Richmond-Burton's Dalton Wood outruns Murphysboro's Michael Shearer near the sideline during the Class 4A state championship game last season at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Richmond-Burton's Dalton Wood outruns Murphysboro's Michael Shearer near the sideline during the Class 4A state championship game last season at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. — Matthew Apgar - mapgar@shawmedia.com

Let's play seven!

If football is indeed given the all clear to play in the spring, the dates bracketed for play will apparently allow for a seven-game season and some sort of "regional playoff" system.

And while no official details have been relayed for exactly what a regional playoff system might be, I'm personally hopeful that some semblance of a state-wide postseason might still be able to be held.

But given the parameters of what is going to be allowed, there are a few things that have to be taken into account when trying to ascertain what a playoff could look like with just two postseason rounds.

Earlier during this excessively long between-season break, I unveiled what I thought a potential season with scheduling/postseason with a regional-based format could look like, but all of those scenarios were based on the premise that there would be at least three weeks allowed for postseason play.

Unless an adjustment is made, the current bracketing only allows for two weekends of postseason. And as much as I would appreciate the ability to go back to the days of the Wednesday first-round playoff game, I'm not really believing that is a likely scenario to be played out this year, or any other for that matter.

So what that leads to is a scenario where a semifinal and final round would be the only way a postseason could be contested.

Once again I decided to dig into the 2019 results to figure out what this potential scenario might look like if we had played a seven-game season rather than a nine-game campaign.

I broke out the first seven games of each team's schedule. Although many leagues are replicating conference schedules in the back half of their schedule to make up their potential spring 2021 schedule, the first seven games were a better pulse of who played a stronger overall schedule and helped break ties in the format.

This was a must, because if all we did was account for the last seven games of a schedule every team that plays in an eight-team league would have exactly the same amount of playoff points. There would be no way to break ties.

And a lot of ties had to be broken to make this happen. Seven-week schedules have less variability than nine-week schedules, so distinguishing one team from another becomes a touch more difficult.

Once that data was parsed, I then charged myself with trying to figure out how to bracket teams if only two weeks of playoffs were possible.

I decided to implement a tier model, where there were be four tiers of postseason play that teams could qualify to each with their own two-round postseason model. I've decided to name them: Championship Level, Gold Level, Silver Level and Bronze Level.

This would allow for 16 qualifiers in each of the classifications. If wanted, it could be expanded to eight tiers so the typical 32 teams per class would qualify for some sort of postseason.

Now let's look at the rough data.

There were 46 teams that were undefeated through seven weeks. By using the suggested methods above, 14 of those teams would not qualify for the championship level. I moved them down in this scenario (those with the lowest playoff points were moved first) to the Gold Level for their postseason placement. The remaining slots in the Gold Level would be filled by 6-1 teams with the highest playoff points until that field was filled and so on until all the spots in the 128 field were filled.

While it's certainly unfair for 14 teams that did not accumulate a regular-season loss to be excluded from the championship level, there are a few things to consider. Most leagues are planning to play conference-based schedules only in 2021 to fill their seven games, multiple teams from the full list of 46 through seven weeks would square off with an undefeated team in Week 8 and Week 9. Those games would likely pare down the list to a number much closer to 32 teams, limiting the number of teams left out of the Championship Level that don't have a loss.

Let's start by looking at it in regards to what a tiered system would look like. Teams are not paired by seeding, but by geography. The home game in the semifinal would go to the highest seeded team.

Class 8A

Championship Level

Minooka (7-0) at Lincoln-Way East (7-0)

South Elgin (7-0) at Niles Notre Dame (7-0)

Gold Level

Huntley (7-0) at Gurnee Warren (7-0)

Hinsdale Central (7-0) at Oswego (7-0)

Silver Level

Neuqua Valley (6-1) at Homewood-Flossmoor (6-1)

Bartlett (6-1) at St. Charles East (6-1)

Bronze Level

Fremd (5-2) at Loyola (6-1)

Maine South (5-2) at Bolingbrook (6-1)

Class 7A

Championship Level

Nazareth (7-0) at Mount Carmel (7-0)

Glenbard West (7-0) at Rolling Meadows (7-0)

Gold Level

Benet (6-1) at Chicago Phillips (6-1)

Willowbrook (6-1) at Glenbard East (6-1)

Silver Level

Andrew (6-1) at Normal Community (6-1)

