By MICHAEL KELLY
So, who plays what now?
That was my general reaction to the wave of changes that hit the Section II high school football scene for 2014, as a selection of squads switched divisions, changed classifications or joined up with other teams to form merged programs to combat low numbers.
Between the AA, A and B classes, seven programs have changed their division -- and things get truly wacky in Class C, where everything has just gone crazy, and has left Class D to pick up the pieces.
Some of the changes are more drastic than others, but let's walk ourselves through the ones that matter the most and explain why:
The Amsterdam High School Rugged Rams are no longer in their familiar digs in the Northwest Division, as head coach Doug Edick's squad was the one vanquished from the Southeast with several programs moving into Class A for 2014.
The main benefit to the Rams' move is an obvious one: AHS is no longer in the same division as the state's last two Class A champions, and will not need to worry about Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake or Queensbury until the postseason.
Also, of the three schools moving up to Class A from Class B -- Green Tech, Lansingburgh and Scotia-Glenville -- it is likely the weakest of the three, Lansingburgh, that has landed in the Southeast with the Rams.
In general, some regular season fun is lost because of the lack of Spartans on the schedule, but the Rams make out extremely well from a competition standpoint for their first seven games.
Really, the only thing that did not go the Rams' way with the league changes and their accompanying schedule is that their Week 6 game against Troy in on the road, and that game is likely to decide if the Rams are a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed for the postseason, as long as everything goes to plan through the campaign's first five weeks.
With the change in division, a top seeding for the playoffs becomes even more important for the Rams. If AHS ends up as a No. 2 seed, that means the Rams will most likely need to beat two of BH-BL, Troy and Queensbury to capture a Super Bowl ... and, in the scenario where the Rams are worse than a No. 2 seed for the postseason, the most likely outcome is AHS needing to beat all three of those powers to capture a crown.
MOVIN' ON UP
Going along with the changes for the Rams, the move of the three schools -- Green Tech, Lansingburgh and S-G -- from Class B to Class A will have a major impact on both of those classifications.
The most direct impact, obviously, comes in Class A where the old guard now has three new programs with which to contend.
For starters, the extra teams mean squads in Class A have had their margin for error removed. In the recent past, there were so few teams in Section II Class A that programs really had to do very little to make it into the postseason besides show up. This year, that will be different; Green Tech is an emerging program, while S-G has a chance to be a nice dark horse candidate to do some real damage.
But the biggest change from the moving teams comes to Class B, where the section's teams now have non-league games again on their regular season schedules -- and, teams in the West Division have a new sense of hope.
With the loss of three squads from the classification, one team had to move from the West Division to the Reinfurt Division -- and the one selected was the division's multi-year reigning champion, Schalmont. The Sabres, fresh off a trip to the state championship game, now reside in the Reinfurt Division, and immediately become the overwhelming favorite to win that division.
The West Division, though, now has a host of teams thinking this could be the year. Broadalbin-Perth likely enters as the presumptive favorite, but squads from Glens Falls and Schuylerville are also expected to be much improved from 2013 and each could make a real run at a division crown that many have just conceded to Schalmont these past few years.
Locally, B-P will find out very early on in its season if it will be able to take advantage of the Sabres' move. The Patriots first two divisional games come against Glens Falls and at Schuylerville, meaning head coach Jim Pelneau's squad will have a really good idea after Week 3 where it stands.
CRAZINESS IN 'C'
OK, for our smallest two classifications, let's start with the easy one.
Class D is now a one-division endeavor, with four teams making it to the playoffs. Of the seven teams in the classification, two are made up of merged programs -- Cambridge/Salem and Fort Edward/Argyle -- and another, Hoosic Valley, is ineligible for the playoffs because it is playing down a class.
So, basically, for Canajoharie and its Class D brethren, all that needs to happen to make it to the postseason is to finish above two teams.
Pretty cut and dry, right?
Good -- because, then, there is Class C.
The Fonda-Fultonville Braves and Co. are now broken into three divisions because there are simply too many teams now of this size for a two-division format. Merged programs between a few private schools now make up "Holy Trinity," while Greenwich and Schoburg move to the classification from Class D.
While the addition of a few merged programs is confusing enough for the classification -- and its scribes -- the real nightmare comes with how the postseason will work coming out of a three-division format for the regular season. As of Monday, F-F head coach Tom Carpenter said Section II had still not formally adopted its rules for how to handle seeding for the postseason, but the expectation is that two teams will make it from each division, plus two wildcards -- and a points-based formula will be used to settle ties for seeding purposes.
I won't waste time worrying about what a playoff seeding system that the section has still not finalized will entail, but there is one clear concern that no seeding system will be able to fix for Class C: Two of the best three programs for the past several years -- Chatham and F-F -- are in the same division, which could make for some awkward matchups come the second weekend of the playoffs.
But, hey, we'll get there when we get there, right?
Contact MICHAEL KELLY at firstname.lastname@example.org