With everyone focused on the final two weeks of the 2016 high school football season, the state’s governing body – the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) – released the tentative football classifications for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years Tuesday morning.
Every two years, the FHSAA reclassifies member schools based on each school’s total enrollment. Classes range from 1A, which consists of smaller schools in mostly rural areas, to 8A – which holds all of the schools with enrollments of 2,300 or larger.
The classifications released Tuesday are still tentative as schools can petition to either move up or down in classification.
See the full list here
The biggest change happened in classes 1A-4A. Based on the state’s recent approval of a new football playoff system, which is based on points awarded for wins and losses and will take effect next season, the smaller four classifications will no longer have teams separated into districts.
Instead, the teams are only grouped by regions. The regions are essentially the same as they’ve been in years past – with teams from northern Florida occupying region 1 and South Florida teams sitting in region 4.
Booker T. Washington, which had won four consecutive Class 4A state championships prior to this season, remains in Class 4A and still sits in region 4. Joining the Tornadoes in region 4 are its former district foes Miami Edison, Monsignor Pace, and Homestead Keys Gate Charter. Region 4 also consists of the teams formerly in District 7-4A: University School, Belle Glade Glades Central, Clewiston and Somerset Academy Pines.
There are handful new teams joining Class 4A’s region 4. Coral Springs Charter, Key West, Miami LaSalle, Pine Crest, North Broward Prep and Miami Gulliver Prep – all of whom played in various independent leagues for the past two seasons – have elected to re-join the state series, likely because of the new playoff point system.
Fort Lauderdale’s Westminster Academy, Calvary Christian, Miami Palmer Trinity and Marathon are also set to rejoin the FHSAA as Class 3A (Region 4) teams after playing independently.
Nearly South Florida 10 teams elected to stay independent, most notably Archbishop McCarthy – which had won independent conference championships in each of the two past seasons.
Under the structure of the new playoff system, teams in classes 4A through 1A will be able to freely build their own schedules without obligation to play “district opponents” and will accumulate points based on their wins and losses to earn a spot in the postseason.
The point system classifies wins and losses into four categories.
A “tier one” win or loss awards more points if it is against programs that finish the season eight or more victories. The rest of the tiers follow suit, awarding fewer points for a win or loss based on the opponent’s record at the end of the season.
Points will be tallied at the end of the 11th week of the regular season and the state will release the official brackets for each class. For class 1A through 4A, the teams with the top four point totals from each region will earn playoff spots.
The larger classifications remained largely unchanged. While petitions are still pending, all of the districts with South Florida teams stayed as they’ve been for the past four seasons.
Class 7A still holds three districts with South Florida teams. District 14-7A held its three-team group of Blanche Ely, Fort Lauderdale and two-time defending 7A champion St. Thomas Aquinas.
McArthur, which finished with an undefeated regular season record for the first time in school history in 2016, will still compete in district 15-7A with South Broward, Cooper City, West Broward, Nova and Hollywood Hills.
District 16-7A is still the largest group in the state; consisting of nine teams – headlined by district champion Mater Academy and up-and-coming program Doral Academy.
Miami-Dade’s marquee district – district 16-6A – stayed intact. Miami Northwestern, Miami Carol City, Miami Central and Miami Norland will continue to battle for supremacy in what is called the “SEC” of all state’s districts. The tentative release also has Hialeah-Miami Lakes rejoining Class 6A, but the Trojans may elect to go back down to Class 4A as it did during the 2016 season.
The playoff point system will make one distinct modification to the bigger classifications. While the teams will still play against district opponents, only the district’s champion will be guaranteed a spot in the postseason.
The important factor to note is the makeup of each region in classes 8A through 4A.
In years past, the district runner-up will also earn a spot on the playoff bracket. However, the new playoff point system will allow for “wildcard teams” to qualify for postseason play; as the top eight teams from each region will be seeded based on their respective point totals regardless of which district they reside in.
An example of it, using this season’s results, would be a scenario where Central could have qualified for the playoffs based on if its point total was one of the eight highest in region 4-6A.
The finalized classifications will likely be released before the Christmas holiday break.
Hicks Transferring From Booker T. Washington
The offseason movement of players has already begun as SFHSSports learned Tuesday morning that 2018 three-star defensive end Robert Hicks intends to transfer from Booker T. Washington.
In a social media post, Hicks confirmed that he’d be leaving Booker T. and will transfer to Miami Central for his senior season.
Hicks, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound Auburn commit, played a major role on the Tornadoes’ defense this season – being credited with 12 sacks, tied for fifth overall in Miami-Dade County.
Central would be Hicks’ third school in his four-year high school career. He began at Norland before going to Booker T. and end with the Rockets.