Maine West (6-1) at Conant (6-1)

Bronze Level

Machesney Park Harlem (5-2) at Mount Prospect (5-2)

Batavia (5-2) at Edwardsville (5-2)

Class 6A

Championship Level

Richards (6-1) at Crete-Monee (7-0)

Cary-Grove (6-1) at Hersey (6-1)

Gold Level

Yorkville (6-1) at Prairie Ridge (6-1)

Chicago Mather (6-1) at Chicago Kenwood (6-1)

Silver Level

Providence (5-2) at Normal Community West (5-2)

Shepard (5-2) at Deerfield (5-2)

Bronze Level

DeKalb (5-2) at Springfield (5-2)

Rockford Aubun (5-2) at Belvidere North (5-2)

Class 5A

Championship Level

Marion (7-0) at East St. Louis (7-0)

Sycamore (6-1) at Glenwood (6-1)

Gold Level

Lemont (6-1) at Hillcrest (6-1)

Chicago Amundsen (6-1) at Antioch (6-1)

Silver Level

Dunlap (6-1) at Peoria (6-1)

Kaneland (6-1) at Kankakee (6-1)

Bronze Level

Lakes (5-2) at Montini (5-2)

Chicago Simeon (5-1) at Triad (6-1)

Class 4A

Championship Level

Mount Zion (7-0) at Sterling (7-0)

Rockford Boylan (7-0) at IC Catholic (7-0)

Gold Level

Columbia (7-0) at Effingham (7-0)

Richmond-Burton (7-0) at Rochester (7-0)

Silver Level

Wheaton St. Francis (6-1) at Chicago Payton (7-0)

East Richland (5-2) at Carbondale (6-1)

Bronze Level

Cahokia (5-2) at Morris (5-2)

Aurora Marmion (5-2) at Chicago Agricultural Science (5-2)

Class 3A

Championship Level

Stillman Valley (7-0) at Coal City (7-0)

Illinois Valley Central (7-0) at Williamsville (7-0)

Gold Level

Genoa-Kingston (7-0) at Wilmington (7-0)

DuQuoin (7-0) at Benton (7-0)

Silver Level

Tolono Unity (6-1) at Princeton (6-1)

Greenville (6-1) at Mount Carmel (6-1)

Bronze Level

Eureka (6-1) at Byron (6-1)

Paxton (5-2) at Paris (5-2)

Class 2A

Championship Level

Knoxville (7-0) at Clifton Central (7-0)

Beardstown (7-0) at Fairfield (7-0)

Gold Level

Fieldcrest (7-0) at Pana (7-0)

Nashville (7-0) at Vandalia (7-0)

Silver Level

Farmington (6-1) at Newman Central Catholic (6-1)

Maroa-Forsyth (6-1) at Breese Mater Dei (6-1)

Bronze Level

Bismarck-Henning (6-1) at Chicago Harlan (6-1)

Chester (5-2) at Decatur St. Teresa (6-1)

Class 1A

Championship Level

Kewanee-Wethersfield (7-0) at Moweaqua Central A&M (7-0)

Morrison (7-0) at Lena-Winslow (7-0)

Gold Level

Freeport Aquin (7-0) at Ottawa Marquette (7-0)

Princeville (6-1) at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (6-1)

Silver Level

Carrollton (6-1) at Camp Point Central (6-1)

Argenta-Oreana (6-1) at Chicago Hope Academy (6-1)

Bronze Level

Forreston (6-1) at Greenfield (6-1)

Tuscola (5-2) at Arcola (5-2)

***

After going through all of that, I see some things I'm OK with in this setting and others that I am not. There are far too many undefeated teams that wouldn't get a crack at a title bid, and while some of them might be weeded out by some schedule changes, there will be classes that produce more than — and in some cases many more than — four undefeated teams to compete at the championship level.

I also have viable concerns about some of these geographical matchups. There's no doubt in my mind that some of them would be considered unwieldy and unlikely to be OK'd in the current environment.

So, for that I have one more suggestion to ponder: let's split the classifications into north and south regions.

I'm much more willing to accept two "champions" in each class in lieu of having a series of regional playoffs that don't declare much of anything.

In this format, we'll keep the tier system and simply bracket the qualifiers into 16-team groups of north and south. With this, double the teams will qualify for the system, getting us back to the somewhat normal grid of 256 teams.

By using the 256-team format, all teams excluding one would qualify when amassing a 4-3 record or better.

