COLUMBIA — Five wins, two losses but no relevance.
Despite finishing the regular season with a winning record, the Rock Bridge football team’s performance over the past seven games means nothing heading into the district playoffs.
Rock Bridge (5-2) vs. Liberty (4-3)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: William Jewell College in Liberty
Its next three games, on the other hand, will mean everything.
“I don’t think it really makes much logical sense that seven games are outweighed by three,” Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said. “I don’t think there’s any sport or any league that has a seven-game preseason and a three-game regular season.”
In the current district playoff format, a team's regular season record holds no importance, and the Bruins will need to win two of their next three games to advanceto the sectional round of the playoffs.
This controversial format will see some changes next year, though. Coaches and high schools across the state have voted on a new playoff system to begin next season.
“That’s what everyone says. They say the regular season doesn’t matter in this current format,” said Harvey Richards, the associate executive director at the Missouri State High School Activities Association. “And really, in essence, it doesn’t. But it does for schools that are in conferences.”
Rock Bridge and Hickman are not members of a conference, though. For other schools that are in conferences, the first seven games hold significant meaning in the form of conference championships. But for independent schools, the regular season is not much more than a chance to improve their play.
The current playoff ruling splits the state into four-team districts. The Bruins are in Class 6, District 7, with Blue Springs, Blue Springs South and Liberty, and will be facing each team over the next three weeks to determine which two will advance to sectionals.
Hickman is in Class 6 District 6, with Fort Zumwalt West, Jefferson City and Troy Buchanan.
What the new format offers is a greater reward for having a successful regular season.
Rather than four-team districts, the new ruling calls for eight-team districts. Each team will play nine regular season games and then will be placed in a bracket, where they will be seeded based on their performance throughout the regular season. The No. 1-ranked team will face the No. 8-ranked team and so on. In this new district format, only one team will advance.
“Now it just makes a little bit more sense. You play those regular season games for more of a purpose now,” Ofodile said. “You play it for your seeding to give you an opportunity to advance further.”
Rock Bridge will look to advance out of district play this season for the first time since 2005. It begins district play Friday night at Liberty and will then return home to face Blue Springs South and Blue Springs.
Hickman begins district play Friday at Fort Zumwalt West and continues on the road against Troy Buchanan before returning home to face Jefferson City.
Both teams begin fresh at 0-0.