I've long advocated a uniform playoff system in athletics across the state, regardless of PIAA district affiliation.
And I've said more than once that the minimum requirement to get a postseason berth should be a winning - or at least a .500 - record in the regular season.
That said, I surprise myself by saying this: Juniata's field hockey team should be in the District 6 Class AA tournament this year.
That may not happen - illness and injury have hampered the Indians late in the campaign, cutting their already thin ranks. Their accomplishments are even more impressive when that's taken into account.
Juniata to this point has won four games, and has two very winnable games in the final stretch - teams that they have had success against - putting the Indians on the verge of the best season they've assembled in most of a decade.
If Juniata does win those two games, the team will be able to say that it accumulated more victories this year than the graduating class from last fall managed across all four years of high school. It would represent as many wins as the team has had coaches since today's seniors were in junior high.
Two teams from Juniata County with sub-.500 records have entered postseason play in the recent past, including Juniata's softball team last spring. Coach Brian Sheaffer said at the time that he believed the people that are paying the freight - not the school district - should make the choice on playoff entry.
And, since District 6 allows any team to enter, it's only fair that the field hockey team be given the same latitude as the softball squad.
Who knows - the Indians could win the title. There are four possible opponents in the mix, and the Indians have won all their games to date against two of them. They don't play the other two, although they did scrimmage Forbes Road - the presumptive favorite - in the preseason.
It would be a nice ending to the season, but more important, could be a nice ending to an independent program. Boosters on both sides of the district suddenly seem open to the possibility of ending the impasse that kept the teams from forming a cooperative last fall, as they probably should have.
They'd be wise, however, to keep a merged team at Juniata and enjoy the benefit of being in District 6 - in fact, if the school district puts the team at East Juniata, it could mean that District 6 loses an automatic state qualifier in the sport. District 4, where the Tigers play, is home to perennial state contenders Mifflinburg and Selinsgrove, and would be a rough road even for a combined team.
Mifflin County's field hockey team has proven itself to be the one program in that school district that was prepared for its shift into the Mid-Penn Conference. Victories Monday and Wednesday were landmarks for the program and the school, because it proved that the Huskies CAN compete in the Commonwealth Division.
Coach Tish Maclay has been getting her teams ready for competition like this as long as I've known her - she'd rather spend a non-league game getting taken to the limit by one of the state's top programs than scoring goals against a weaker opponent. That paid off this fall in a sport where the Mid-Penn is one of the strongest conferences in the nation.
The season isn't over for this crew, which already has clinched a winning season overall and in the league. The squad proved wrong 18 months of badmouthing the school district's decision to enter the league.
Although most of Mifflin County's other teams this fall have had disappointing seasons, it's surprising how long most of them remained, at least potentially, playoff eligible. That's because of the school's self-imposed policy for entering tournaments.
In the past, Mifflin County teams had to be at or above .500 at the cut off date for entry, although unplayed games could be counted as wins. This year, that was modified to say the team had to be .500 at least against potential playoff opponents.
So, for example, the soccer teams may have four games against District 6 teams in their class, and would have to win two of them - and could finish 2-18 overall. The school reserves veto right, so that scenario may never play out. And a lot of coaches would rather not enter the playoffs with lesser records, even if policy allowed.
Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.