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Most city football coaches still decry new MIAA statewide playoff format

Posted by Justin Rice  September 3, 2013 05:29 PM

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Upper Cape Cod head coach Mike Hernon console's Dorchester's Hakim Harris after his defeated the Dorchester Bears in the Division 5 Super Bowl at Curry College last December. While Dorchester got an automatic bid to the Super Bowl by winning the Boston City League South division last year, this year's winner of the South will have to win two playoff games before it could qualify for the Super Bowl under the MIAA's new statewide playoff system. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)

If anyone involved with Boston City League football should be upset about the new MIAA statewide-playoff system that is being piloted for the first time this fall, it should be Dorchester coach Rich Moran.

Last year, Moran’s Bears went undefeated before losing to Upper Cape Cod in the Division 5 Super Bowl at Curry College, which was Dorchester’s first trip to the Super Bowl in 20 years.

To end that 20-year Super Bowl drought the only thing Dorchester had to do was win the Boston City League South Division, which had an automatic bid into the Division 5 Super Bowl until now.

Under the new playoff system, teams have to win two playoff games before advancing to one of six Super Bowls at Gillette Stadium.

“I like it, I think it’s good,” Moran said during the first day of football practice last month. “I know my fellow coaches didn’t like it. I think it’s good. I like to be involved in the state. I think it’s very, very important we be involved in the state and that the urban kids and the kids for them city of Boston get out there and be seen and show that they are great athletes.”

In past years there were 19 Super Bowls and the winner of the City League North Division played one playoff game before it could advance to Gillette Stadium.

That’s exactly what Madison Park did last season before losing to Cathedral in the Division 4A Super Bowl.

The playoff plan, which passed 161-131 during a meeting of the MIAA’s 371 member schools at Assabet Regional Vocational School last October, will be put into place as a two-year trial.

City coaches argue that their teams have low participation rates and it’s currently hard for them to compete on at a statewide level.

The 2007 season was also the last time a city school won a Super Bowl when Brighton completed a 12-0 season. Two years ago, Brighton went to the Super Bowl and lost to Northeast Regional. The year before that the Bengals lost to Northeast Regional in the Super Bowl as well.

Second-year Brighton coach Randolph Abraham said he remains against the new playoff format. He said he doesn’t like the fact that some playoff games will be played before the end of the regular season ends, including Thanksgiving Day games.

“Even though we’re a large school, footballs not that popular in the city,” Brighton coach Randolph Abraham said. “So we’ve gotten bigger, faster and stronger and hopefully we can withstand as the playoff system goes on. And that’s what concerns all the city coaches, the longevity and how we can stay healthy against these bigger teams.

“As a city coach, I was against the new playoff system. I don’t mind the competition, but what I worry about is the other stuff. The JV schedule changed, and now if you’re not in the playoffs you’re still playing games and I don’t know how motivated the kids will be once they know they’re playing just to play.”

One advantage to the new system is that the second place teams in the Boston North and South Divisions could potentially advance to the playoffs as well.

“It’s going to be harder [to win a championship] but I’m willing to work for it and I’m pretty sure my team is too,” Dorchester senior Malik Gomes said. “I think it’s just another test to prove how good we are.

“[Losing last year’s Super Bowl] makes us want more, makes us more hungry and losing just makes us want to get better at everything. The feelings of actually being there and the excitement, now we’ll know how to control it.”

Latin Academy coach Rocco Zizza, whose team lost to Nantucket in the Super Bowl two years ago, said making the playoffs will be an accomplishment in itself.

“It all depends how you look at it,” he said. “We used to only have one playoff game, now we have a series. So each one of those games in its own way is a Super Bowl. Now we also have an opportunity to play at Foxborough if we’re really good. So I think it’s a great challenge for us, and great for the city. It’s great for the sport too.”

But Moran, the Dorchester coach, said there’s no silver lining in just making the playoffs.

“No, the Super Bowl is the Super Bowl,” he said. “We expect to make the playoffs, we want to make the playoffs every year and win a state title.”

There’s no silver lining in just making it to Foxborough either, Moran said.

“I could care less about Gillette Stadium,” he said. “The thing is that these kids get access to suburban football and these guys get a feel for suburban football.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.