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One of the most important days of the year in Section 1 football is actually in April.
The schedules and preseason Piner rankings have been released for the 2012 fall season. And, as always, it looks like it’s going to be a good one. Class AA will have 15 teams this year and only four playoff teams. Class A has 29 teams with eight playoff spots, Class B has 12 teams and four playoff spots, and Class C/D has 14 total teams with four Class C spots on the line.
The Piner system was implemented in 2011 across all classes to balance schedules so football programs of similar caliber could play each other and reduce the amount of blowouts. The football committee ranked each team in its class based on prior seasons, JV and freshman records, and returning starters. After the teams are ranked, they are placed into a scheduling matrix which determines a schedule (i.e. Team 1 plays teams 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Team 8 plays 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 13). During the season, the teams acquire Piner points based on winning percentage and opponent’s winning percentage.
The biggest complaint about last year’s system was lower-ranked teams making the playoffs despite not playing tough schedules. In Class AA, the preseason numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, and 16 teams made the playoffs. In Class A, the preseason numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 14, and 23 qualified for the playoffs. In Class B, preseason numbers 1, 3, 10, and 11 made the playoffs out of just 11 teams. In Class C/D, preseason numbers 1, 2, 4, 9, 10, and 11 got into the playoffs.
In 2012, there’s been talk about adding a multiplier to the preseason rankings. For instance, team 1 receives two points to start the season, team 2 receives 1.9 points to start the season, and so on. This has yet to be implemented and likely won’t be added for this season.
Rivalry Week/Non-League Game
Once again schools that wished to play a rivalry got the opportunity if the schedule didn’t match them up already. There are still potential problems, though. On a few occasions a game will count for one team, but not the other just like last year’s Bronxville-Pearl River. One of those glaring instances is Lincoln-Gorton. The game will count for the Lancers, but not the Wolves despite the fact that they’re in the same league. It doesn’t make sense logically or mathematically. We’ll see if it changes anything come playoff time.
A Look-Ahead to the Biggest Games According to Piner:
1. North Rockland
2. New Rochelle
3. John Jay-EF
4. White Plains
6. Clarkstown South
9. Clarkstown North
14. Mount Vernon
Games to Watch
North Rockland at New Rochelle (Week 4): The top two preseason-ranked teams will duke it out in what seems like their annual showdown. The pair of Section 1 powers played an epic game in the semifinals last year and this game matters because with only four teams making the playoffs, every game counts, especially when it’s a chance for some major points.
Clarkstown South at John Jay-EF (Week 7): The Vikings and Patriots have started a bit of a rivalry through multiple sports recently. JJEF beat South in the football playoffs last year and the Vikings returned the favor during the basketball season. Now, they’ll face each other in the final game of the regular season. A loss will be devastating. Will it be a glorified playoff game?
Scarsdale at Carmel (Week 6): If any of the lower-ranked teams have a chance to move up into the playoffs it might be the winner of this game. Carmel has a very favorable schedule to potentially run the table and sneak in. Scarsdale’s schedule is tougher, but can’t get in without beating a tough out in the Rams.
Arlington at White Plains (Week 6): If the season pans out the way the preseason rankings say it should, then this game between the preseason No. 4 and No. 5 teams is huge. The winner is potentially in, and the loser is probably out. White Plains beat the Admirals in a tight game a year ago.
White Plains at Clarkstown North (Week 7): The gauntlet doesn’t stop for the Tigers as they have another playoff-caliber opponent in the final week of the season. Clarkstown North shocked White Plains early in the season last year and once again, a second loss could drop anyone out of playoff contention. For the Rams, White Plains is the toughest test (preseason No. 4) on the schedule.
Potential Surprise: Carmel. The Rams have a really good chance to run the table. If any of the big teams stumble, Carmel could be dancing without playing a team ranked higher than eighth.
