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Breaking The Mold In The Tri-Valley

Posted by Andrea Murphy on Nov 18 2004 at 04:00PM PST
By Tom Fargo/New Sports Writer Metrowest Daily NEws The jumbled Tri-Valley League football postseason picture couldn't get any wackier, right? Wrong. With three teams still alive -- Westwood, Holliston and Medfield -- for the league's coveted Division 3 playoff berth, the possibility exists that the TVL's new tiebreaker system would go into effect. Under the new system adopted this year, in the event of a three-way tie the team with the least amount of points allowed in the first half during games between the three would emerge from the fray. The new rule replaces the old process in which the most recent playoff team was eliminated, and the remaining two teams went to the head-to-head result, a rule that sent Westwood to the postseason last year. It was last year's situation that prompted the new process. The new wrinkle is actually the fourth tiebreaker, with head-to-head, league wins, and wins between games involving the three teams the first three. "In football, with the limited amount of games, it is tough to come up with a good tiebreaker," said Westwood athletic director Karl Fogel. "It's better than eliminating the last playoff team or flipping a coin. No matter what you do, someone is going to be unhappy." In either the old or new scenario, the Wolverines would be the team left out in a three-way tie situation. As the defending Super Bowl champs, Westwood would have been immediately cast aside using last year's standard. This year, with Westwood having given up 19 points to Medfield in their meeting and the Warriors having surrendered a total of 13 in games against the Westwood and Holliston, the Wolverines are already on the outside looking in before the opening kickoff in Holliston on Thanksgiving. "I think it's much fairer than what we've had in the past," said Ashland athletic director Smokey Moresi, credited with hatching the idea. "It puts the emphasis on defense, not offense. It takes offense out of the equation so teams won't be running up the score. A team doesn't mind getting shut out in the first half, but there are bad feelings when someone puts 35 or 40 points up on you when there is no need for it." The change essentially does not affect the Wolverines' postseason hopes -- Westwood still needs to beat Holliston and root for a Dover-Sherborn victory over Medfield on Thanksgiving to advance. So basically, here is what it comes down to on Turkey Day. The easiest method of sorting things out would be for Holliston, unbeaten in the league at 8-0, to beat Westwood and secure the TVL title outright. A Westwood win over Holliston and a D-S victory would send the Wolverines as both Westwood and Holliston would finish at 8-1, with the Wolverines prevailing head-to-head. A Westwood win and a Medfield win is where things get a little tricky. With all three teams at 8-1, the new tiebreaker rule kicks in With Medfield having led Westwood 19-0 at the half in its 33-21 win and Holliston posting a 13-0 edge at the half in a 26-8 win over Medfield earlier in the year, the teams go into Thanksgiving with the following first-half point totals allowed: Holliston 0, Medfield 13, Westwood 19. Which means if the Panthers lose but surrender 13 points or less before the break, they would still go. If Holliston gives up 14 or more points in the first half of a loss, Medfield gets the bid. If both Holliston and Medfield end up with 13 points allowed, the Panthers hold the head-to-head to edge. Got that straight? Good. Needless to say, cell phones will be ringing furiously in Holliston and Dover on Thursday. "It will be crazy, we are just happy to be in a position to play a game that means something," said Westwood coach Paul Hallion. "The toughest thing to do is repeat, whether its tri-champs, co-champs or outright champs. We said after the Medfield game that if win the last three games we would win the league and we would let the postseason unfold as it does." Of course, the question that begs asking is why the MIAA doesn't establish one tiebreaker rule for all leagues and avoid all the confusion in the first place. Officially, the MIAA tiebreaker system of eliminating the most recent playoff participant only goes into effect if the league does not have their own tiebreaker process. While it is commendable to get some new faces in the postseason mix, punishing a team for consistent excellence seems kind of silly. Not as silly though as ping-pong balls or whatever fiasco determines the South Coast Conference these days. Despite being somewhat complicated, the TVL method has its merits. First of all, by limiting the games considered to the contenders only and using points allowed rather than points scored, any 73-0 embarrassments in the name of improving postseason standing can hopefully be avoided. And the first-half criteria allows teams to still get backups action in blowouts without repercussions. Turkey, football and calculators. A new TVL tradition.

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