- Allison Goldsberry
When the Medford High School football team takes the field on September 6 they will begin a season that will be very different than in years past.
For starters, the Mustangs only have seven regular season games instead of ten. The regular season ends in late October. Medford will still play Malden on Thanksgiving Day, but the game essentially will have no bearing on the playoffs. Playoffs are scheduled for early November with state championship games planned for early December. Thanksgiving will still be the end of the season if the Mustangs aren’t in playoff contention.
If Medford doesn’t make the playoffs, the team will be matched with other opponents with similar records to play in those few weeks between the end of the season and Thanksgiving, according Head Coach Jay Nascimento.
This new football playoff structure dramatically reduces the number of state Super Bowls and “aims to crown one true state champion for each division,” said Coach Nascimento. Under the new structure, two teams can qualify for the playoffs from the Greater Boston League rather than just the league champion. The five GBL teams are in different divisions, and teams win points for wins and losses based upon division play. For example, Medford, in Division 3 Northwest, would earn more points for defeating a team in Division 1 or 2 than it would defeating a team in its own or a lower division. Malden and Everett are in Division 1, Cambridge is in Division 2, and Somerville is also in Division 3.
Medford Athletic Director Bob Maloney joined his Everett and Malden counterparts in voting against the plan last year. Maloney said it is tough to budget for the last weeks of the season since schools at this point don’t know where they will be traveling and most schools have to reserve their home fields months in advance. In addition, he said it will be hard to keep the athletes motivated once the regular season ends if their team is not in the playoffs and they still have to play several more games. Despite his concerns, Maloney said he will “embrace the new proposal.”
Coach Nascimento was neutral in his assessment of how the new system will affect the upcoming season.
“I think anytime you have a drastic change like this its always tough at first,” said Nascimento. “There are most certainly several people that support and people that are against it. As far as my thoughts, we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out. I’m sure after a year or two with this new system, the problems will be ironed out and adjustments will be made along the way. It’s new for everyone so I’m sure there will be questions and concerns as the season goes on, but in the end I know it will work itself out.”
The new football playoff system has been in discussion for a long time and last year, when Medford and Malden faced each other on Thanksgiving for the 125th game, many were concerned the historic rivalry would be over with the new system in place.
Medford, Malden, and other schools will still participate in their Thanksgiving rivalries this season. However, the games will not count toward the playoffs and will be played well after the regular season ends.
“The Medford Malden Thanksgiving Day is still on our schedule. It will be played like it has been played for for the past 125 years,” said Coach Nascimento. “As always there will be a great competitive atmosphere and it will be a great day for the members of both the Medford and Malden communities. Unfortunately the game does not have any playoff implications, but with the history of this game and the history between both cities I don’t think there has to be. It’s one of the greatest rivalries in the state and as always both communities will be looking forward to it.”
Medford opens its season at home against North Quincy on September 6. On September 13 Medford is in Revere. The Mustangs then host Arlington on September 20. Medford is on the road for the next three games against Medfield, Everett, and Cambridge. On October 25 the Mustangs end their regular season at home against Somerville.
What happens after that remains to be seen. Medford could have playoff games, home or away, in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving, or the Mustangs could be matched with similar strength teams if they don’t qualify for the playoffs.