2. John Jay-CR
4. Horace Greeley
5. Tappan Zee
6. Pearl River
7. Sleepy Hollow
9. Fox Lane
10. Hen Hud
11. Walter Panas
9. Byram Hills
11. Port Chester
12. Spring Valley
Games to Watch
Harrison at Rye (Week 7): This game could have zero meaning to the playoffs and it would still be the biggest game of the season in Section 1. As we saw last year, the teams at the top can potentially take some losses with these tough schedules. Imagine if Rye-Harrison meant someone was in and someone was out?
John Jay-CR at Horace Greeley (Week 3): These northern Westchester rivals will know where they stand after their midseason matchup. Greeley had a tough beginning to the year in 2011 and would like to be sitting pretty after a victory over the Indians. John Jay will be facing its third physical team in a row to start the year.
Nyack at Poughkeepsie (Week 7): Nyack came very close to taking the Pioneers down at MacCalman Field last year in Nyack before an incredible Poughkeepsie comeback. The Indians will definitely be looking for some payback and a victory over the preseason top-ranked Pioneers could go a long way.
Ossining at Pelham (Week 4): The Pelicans put themselves in playoff position last year with a victory over the Pride. Both teams will need some wins over higher-ranked teams, but a loss in this game will almost extinguish any playoff hopes.
Tappan Zee at Fox Lane (Week 3): The Foxes drop down to Class A after a rough season in Class AA and come in with a preseason ranked No. 9 They have a lot of teams to pass to make the playoffs, but a win over Greeley in Week 2 coupled with a victory over the Dutchmen could mean a great year. Tappan Zee was on the brink of the playoffs last year and steps its schedule up significantly.
Potential Surprise: Gorton. The Wolves could move their way up again this year because they’re ranked just 10th after making a playoff run last season. Ossining and Nyack are the only teams rated above Gorton on its schedule.
2. Our Lady of Lourdes
8. Putnam Valley
12. Kennedy Catholic
Irvington at Lourdes (Week 5): A rematch from last season’s dramatic playoff game, this is a game that Irvington potentially needs to win to get back to the playoffs. The Bulldogs have a much tougher schedule in 2012. Lourdes will be coming off a tough game with Croton and can’t have a letdown.
Westlake at Croton (Week 6): Like most teams in Section 1, Westlake lost handily to Croton a season ago and hopes to exact some revenge as the Tigers come back to the pack a bit. The Wildcats are ranked sixth to start the year and will need a marquee victory to get into playoff contention.
Edgemont at Pleasantville (Week 5): Class B has been very even the last couple years after Croton. Edgemont, which has a tenth-rated schedule, can make its playoff case with a victory over Pleasantville much like Irvington did a season ago. Pleasantville has a tough schedule this year and will need to beat every team below them including Edgemont.
Potential Surprise: Edgemont. The Panthers don’t play anyone ranked in the top five of the preseason. As long as there are some bonus points for the getting, Edgemont has a chance to pull off what Irvington did last year.
2. Dobbs Ferry
8. Blind Brook
10. Albertus Magnus
11. Rye Neck
12. Lincoln Hall
13. Palisade Prep
14. Yonkers Montessori Academy
Games to Watch
Dobbs Ferry at Bronxville (Week 7): The latest Class C rivals will meet up in the final week of the regular season. Both teams should make the playoffs regardless, but a slip up anywhere else in the schedule and this game becomes that much more important. Don’t forget that they could be playing each other two weeks later as well.
Blind Brook at Woodlands (Week 5): The Trojans snuck into the playoffs last year with a victory over Woodlands which gave them a lot of bonus points. Blind Brook doesn’t have the toughest schedule in the world and Woodlands is the highest-ranked team on its docket. A win could mean an undefeated or one-loss campaign. For the Falcons, a loss would be crippling to their playoff chances.
Tuckahoe at Pawling (Week 1): Pawling has a tough schedule that starts right away in week one. If Pawling is talented enough to hang with the Tigers, they could make noise throughout the season. For Tuckahoe, this game will be a good barometer and with a tougher schedule than rival Haldane, each game counts for something.
Potential Surprise: Blind Brook. If the Trojans have a season like they did a year ago, they’re going to be in the playoff conversation. A 6-win season is not out of the question.