VHSL Made Right Move
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 4, 2013, 08:43
Before the start of the high school football season, the Virginia High School League implemented a change in the way athletic teams compete with one another.
Instead of relying on the geographical locations of high school institutions, league administrators relied on the size of the schools, changing the way each are classified.
The idea behind the change is to eliminate the blow-out type of scores which have become common place over the last few seasons. Even this season, routs have quickly become the norm.
Just last weekend, Colonial Heights faced off against Dinwiddie. The Colonials never stood a chance, dropping a 77-6 game, overrun by the stable of running backs the Generals can throw at opposing teams.
While the Colonials were never a powerhouse, having won just eight games since the 2009 season, they are a team capable of competing in games against similar schools. They have a strong-armed quarterback in Isaiah Desima and a do everything linebacker Kevin Loftus who continually makes plays all over the field.
However, Colonial Heights is a 3A school, having an enrollment of just 890. Dinwiddie is 4A school with an enrollment of 1,357, according to VHSL-Reference. That creates a big mismatch on the field, one that will be eliminated in the coming years as schedules reflect the new changes.
“The schedule is what it is,” Generals head coach Billy Mills said after his team’s victory. ”We haven’t really been tested this year. I told them it isn’t the team we play, it’s all about us.”
It’s games like this which put the Generals at a competitive disadvantage when they do play teams who are capable of matching their talent.
But it doesn’t just affect those teams who are running the table.
It also affects those teams who have to play the teams with the higher classification.
Take Hopewell’s game against Thomas Dale for an example.
The Blue Devils have talent littered across their team in almost all phases: kicking, offense and defense. Yet, depth is an issue for a school which enrolls just 1,035 students.
Compare the total to Thomas Dale which enrolls 2,226 and one can begin to see what the Blue Devils were up against.
While they fought valiantly, even holding a lead through halftime and in the waning moments of the third quarter, before seeing the Knights’ players prevail.
“Hopewell is a well-coached team with a group of kids who are probably as hard-nosed as anyone you will face,” Knights head coach Kevin Tucker said after the game. “They never quit ... they got tired and that’s the sign of a good Hopewell football team.”
And there’s where the competitive disadvantage lies. The Blue Devils have to play their athletes on both sides of the ball, tiring them out over the course of the game.
It’s the reason why Hopewell head coach Ricky Irby was proud of his team’s effort, even after a loss where they could have won.
“I’m really proud of our offensive line, they are a way bigger team than us,” Irby said of Thomas Dale. “Their smallest guy is bigger than our biggest guy.
They have some big kids on that defensive front, some good athletes and our line blocked well. Our running game was pretty good.”
And a bigger point is the VHSL is not the only league to do this type of wholesale changes.
In fact, it has now reached the realms of the professional leagues as well.
Take a look at what Major League Baseball has been doing over the past decade to help bring parity to sport and let small-market teams compete. They introduced a luxury tax to punish those teams who go over the salary cap which is in place.
And it has worked.
Take a look at the playoffs this season and one will see a Pittsburgh team in the playoffs for the first time since 1992, a Tampa Bay team whose team payroll is less than 27 other teams in baseball coupled with an Oakland team which made money-ball famous with their own ingenuity.
Parity creates interest and leads to better games and competition. No one likes to see routs like L.C. Bird and Dinwiddie have put on teams. They rather see a game come down to the final seconds.
While no one is saying this change will automatically take some perennially losing programs and turn them into contenders, it will help balance out the teams in the best way possible, giving new meaning to competition.