Here are the mockups for the tiers based on 2019 results using 16-team north/south grids.

Class 8A - North

Championship Level

Gurnee Warren (7-0) at Niles Notre Dame (7-0)

Glenbard West (7-0) at South Elgin (7-0)

Gold Level

St. Charles East (6-1) at Huntley (6-1)

Bartlett (6-1) at Glenbard East (6-1)

Silver Level

Fremd (5-2) at Loyola (5-2)

Glenbard North (4-3) at Maine South (5-2)

Bronze Level

Chicago Taft (4-3) at Glenbard North (4-3)

Stevenson (4-3) at Barrington (4-3)

Class 8A - South

Championship Level

Hinsdale Central (7-0) at Lincoln-Way East (7-0)

Oswego (7-0) at Minooka (7-0)

Gold Level

Bolingbrook (6-1) at Homewood-Flossmoor (6-1)

Benet (6-1) at Neuqua Valley (6-1)

Silver Level

Oswego East (4-3) at Plainfield North (5-2)

Brother Rice (4-3) at Edwardsville (5-2)

Bronze Level

Downers Grove South (4-3) at Plainfield South (4-3)

Downers Grove North (4-3) at Chicago Curie (4-3)

Class 7A North

Championship Level

Prospect (5-2) at Rolling Meadows (7-0)

Maine West (6-1) at Hersey (7-0)

Gold Level

DeKalb (5-2) at Batavia (5-2)

Rockford Auburn (5-2) at Machesney Park Harlem (5-2)

Silver Level

Grant (5-2) at Hononegah (5-2)

Lake Zurich (4-3) at Chicago Whitney Young (4-3)

Bronze Level

Chicago Lincoln Park (4-3) at Highland Park (4-3)

St. Charles North (4-3) at Hoffman Estates (4-3)

Class 7A South

Championship Level

Chicago Phillips (6-1) at Mount Carmel (7-0)

Willowbrook (6-1) at Nazareth (7-0)

Gold Level

Yorkville (6-1) at Normal Community (6-1)

Thornwood (5-2) at Andrew (6-1)

Silver Level

Pekin (4-3) at Wheaton Warrenville South (5-2)

T.F. South (4-3) at Thornton (5-2)

Bronze Level

Quincy (4-3) at Lincoln-Way West (4-3)

Reavis (4-3) at Blue Island Eisenhower (4-3)

Class 6A - North

Championship Level

Cary-Grove (6-1) at Antioch (6-1)

Chicago Kenwood (6-1) at Sycamore (6-1)

Gold Level

Chicago Mather (6-1) at Kaneland (6-1)

Deerfield (5-2) at Prairie Ridge (6-1)

Silver Level

Lakes (5-2) at Belvidere North (5-2)

Riverside-Brookfield (5-2) at Chicago Simeon (5-1)

Bronze Level

Vernon Hills (4-3) at Lake Forest (4-3)

Crystal Lake South (4-3) Crystal Lake Central (4-3)

Class 6A - South

Championship Level

Chatham Glenwood (7-0) at East St. Louis (7-0)

Lemont (6-1) at Crete-Monee (7-0)

Gold Level

Peoria (6-1) at Dunlap (6-1)

Normal Community West (5-2) at Oak Lawn Richards (6-1)

Silver Level

Bremen (5-2) at Shepard (5-2)

Springfield (5-2) at Providence (5-2)

Bronze Level

Washington (4-3) at Danville (4-3)

Rock Island (4-3) at Chicago Morgan Park (4-3)

Class 5A - North

Championship Level

Chicago Amundsen (6-1) at Chicago Payton (7-0)

Rockford (Boylan) (7-0) at Sterling (7-0)

Gold Level

Glenbard South (5-2) at Marmion (5-2)

Elmwood Park (5-2) at Montini (5-2)

Silver Level

St. Laurence (4-3) at St. Rita (4-3)

Fenwick (4-3) at Elmwood Park (5-2)

Bronze Level

Freeport (4-3) at Woodstock North (4-3)

Chicago Vocational (4-3) at Evergreen Park (4-3)

Class 4A - North

Championship Level

IC Catholic (7-0) at Coal City (7-0)

Stillman Valley (7-0) at Richmond-Burton (7-0)

Gold Level

Marengo (5-2) at Genoa-Kingston (7-0)

