How VHSL football action comes into play

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, August 18, 2015

As the fall season for high school sports approaches and many of you follow local high school teams or have children playing on them, you may try to figure out how the conferences and playoffs work.

Gone are the days where there were three division (A, AA and AAA) and good teams actually made the playoffs while battling it out for a state championship. Instead, everyone pretty much makes the conference playoffs and a huge number make the state playoffs.

Since the inception of the conference system and the 16-team football division system put together by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) a few years ago, many people still don’t understand exactly how it works and it is honestly one of the most confusing systems around.

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In football, and this is only for football, the playoffs feature the top 16 teams playing from East and West sides to determine a final four state playoff matchup.

For the James River District (JRD) teams, there are three divisions (1A East, 2A East and 2A West) that hold those teams. There is also a 1A West, but no JRD teams are on that side of the divisions.

For football, the teams will be seeded at the end of the year according to the VHSL ratings scale that takes many factors into account including winning percentages and what size school teams come from.

There will be 16 schools from Region 1A East and West that will be seeded to play.

The top two teams surviving from the East side will then play the top two teams from the West Side of the bracket in a state playoff final four game.

Central of Lunenburg and Cumberland high schools would have to make the top 16 in the 1A East side of the playoff bracket in order to be included in the tournament.

The same goes for the 2A division where Buckingham and Randolph-Henry high schools are seeded in the 2A West side, while Prince Edward, Goochland, Amelia, Bluestone and Nottoway are seeded on the 2A East side of the bracket.

In every other sport, regular seasons remain pretty much the same, but the district tournaments step aside for conference tournaments.

The conferences are put together according to schools geographical location and the enrollment of each school, supposedly.

This season Central and Cumberland will be moving to Conference 42 where they will play against teams like Mathews and Charles City even though the distance from either school to Mathews is several hours.

So if you play volleyball, golf or a spring sport, then at the end of the regular season, and no matter your record, you will play in the conference playoffs against teams that are mostly not in your district.

If you are a Cumberland or Lunenburg fan, then at the end of the year you no longer have to deal with the “Goochlands” and “Buckinghams” of the world.

Brian Nowlin is a staff writer for The Farmville Herald. His email address is