 2020 high school football season has been less than normal in South Dakota, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks and canceled games have become the new normal across the state.
The playoffs begin in just eight days, but there may be some changes to the playoffs, including a standings change in 11AAA.
“For this year, it was no longer a true, apples to apples comparison between teams. We still go with the winning percentage, but then we are going to look, from a seed, to the one below it,” SDHSAA Executive Director Daniel Swartos said. “So it’s just looking at those match-ups that didn’t happen and making sure that nobody is at a disadvantage because that game did not occur. If there is a head-to-head between two teams that are right next to each other (in the standings) then we would use that to look at that and potentially move the seeds around.”
In a normal year, 11AAA would play a round robin, nine game schedule. This year however, eight of the ten teams have had a game canceled due to COVID-19.
Here is a look at the current class 11AAA standings. Roosevelt stands alone at the top, with a perfect 5-0 record. Brandon Valley and Harrisburg are tied at 5-1, as both teams have had to miss one game due to COVID-19, but they have not yet played each other. O’Gorman sits at fourth, with a 4-3 record, while Sioux Falls Lincoln sits at 3-3, as they’ve had to miss an game as well.
If the playoffs started today, with the new 11AAA football playoff seeding procedure, the standings wouldn’t be the same. Roosevelt would stay at the top, as they beat both Brandon Valley and Harrisburg. The Lynx would hold a slight edge, due to a power points tie breaker and the fact the two teams haven’t played.
The big difference is at the fourth and fifth seed. Lincoln, who is a half a game back of O’Gorman, would pass the Knights because the Patriots earned the head-to-head win. This means Lincoln would get the home playoff game, in which they would host O’Gorman.
“It could go the other way, because just as the one where one team is 4-3 and the other team is 3-3, the game missed could’ve been a win, but it could’ve been a loss, as well,” Swartos said. “You would look at the totality of it, between those two, and if there is a head-to-head match-up and the lower team has the head-to-head win, then they would likely be flipped.”
11AAA wouldn’t be the only classification affected by a rule change as a rule to add an extra seed could happen in all seven classes.
“We’ve started doing that in wrestling, we wrestle out to a true fifth place at all of the regions and then we have an alternate at each weight class,” Swartos said. “The intent there is to avoid a bye in the first round, not just to make sure there is games, but if one team doesn’t have to play and the other team has a pretty hard fought contest, then the team that didn’t have to play has a pretty big advantage the next week.”
Class 11AAA and 11A would have a ninth seed, while class 11B and 9-man would have a seventeenth seed. The purpose of these extra seeds is to play in the event that one of the playoff qualifying teams can’t play, due to COVID-19.
The extra team would play in whichever spot the COVID-19 affected team was supposed to play, instead of reseeding or changing the standings.
“If we were to shift everything, now you’re moving the location of every game that is being played. It’s much less disruptive to flip that one game, then to flip eight games or four games,” Swartos said. “You’re also not making every team involved, have to switch up their game plan on short notice.”
A total of 95 teams will be seeded for the playoffs, if the new ‘extra seed’ rule is accepted. That means that 30 teams won’t make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean their season is over.
“We’ve had some neighboring states do this. We’ve had questions on this before coronavirus, where teams have said ‘well, we didn’t make the playoffs, but it would be good for our team to get another game in, can we find somebody?’ and we haven’t allowed that in the past,” Swartos said. “Considering this year and there are teams that have missed multiple contests, it’s just an opportunity if the teams want to, and they didn’t qualify for the playoffs, then they could find another team to play, during that first round weekend.”
All three of the above changes will be up for discussion by the South Dakota High School Activities Association Board of Directors, when they have a special meeting on Friday at 11:00 a.m.
“In particular, the 11AAA one, Dr. (John) Krogstrand from our office has had quite a bit of contact with the 11AAA athletic directors on this and I think it’s something they understand and why we’re referencing it and I think in general, they are supportive of it,” Swartos said. “The other two (extra games for non-playoff teams and an extra seed per class) I think they all have pretty good chances of passing.”
It won’t be discussed in the meeting, but the SDHSAA continues to prepare for the 2020 South Dakota High School state football championships, which will be played in the newly renovated DakotaDome.
“We’re still finalizing a number, in terms of attendance, but it’s going to be somewhere around that 40% of attendance range, which is what is close to what we would normally have, however it is a little bit less than what we would have, depending on match-ups for 11AA or 11AAA potentially,” Swartos said.
40% capacity at the DakotaDome, would equal around 4,000 fans in the stands. Masks would be required.
The playoffs begin on Thursday, October 22 for class 11B and 9-man. Class 11AAA, 11AA and 11A will begin their postseason on October 29.