It seems strange to talk and write about High School Football in Michigan when it's four months away. But with planning for a new format for the upcoming (hopefully) session and postseason for the 2020 campaign, what better time to put the details out now.

For the first time since the 1998 season, a change has come to how schools qualify for the football postseason. In that year was the debut of the "six-and-in" format, giving squads that reached six wins in their nine games (or five wins for eight-game schedules) an automatic bid into the postseason. The Michigan High School Athletic Association would then track the teams with the qualifying wins and fill the remainder of the 256-team field with teams that had the most playoff points, staggered by class. Then using school enrollments, the eight divisions were finalized by region and district.

With the number of teams that have moved to 8-Man football since its initial season in 2011, many of the small schools that were seen in Division 6, 7 and 8 found relief in the new format to save their football programs. The 2019 season saw the third year of two divisions at the 8-Man level.

Changes have arrived to the postseason format for almost all sports in the MHSAA within the last year, including the seeding of districts in Boys and Girls Basketball this past winter. Now, football has received its latest change in over 20 years.

The announcement from the MHSAA on April 20th explains how the divisions for football were put in place. The divisions in both 11- and 8-Man are evenly balanced based on enrollment from the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year. It may not match the current enrollment to school aid enrollment filings, and eligibility requirements for student-athletes are met. Football is the only sport in the MHSAA's platform with more than four classes. All other sports are also balanced by enrollment in four classes - A, B, C and D.

With the enrollments in place, each division has 66 schools (except Division 1 and 2). In the 8-Man divisions, they are split at 42 schools each. Like basketball, a new formula has been put in place to determine playoff points for the 11-Man ranks. The old formula that was started in 1998 had teams earning points based on wins and size of school. If a team defeated another team in a higher class, bonus points were awards. The new format will now award teams points based on wins, opponents wins and bonus points based on what division the team was that was defeated. For 8-Man football, the old formula will continue to be used.

With the new formula, the postseason teams will be determined by predetermined division and points. For 11-Man, each division will field a 32 teams, broken down to regions and districts there after. The new format has no automatic qualifiers. For 8-Man, the two divisions will have 16-team fields, broken down to regions and districts.

Below are the local teams and their divisions for the 2020 football season -

11-Man - Division 1 (Enrollment between 1497 and up)
Kalamazoo Central (1699)
Loy Norrix (1659)

11-Man - Division 2 (Enrollment between 1496-1140)
Mattawan (1193)
Portage Central (1356)
Portage Northern (1252)

11-Man - Division 3 (Enrollment between 1139-808)
Edwardsburg (815)
Gull Lake (980)
Niles (821)
St. Joseph (1026)
Stevensville Lakeshore (844)
Sturgis (924)

11-Man - Division 4 (Enrollment between 807-598)
Allegan (709)
Otsego (650)
Paw Paw (660)
Plainwell (799)
Three Rivers (651)
Vicksburg (795)

11-Man - Division 5 (Enrollment between 597-446)
Benton Harbor (543)
Berrien Springs (513)
Dowagiac (566)
Kalamazoo United - Christian and Hackett (474)
South Haven (530)

11-Man - Division 6 (Enrollment between 445-364)
Buchanan (434)
Coloma (440)
Constantine (429)
Comstock (394)
Niles Brandywine (386)
Watervliet (383)

11-Man - Division 7 (Enrollment between 363-267)
Bloomingdale (323)
Delton (345)
Galesburg-Augusta (322)
Lawton (287)
Schoolcraft (311)

11-Man - Division 8 (Enrollment between 266 and under)
Cassopolis (245)
Centreville (262)
Decatur (205)
Mendon (176)
Three Oaks-River Valley (176)
White Pigeon (218)

8-Man - Division 1 (Enrollment between 215-154)
Eau Claire (189)
Gobles (203)
Lawrence (174)
Marcellus (206)
Martin (162)
New Buffalo (187)
St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic - co-op with Benton Harbor Countryside Academy (245 - one of three schools above postseason eligibility)

8-Man - Division 2 (Enrollment between 153 and under)
Burr Oak (73)
Climax-Scotts (138)
Colon (152) - reigning 8-Man Division 1 Champion
St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (118)

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