There are 188 public schools with a football team in the state of Maryland. The schools are broken up into 4 classifications by enrollment (grades 9-11) with the largest schools classified as 4A down to the smallest as 1A. These classifications can change every two years based on changes in enrollment. For example, during the 2006 season, Damascus and Watkins Mill are classified as 4A schools, however Maryland has proposed moving them to class 3A beginning with the 2007 school due to declining enrollment (Clarksburg High School opened in 2006, drawing some of the student body away from each school).
Once schools are classified, each classification is broken up into 4 regions, North, South, East and West. The state attempts to "balance" each region geographically as well as with the number of schools in each region. Montgomery County schools are typically placed in the West region of each classification. The 4A West is made up entirely of Montgomery County teams. Prince George's County schools are typically aligned in the South region and the 4A South is entirely composed of PG County teams.
Earning a Playoff Berth
Victory Points: During the regular season, each team earns points for their victories. For defeating a 4A school, a team earns 8 points. They are awarded 7 points, 6 points and 5 points for wins over 3A, 2A and 1A schools, respectively. If a team plays a team that is not a public school in Maryland, the state will classify the opponent based on their enrollment and the winner will earn the proper number of points.
Bonus Points: To reward teams for playing a "tougher" schedule, teams also earn Bonus points for other wins by teams they have defeated. For example, in the 2006 Regular Season, Northwest, in going 10-0 defeated (obviously) 10 teams. They earned 3 Bonus points for Churchill (who finished 3-7), 8 Bonus Points for defeating Seneca Valley (8-2), 9 Bonus Points for defeating Quince Orchard (9-1) and so forth. Teams that refuse to play overtime (games ending with ties) and teams that play a 9-game schedule complicate matters slightly. Refer to the State Tournament Bulletin (link provided below) for clarification.
Averages: At the end of the season, the total points for each team are divided by the number of games they play (either 9 or 10) to come to a point average. It is this average that is used for Playoff qualification and seeding.
The first thing to remember is there are really four tournaments, one for each classification (4A through 1A). Let's look at the tournament for a single classification.
Regional Tournament: The top 4 teams in each region earn a berth in their regional tournament. The #1 seed will host the #4 seed and the #2 seed will host the #3 seed. The winners of those two regional semifinal games will play in the regional final at the site of the higher-seeded team.
State Tournament: The winners of each of the four regional tournaments will be re-seeded 1-4 according to their regular season point averages. Again, the #1 seed will host the #4 seed and the #2 seed will host the #3 seed in the state semifinals. The winners of each of the two semifinals will meet at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for the State Championship. (The higher-seeded team is the "home team" and will wear their dark color jerseys)