State Slots Become A Numbers Game

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Remember the power points system that in 2003 kept the Longhorn football team out of the Class 4A playoffs, despite the fact PHS finished the regular season with an 8-2 record?

It's back.

Class 3A Conference region presidents agreed last week to a power points system that will be used to seed 16 teams into the state championship tournament.

In 2003, when Payson High was a member of the 4A Grand Canyon region, the Horns finished 17th in the conference standings and were forced to watch the state tournament from the sidelines.

What rendered a very good Payson team's elimination doubly tough for then-coach Jerry Rhoades and his players to understand, is that the Friday evening before the state selections were announced, Payson beat Flagstaff Sinagua 26-22 and Scottsdale Arcadia was shellacked 72-14 by Scottsdale Chaparral.

But the 16th and final state playoff berth went to Arcadia, rather than Payson.

That's because power points were awarded on victories and strength of schedule. With eighth triumphs, Payson had plenty of wins to earn a berth. The team's schedule, however, didn't feature enough top-16 teams to earn the Horns the bonus points that are awarded for playing ranked foes.

In short, a lopsided loss to a ranked foe was worth more points than a win over an unranked opponent.

All a befuddled Rhoades could say at the time was "go figure."

The exclusion of the Longhorn team had some coaches around the state mulling the power points system and wondering if it was the best selection process.

Some backed a solution to shorten the regular season by one game and expand the state tournament from 16 to 32 teams.

That concept never materialized.

The new system

Although the power points system was highly controversial four years ago, region presidents have decided it's now necessary to fairly seed teams into state tournament brackets.

First year PHS athletic director Jason Lobik realizes the system provokes strong disagreement, but says it's in place and 3A teams will have to deal with it.

"Some (schools) will benefit by it, some won't," he said. "But the rule will apply to team sports only."

Which means, it will govern football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.

In the new system, the top three teams from each of the four geographical regions, North, East, South and West, will receive automatic berths into the state tournament.

"The top three teams are protected," Lobik said.

The remaining four slots in the state tournament will be filled by using the Arizona Interscholastic Association Power Points system.

In it, teams are awarded 45 points for each victory over a Class 2A opponent, 50 points for a win against a 3A foe and 55 points for a win over a 4A school.

Also, five victory points are doled out for every win over opponents who score a triumph over a team from within the same conference. For every victory over an opponent that wins a game over a team one classification below their own conference, 4.5 victory points will be awarded. Wins over opponents with a win over schools one class above their own conference are worth 5.5 victory points.

That system, awarding points on the number of victories of your opponents, is very similar to the power rankings that were used in 2003 when PHS was in the 4A conference.

To determine a power points total, all points are divided by the number of games played.

The rationale

In adopting the new rules, region presidents reasoned the system would reward region champions and allow stronger regions to qualify more than four teams and restrict weaker regions to less than four qualifiers.

For example, the East is traditionally tough in football so the power points system could allow the region to qualify more than four teams for state.

Weaker football regions, like the North, might qualify only three teams.

But in the sport of basketball, the situation could be reversed.

The always-tough North region might send more than four teams to state and the weaker basketball regions might send only three.

"How (power points affect) the school will depend on the sport and the schedule," Lobik said.

Also, presidents say the system provides transition to power points without making "a leap of faith and encourages cross-region play."

Although the power points system is in place for the upcoming school year, presidents must still iron out procedures in dealing with forfeits, canceled games and out-of-state games.

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