The postseason landscape has changed this fall for Class 3A Mid-Columbia Conference schools and their Greater Spokane League counterparts.
For starters, Week 10 crossover football games will look different for the top MCC and GSL teams.
Traditionally, the MCC and GSL teams squared off over at least two berths to the state playoffs. However, with Hanford moving up to 4A, that left just seven 3A teams between the two leagues — and only one state berth.
Rather than settling for that single berth, the leagues risked it for a shot at up to three berths by joining with west-side schools in a 32-team preliminary bracket.
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“The state bracket is a 16-team bracket,” Kamiakin athletic director Casey Gant said. “Traditionally, the west side pools all their allocations in that 10th week to basically figure out 14 of those spots. So all we’ve done is jump into that pool with them for the next two years.”
In that 32-team preliminary bracket, three spots are available to MCC/GSL (District 5/8) schools. The MCC and GSL No. 1 seeds are guaranteed spots in that bracket and will have state play-in games during Week 10 (the week of Friday, Nov. 4).
The MCC No. 1 will be the District 5/8 No. 1 seed and will host the Greater St. Helens League’s No. 3 seed. The GSL No. 1 becomes the District 5/8 No. 2 and will play at the Metro League’s No. 3 seed.
The MCC and GSL No. 2s will face off Tuesday, Nov. 1, for the third District 5/8 spot in the preliminary bracket. The winner moves on to a state play-in game at the KingCo No. 1 (likely Saturday, Nov. 5), while the loser’s season ends.
Next year, the two No. 1s will both be at home for the Week 10 games, and the No. 2 winner hits the road again.
Stuck like glue
It’s not that simple for other fall sports.
In 3A cross country, volleyball and girls soccer, MCC and GSL teams have entered into a “glue” arrangement for this year only with SeaKing District 2, which consists of the Metro League and KingCo.
Cross country is still being discussed, but in volleyball and girls soccer, seven state berths are available among the 29 3A schools that make up Districts 2, 5 and 8.
The District 5/8 No. 1 will put its guaranteed state berth on the line when it hosts the SeaKing No. 7. The District 5/8 No. 2, looking to take District 2’s last guaranteed state berth, will play at the SeaKing No. 6. Those “glue” games will take place Saturday, Nov. 5 (soccer) and Tuesday, Nov. 8 (volleyball).
When all is said and done, District 5/8 could end up with zero, one or two state berths. That could be quite the gamble in soccer.
In last year’s state playoffs, Metro League team Holy Names Academy, the District 2 No. 5 seed, opened with a 4-0 victory over Kamiakin, the District 5/8 No. 2 team. The Cougars lost 2-1 to Southridge in the quarterfinals, but Southridge fell to Metro team Seattle Prep 1-0 in the title game.
Eastside Catholic and Bishop Blanchet of the Metro League also were among the final 16 along with Bellevue of the KingCo.
“Those are teams we play in the playoffs for state,” Kamiakin girls soccer coach Chris Erikson said. “We’ve seen them in the final four. It’s a tough group for soccer.”
The ‘what-if’ game
Things are far less complicated in the 4A ranks, where there are 11 MCC/GSL schools.
In cross country, the MCC and GSL each bring in one state berth this year. Two state berths are available between the districts in football, soccer and volleyball.
In both 3A and 4A girls swimming, District 5 gets one state berth — an exception to the usual rule of one state berth for every four schools.
Not all of the 64 3A schools offer swimming, Gant said, “so with that, we ended up garnering our own berth.”
The MCC teams are still set to combine with the Greater St. Helens League for a District 4/5 meet.
The wait to lock down postseason scenarios has been a frustrating one for Gant and others in the MCC.
“If we’d been able to work on this stuff in August, it would be what it is, and we’d be ready to go, and everybody would feel a lot better about it,” Gant said. “I think it’s the uncertainty of not knowing and not understanding what those brackets are going to look like that makes you look back and go, ‘Gah, should we have done this or should we have done that?’ ”
When the initial enrollment figures for the new four-year classification cycle were released in November 2015, Kamiakin ranked among the 4A schools. But as schools opted up, Kamiakin fell below the 4A cutoff of 65 schools.
In the end, Gant says, Kamiakin is comfortable with its choice to stay put in 3A.
“The Auburn schools and those schools on the west side that decided to opt up, they pushed us down and kind of pushed us into this predicament,” he said. “It’s definitely not ideal. Had Hanford stayed down in the 3As, we would have a second berth, and we wouldn’t even be having a conversation right now. They’re just so big.”
Class 3A football schedule
Week 10 (Friday, Nov. 4, or Saturday, Nov. 5)
District 5/8 No. 3 (MCC/GSL No. 2 winner) at KingCo No. 1 — winner is District 2 No. 2 seed
District 5/8 No. 2 (GSL No. 1) at Metro No. 3 — winner is District 2 No. 4 seed
GSHL No. 3 at District 5/8 No. 1 (MCC No. 1) — winner is District 5/8 No. 1 seed
First round of state (Friday, Nov. 11, or Saturday, Nov. 12)
South Sound No. 4/KingCo No. 2 at District 5/8 No. 1
Pierce County League No. 3/Wesco No. 3 at District 2 No. 2
District 2 No. 4 at Wesco No. 6/South Sound No. 1