Notes picked up on the playoff trail:
The folks in Mechanicsburg have done it again.
For those who haven't heard, the spring soccer season for girls will continue two more years (fall soccer gets a third classification next year, while spring drops from two to one). The change was to take place next fall, a decision made in July - nearly 15 months before it was to be implemented.
Apparently, some schools didn't feel that was enough time. I'm trying hard to believe that.
What I think happened here is the same thing that happened with six-division football: One of the two most powerful districts in the state put its thumb on the PIAA, and it caved. District 3 (which has just four fall soccer schools - three if Juniata moves into District 6) is undoubtedly behind this, just as the WPIAL (District 7) quashed two extra classifications in football.
It not the sports issues that get to me - I just don't think any district should have that much power over the state's athletics sanctioning body.
The PIAA also needs to move back the final date for regular-season contests to match the start of district play. Exhibit A is the somewhat risky soccer doubleheader played at Mitchell Field Monday.
Yes, it would be a shame if Indian Valley and Lewistown didn't get their second annual meeting in under the lights. But on a surface that had been pounded by two days of rain and likely was not its best, two games - the first of which nearly ran the maximum 100 minutes - could easily have seen someone be hurt.
If it were a top scorer, or a starting goalie, for any of the three playoff-bound teams in the mix, that could have taken a team out of the playoffs entirely before the games began later in the week. Which is more important - a shot at the crosstown rival, or at a state title?
More districts are talking about adopting an open tournament policy in more sports, mirroring the way District 6 plays. In fact, District 4 - in which East Juniata and Midd-West play - plans to do so in basketball this winter.
While this could be fun for the fans, it will be a nightmare if all the teams in any district opt to go.
In District 6, individual schools set policies as to whether teams actually get to enter. But, as we learned last year in Mifflin County, those rules sometimes are convoluted to the point that they are meaningless.
I understand that everybody - parents, coaches, administrators (and I'll even admit here, reporters who are devoted to neutrality) - wants to see their kids do well and make the playoffs. And, there are leagues tough enough that a team winning less games can easily get past a non-league competitor with a much better winning percentage in district play (see District 4 and the Northern Tier League's perpetual disappointment in soccer as an example).
The answer is not to let more teams in the playoffs, just for the sake of letting the kids play an extra game or two. The postseason should be meaningful. A consistent set of guidelines - rather than the whims of whoever's in charge that day - should determine who plays for a title.
Speaking of the gridiron ... all eyes are on the football brackets this fall to see how many local teams with sub-.500 records get an 11th game, while one could finish 7-3 and sit home. This is the best argument I've seen for: a) cutting football playoffs back to where they were several years ago; and/or b) making it a regionalized state tournament, similar to wrestling, rather than allow 12 districts and 12 sets of qualification rules from sullying the process.
Here's a thought - adopt a power points system in all sports similar to that used for football, which adequately measures a team's real performance in the regular season. And if any team that has points still can't win half - or at least 40 percent of - its games by the cutoff date, it stays home, period.
Playoff seeding also needs to be looked at when Belleville Mennonite is ahead of Indian Valley in the field hockey bracket.
For those wondering why, it comes down to a scoring system that does take wins over larger schools into account (neither of the two Mifflin County programs had any), but not strength of schedule. It basically came down to wins in total games played, where Belleville - which doesn't play State College or Greenwood twice a year - fared better.
By next week, we'll know who the best team is for sure.
Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.