King Philip football coach Brian Lee will be the first to admit his team hasn’t played its best football over the last two weeks. After a 5-0 start, the Warriors dropped consecutive games to Hockomock (Kelley-Rex) powerhouses Mansfield (7-0) and Attleboro (6-1).
The MIAA football playoffs begin Friday and the Warriors have a chance to prove they are better than their recent results have indicated.
But that will be no small task for King Philip, which faces a tough Natick squad and is the sixth seed in the buzz saw bracket that is the Division 2 South.
There is top-seeded Mansfield, followed by Barnstable (6-1), Natick (7-0), Needham (6-1), and Duxbury (5-1). Marshfield (4-3) and Wellesley (4-3) round out the bracket as the seventh and eighth seeds.
“I thought it was tough enough just trying to get through the [Hockomock] Kelley-Rex,” Lee said. “Take a look at the schedule at the beginning of year you have to play Franklin, Attleboro, Mansfield, and North Attleboro.
“The schedule has just been brutal, and it’s really hard when you’ve got one good team after another. Some divisions have relief when it comes to the playoffs, but not in Division 2 South.”
Last season, King Philip finished 10-1, but Mansfield advanced to the playoffs with a 7-4 record because they beat the Warriors to earn the league title.
Ultimately, the new playoff system benefits a team such as King Philip, which plays in a difficult conference, but the school voted against the proposal earlier this year.
“I viewed the regular season as the playoffs,” Lee said of the old system. “I know we were 10-1 [last season], but it came down to if you want to go, you have to beat Mansfield. We’ve had two very huge games [this year] where we’ve played well, but not well enough. If someone said you didn’t make the playoffs, I’d say, ‘Well, we didn’t play well enough.’
“This is just another example that league play is minimized. But we’re happy to have another opportunity. We have an opportunity to prove than we are better than we showed last week.”
Either way, King Philip is in the playoffs and will have its work cut out against Natick and quarterback Troy Flutie.
“They have the best player in the state, and just scored 56 points last week,” Lee said. “You know you have a big challenge in front of you defensively and offensively, and you got to score points. You’re not going to shut them out.”
The rest of the Division 2 South slate looks like this: Wellesley at Mansfield, Duxbury at Needham, and Marshfield at Barnstable.
“If you’re a fan and just want to pick games to go to, this is a lot of fun,” Lee said. “But as a coach, it’s a nightmare.”
Divisions, games to watch
If you’re looking to pick a favorite in Division 2, how about Leominster? The Central Mass. power finished 7-0 including a 33-20 win over Lowell last month. Other CMass schools to keep an eye on include Division 4 Hudson (7-0), and Division 6 teams Littleton (7-0) and Blackstone Valley (7-0).
Division 3 Northeast is strong with Tewksbury (7-0), Marblehead (6-1), and Danvers (6-1), while Division 5 North features a trio of 7-0 teams in Bishop Fenwick, Northeast, and Brighton.
In Division 1 South, top-seeded Xaverian (6-1) will face Catholic Conference foe Catholic Memorial (3-4) in the quarterfinals, and could possibly face BC High in the semis if the Eagles beat Weymouth. Xaverian blanked BC High, 19-0, Friday night.
Another quirky outcome of the playoff system is that top-seeded Everett is scheduled to face eighth-seeded Malden in a Division 1 North quarterfinal. It’s not exactly an eye-popping matchup, but an interesting one considering the teams just played last weekend, with Everett earning a 35-0 win.
By the numbers
There are 114 teams in the playoffs, while 81 did not make it. Out of the 114 that qualified, 18 had losing records, while seven of the teams that did not qualify had winning records . . . The Middlesex League is sending 11 of its 12 teams to the playoffs, including Winchester, which is 2-5 . Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II is 5-2 but didn’t qualify for postseason in Division 6.