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Northwest Region post-season playoffs expand

Northwest Region officials have expanded the region’s post-season playoffs to include third-place teams in each district in volleyball, basketball, baseball, softball and soccer. Under the new format, Northwest Region tournaments in those sports will expand by one day to include an extra round, with first-round games to be played on Saturdays, semi-finals to be played on Tuesdays and championship games to be played on Thursdays.

Regular-season champions from each district will be given the top seed, with the second and third seeds being determined through district tournaments.

All of the top seeds will receive a bye in the first round, with the first-round contests having the number three seeds traveling to the number two seeds. The winners of the first-round games will then travel to the home of the number one seeds for the second round.

Halifax County High School Athletic Director Allen Lawter said while many aspects of the new regional playoff picture are firmly in place, other aspects are still in the process of being worked out.

“We’re still going over some of the scenarios,” Lawter said.

“There are some questions still to be answered, questions such as the possibility of a consolation game in district tournaments, and, if so, would it be played in conjunction with the championship game at one site or will it be played at the home of the higher seed.

“The region’s school principals and athletic directors will meet, discuss it and come up with the best scenario,” added Lawter.

“We’ve got to make sure we have policies in place to cover all of the scenarios because we know we will face different situations. We’ve got to do that soon. We’ve got to get something in place soon because of volleyball being a fall sport.”

Financial issues

People in some corners are speculating the expansion of the Northwest Region playoffs is being prompted by the potential for financial gain for those schools hosting the playoff games.

Lawter discounted that speculation.

“We’re not sure within the region if it (the expansion of the playoffs) will result in a financial gain or not because of travel,” Lawter explained.

“You could stand to make more (money) at the gate, but, because of travel, will it be a net gain? We will have to wait until the end of next year to see.”

As far as Halifax County High School is concerned, Lawter said he and school officials are aware that the expanded playoff system could possibly lead to an increase in expenses in the school’s athletic budget.

“There is no way to know at this point what impact it will have in terms of travel expenses,” Lawter said.

“It is something we are having to prepare for in-house, though, knowing there is a possibility that we could send several teams to the Northwest Region playoffs.”

More schools, students involved in playoffs

The more important aspect of the playoff expansion, Lawter says, is involving more Group AAA teams and students in post-season playoffs.

“Group A has gone to a Division 1 and Division 2 format in sports other than football and Group AA has gone to a Division 3 and Division 4,” Lawter pointed out.

“Group AAA, which we are in, still has only one division in sports other than football. Expanding the playoffs to involve the top three teams from each district will allow us to get more teams involved in post-season play.”

Lawter said he is interested in seeing how competitive the third-seeded teams will be in the expanded playoff picture.
“If you look at the past two years, any two of the top three teams in our district (the Western Valley District) could have gone (into the Northwest Region playoffs) in several sports,” Lawter pointed out.

“On the other hand, there have also been times when our number three seed has not been as strong. Even with that, having the top three teams going into the playoffs gives those teams that may not be as strong as the first-place or second-place team something to play for. It will give more teams and more students an opportunity to experience regional post-season play.”

Football, golf unaffected

Football and golf are not affected by the expansion of the Northwest Region playoffs.

In football, this will be the third season in which six teams will participate in the Northwest Region playoffs. Playoff teams are selected based upon their Virginia High School League ratings points, with the top two teams in the points standings earning a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Each of the four district champions is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, but none of the district champions are guaranteed a home game. The VHSL ratings points are used to determine home teams.

As far as golf is concerned, the regular-season champion earns the district’s top seed. The other team seeds will be determined through the district tournament.