Chicago Agricultural Science (5-2) at Wheaton St. Francis (6-1)

Silver Level

Dixon (4-3) at Kewanee (4-3)

Wheaton Academy (4-3) at Bishop McNamara (4-3)

Bronze Level

Chicago King (4-3) at Chicago Hyde Park (4-3)

Chicago Sullivan (4-3) at Marian Central (4-3)

Class 4A - South

Championship Level

Illinois Valley Central (7-0) at Rochester (7-0)

Effingham (7-0) at Mount Zion (7-0)

Gold Level

Prairie Central (5-2) at Paris (6-1)

Olney Richland County (5-2) at Columbia (7-0)

Silver Level

Murphysboro (5-2) at Bethalto Civic Memorial (5-2)

Taylorville (5-2) at Peoria Notre Dame (5-2)

Bronze Level

Canton (4-3) at Freeburg (4-3)

Freeburg (4-3) at Salem (4-3)

Class 3A - North

Championship Level

Princeton (6-1) at Farmington (6-1)

Chicago Harlan (6-1) at Wilmington (7-0)

Gold Level

Paxton (5-2) at Eureka (6-1)

Chicago Carver (5-2) at Byron (6-1)

Silver Level

Peotone (5-2) at Chicago Dunbar (5-2)

Seneca (4-3) at Spring Valley Hall (5-2)

Bronze Level

Lisle (4-3) at Rock Island Alleman (4-3)

St. Joseph Ogden (4-3) at Chicago Clark (4-3)

Class 3A - South

Championship Level

Vandalia (7-0) at Fairfield (7-0)

Beardstown (7-0) at Williamsville (7-0)

Gold Level

DuQuoin (7-0) at Benton (7-0)

Mt. Carmel (6-1) at Tolono Unity (6-1)

Silver Level

Alton Marquette (4-3) at West Frankfort (5-2)

Monticello (5-2) at Greenville (6-1)

Bronze Level

Virden North Mac (4-3) at Carlinville (4-3)

Newton (4-3) at Wood River East Alton (4-3)

Class 2A - North

Championship Level

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (6-1) at Clifton Central (7-0)

Minonk Fieldcrest (7-0) at Knoxville (7-0)

Gold Level

Watseka (5-2) at Bismarck-Henning (6-1)

Rushville (5-2) at Sterling Newman Central Catholic (6-1)

Silver Level

Savanna West Carroll (5-2) at Durand-Pecatonica (5-2)

Chicago Christian (5-2) at Chicago Orr (5-2)

Bronze Level

Tremont (4-3) at Elgin St. Edward (4-3)

Aledo Mercer County (4-3) at Orion (4-3)

Class 2A South

Championship Level

Breese Mater Dei (6-1) at Nashville (7-0)

Maroa-Forsyth (6-1) at Pana (7-0)

Gold Level

Auburn (5-2) at Chester (5-2)

Quincy Notre Dame (5-2) at Decatur St. Teresa (5-2)

Silver Level

Sesser-Valier (4-3) at Nokomis (5-2)

Villa Grove (4-3) at Flora (5-2)

Bronze Level

Eldorado (4-3) Carmi White County (4-3)

Red Bud (4-3) at Shelbyville (4-3)

Class 1A - North

Championship Level

Ottawa Marquette (7-0) at Kewanee Wethersfield (7-0)

Morrison (7-0) at Lena-Winslow (7-0)

Gold Level

Forreston (6-1) at Freeport Aquin (7-0)

Chicago Hope Academy (6-1) at Princeville (6-1)

Silver Level

Dakota (4-3) at Fulton (5-2)

Cambridge-Ridgewood (5-2) at Abingdon (5-2)

Bronze Level

Stockton (4-3) at Orangeville (4-3)

Havana (4-3) at Biggsville West Central (4-3)

Class 1A - South

Championship Level

Carrollton (6-1) at Camp Point Central (6-1)

Argenta-Oreana (6-1) at Moweaqua Central A&M (7-0)

Gold Level

Greenfield (6-1) at Arthur (5-2)

Tuscola (5-2) at Arcola (5-2)

Silver Level

Fisher (5-2) at Athens (5-2)

Salt Fork (5-2) at Fithian Oakwood (5-2)

Bronze Level

Casey-Westfield (4-3) at Toledo Cumberland (4-3)

White Hall North Greene (4-3) at Mount Sterling Brown County (4-3)