While the newfangled CCS Open Division playoffs certainly didn't do CCS as a whole a lot of favors when it came to representation in the
state bowl system, it certainly made for an unbelievably exciting playoff season. Of the five divisional playoffs, one went to overtime
(St. Ignatius victory over Bellarmine), one was decided late in the fourth quarter (San Benito over Milpitas) and one was a slugfest decided
by defense in the final minutes (Sacred Heart Prep over Menlo). St. Francis wound up as the only No. 1 seed to emerge as a CCS champion as
we ended up with two No. 6 seeds (San Benito and St. Ignatius), a No. 3 (Valley Christian) and a No. 2 (Sacred Heart Prep). The Open Division,
which experienced the biggest changes, featured three semifinal and final matchups that were decided by a total of 11 points.
The major rule change put in for the 2012 playoffs was the forced inclusion of 5 "A" league champions into the Open Division, with the next
three highest point totals among "A" league teams rounding out the Open Division. With the re-classification of the WCAL as an "A+" league,
that practically guaranteed the Open Division playoffs would consist of four WCAL teams. No longer is it possible for teams to "opt up" or
As it turned out, all four WCAL teams won their first-round games, setting up an all-WCAL semifinal, which, depending on your perspective,
may or may not be good for high school football in the Bay Area. However, what cannot be argued - at least not this season - was the quality
of games these matchups produced as we confirmed for ourselves that any of the four teams - Bellarmine, Serra, St. Ignatius and Mitty - could
have emerged with the championship and hardly anyone would have been surprised.
However, perhaps the unintended consequence of the rule change was that it made it much more unlikely that CCS teams would be chosen to go
on and represent Northern California in the state playoff system. In order to qualify for inclusion in the system, a team needs to win its
section. As was the case last season, WCAL teams did wind up dominating the CCS playoffs, as the league went 10-1 in games not involving
two WCAL teams. However, by capturing Division II (St. Francis) and Division III (Valley Christian) titles with teams that did not have spectacular
seasons overall, that essentially blocked CCS teams from consideration for NorCal playoffs and beyond. In addition to preventing smaller schools
that finished the regular season with an outstanding record - and thus drawing the attention of the selection committee - the 5th and 6th place
finishers from the WCAL didn't have a strong enough resume to be considered for additional postseason play.
As it turned out, only St. Ignatius qualified for a Northern California berth by virtue of its Open Division Championship. Sacred Heart Prep (11-2)
certainly earned consideration, but was ultimately denied, while the Division I CCS champ was probably never going to be a serious contender,
certainly not one with the final record of San Benito (7-5). Still, it's hard to argue the CCS Playoffs weren't a rousing success - at least
from a competitive standpoint. But how the new process adversely affects CCS teams in their bid for consideration for a state championship
will certainly become a discussion point going forward.