The Florida High School Athletic Association announced Tuesday the 2017-18 alignment for the state’s football programs, and the new look includes two Brevard County independents returning to the annual hunt for playoff spots.
Another new look is the implementation of the playoff system that eliminates districts for schools the size of Class 4A and smaller.
Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island Christian, Brevard’s two independent teams, will again compete within regions beginning next fall, returning to eligibility for the playoffs under new FHSAA rules. To do so, the Cougars are leaving the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, but athletic director Micah Rockwell said the the program could still schedule SSAC schools.
“We’ve already got a couple scheduled for next year,” he said. “Scheduling freedom is the big thing. That conference is getting so big. It’s a great thing, but it’s just not the right fit for us right now.”
Those schools, along with 4A and 3A teams Astronaut, Cocoa, Holy Trinity and Melbourne Central Catholic, will not compete in districts. Instead, they will be free to compile their own 10-game schedules, and the top four teams in each region will earn playoff spots. The top teams will be determined by the new playoff system that assigns points for each win or loss depending on the opponent’s record.
The news marked a change in the public stance of Cocoa Beach officials, who said in early October the program was likely to remain independent.
For the largest Brevard schools, the changes are less significant.
Region 3 of 7A, which includes Melbourne and Viera, will stretch from Brevard, through Orlando and Lakeland, to Tampa and then south to the Fort Myers and Naples area.
In Class 6A, Region 4 will stretch from Volusia County south through Brevard (including Bayside, Eau Gallie and Heritage) to Miami. The six 5A schools in Brevard, including 2016 playoff teams Palm Bay and Merritt Island, saw essentially no changes, with the region mirroring the geographic area of Region 4 in 6A.
One change that will affect Melbourne Central Catholic and Holy Trinity is placement in Region 2. That will change the state semifinal matchup so that the regional champion will face schools from Jacksonville and the Panhandle rather than Tampa schools including Clearwater Central Catholic and Chaminade-Madonna.
Small schools wanting to continue to compete for district titles will be allowed to petition the FHSAA to play in a higher classification, and there could be other moves based on enrollment changes before the new classes are approved in January.
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FHSAA Football Classification for 2017-18
Class 7A, Region 3, District 6
Martin County, Melbourne, South Fork, Viera
Class 6A, Region 4, District 14
Bayside, Eau Gallie, Heritage, Jensen Beach, Okeechobee, Sebastian River
Class 5A, Region 4, District 14
Merritt Island, Palm Bay, Rockledge, Satellite, Space Coast, Titusville
Class 4A, Region 3
Astronaut, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Jones, Lake Highland Prep, Port Orange Atlantic, Avon Park, Bishop Verot, Gateway Charter, LaBelle, Lake Placid, Mulberry, Tenoroc
Class 3A, Region 2
Holy Trinity, Melbourne Central Catholic, John Carroll, Father Lopez, First Academy, Taylor, Winter Park Trinity Prep, Cardinal Newman, King’s Academy, Oxbridge Academy
Class 2A, Region 2
Merritt Island Christian, Halifax Academy, Deltona Trinity Christian, Oak Hall, St. Joseph, St. Francis Catholic, St. John Lutheran, Warner Christian, Cornerstone Charter, Foundation, Victory Christian