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Proposal to revamp high school football season includes playoffs beginning after Thanksgiving

Swampscott defeated North Reading in the 2021 Division 5 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

FRANKLIN — The state high school football coaches association unveiled a proposal to the MIAA football committee Thursday that would result in an 10-game regular season over 12 weeks, 64 total playoff qualifiers across eight divisions, and three postseason rounds played in an 11-day window after Thanksgiving.

The proposal, presented by Milton coach Steve Dembowski, the state coaches’ representative to the committee, is set to go before the MIAA’s football committee in January, then the tournament management committee. If approved, it would into effect for the 2023 season. The plan is modeled after a template used in Connecticut.

Currently, after a seven- to eight-game regular season, 16 teams per division are seeded into a statewide tournament via a power rating that was introduced in 2021. The plan would eliminate consolation games after a team is eliminated from the postseason, and once again elevate Thanksgiving games to be part of the playoff qualifying process.

For the 16 teams that advance to state championship games, it would add one week to the season, and cut into the start of the winter sports season.


“If we don’t make the regular season valuable, we’re going to have some problems,” Dembowski said, noting that the number of schools offering football in the state has shrunk from 313 to 276 in the past decade.

The proposal calls for teams to take two mandatory bye weeks during the season, one between Weeks 4-7, and another in either Week 11 or 12 – the week before or week of Thanksgiving.

The postseason would kick off the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, with quarterfinals at home sites. Semifinals, at neutral sites, would be scheduled five days later, on Sunday, with Super Bowls scheduled six days later, on a Saturday.

The state football coaches said the MIAA’s “path to championship is equal” and “same format used across the state” standards set by the TMC prior to the introduction of the statewide postseason tournament format in 2020 are not being met.


Football is the only MIAA sport that does not complete all league games prior to the start of the postseason, an issue that would be fixed by having the playoffs begin after Thanksgiving again – as they did through the 2012 season.

“I don’t know how we sit here as a committee and say ‘how can 198 teams play a consolation game so that 64 can play a playoff game,’” Dembowski said. “We’re weakening our sport through our own greed of putting more teams in the tournament.”

MIAA power ratings would continue to determine the postseason bracket under the proposal.

▪ In the meantime, a non-playoff committee will continue to determine matchups for teams that miss out on the postseason, as well as those eliminated after Week 1 of the playoffs.

• For the 2022 season, the plan is to play all eight Super Bowl matchups at Gillette Stadium between Friday, Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3, associate director Richard Pearson said. The Patriots host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football on Dec. 1, so three Super Bowls would be played on Friday and five more on Saturday, with all games having 12-minute quarters.

Last fall, the MIAA spread the eight Super Bowls over three weeknights the first week of December.

• O’Bryant was dealt a blow to its schedule when fellow Boston City League member Charlestown dropped football prior to the start of the regular season, leaving it with only six regular season contests – seven are required to qualify for the postseason under the current format. (Charlestown is now part of a co-op with South Boston/Excel).


A motion was made to allow O’Bryant to qualify with only six games on its schedule, with the caveat it should still actively seek out a seventh contest. The committee passed the motion unanimously, similarly approving a motion for Drury, a school in Western Mass. that dealt with a similar scheduling issue.