EIGHT-MAN FOOTBALL PREVIEW – WEEK EIGHT
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
With just three weeks of regular season play remaining, league titles are close to being secured, and with those, automatic spots in the postseason will be earned. Just as we did with six-man yesterday, we focus on those races this week. All rankings are based on Friday’s release of the CHSAA Selection and Seeding Index, which combines the CHSAA RPI and MaxPreps rankings, the two metrics that will be used to round out the play-off field and then seed the bracket.
Only two weeks into the league calendar, Dove Creek (2nd) is already on the verge of locking up the crown. The Bulldogs own wins over Mancos (3rd) and Sanford (6th). This is their bye week, but they can take a big step closer to the league title if Sanford beats Sargent (35th) this week. Dove Creek will be heavily favored next week against Dolores (40th) and the Bulldogs close out with Sargent in two weeks.
Whichever team loses Friday’s contest will have two league losses, all but eliminating them from title contention. For Sanford, a win sets up a big showdown with Mancos next week. With the Bluejays having picked up a 64-0 win over Dolores on Thursday, they will go into that contest with no less than a share of second place. Either of the two teams that will be tied with one league loss will still have an outside shot at the title, but will need to win out and have the Bulldogs lose both of their remaining games.
West Grand (11th) and Vail Christian (8th) are both unbeaten in league play, and barring a late season collapse by either, they seem to be safely in the postseason. The Mustangs put their perfect season mark on the line tonight against Hayden (15th) who is one game back in the loss column. The Tigers would be in the postseason if it began today, but they likely need to pull off the upset this week to solidify their odds, as their two remaining opponents are sitting 35th and 36th in the seeding index.
Vail Christian edged Hayden 36-32 last week and the Saints will be favored at Soroco (36th) tonight. If both of the league leaders hold serve this week, they will meet next week at West Grand, with the division title on the line. Plateau Valley (26th) sits fourth in the league and has West Grand in week 10, so the Cowboys aren’t completely out of the postseason mix. However, they will need to win out, and then get quite a bit of help.
Simla (4th) has a lead over both Calhan (21st) and Elbert (24th) as the lone team in the league without a divisional loss. The Cubs visit Elbert on Saturday and a win leaves them just one more victory away from clinching nothing less than a share of the crown. They own a win over Calhan, so the Bulldogs would need to win the rest of their games, and have Simla drop two of three, to take the title. Elbert has to win this week to create a three-way tie atop the league. The Bulldogs have already picked up a forfeit from Pikes Peak Christian for next week, so this is their last league contest.
St. Mary’s (30th) is still in the mix for the division, as they Pirates host Calhan next week, and will wrap up the regular season at Simla. They have a loss to Elbert last week, so a win tomorrow at South Park (37th) is a must. Simla is a lock for the postseason, but unless someone else wins the division, the Cubs will be the only representative for the league.
Haxtun (1st) has been the most impressive team in the state, but there is a good chance that the Fightin’ Bulldogs have to go win out to claim the league title. They are tied with Merino (7th) at 2-0 inside the division, and the two don’t play each other until week 10. Haxtun hosts Dayspring Christian (13th) and Sedgwick County (18th) over the next two weeks, while the Rams visit Caliche (17th) this week and Akron (10th) before that big meeting.
Four of the six teams in the league are near locks for the postseason, and the two others are right on the doorstep. Sedgwick County hosts Akron tonight, with the winner likely having sole possession of third in the league. The Cougars probably climb into the top 16 of the seeding index with a win. Caliche has the toughest route to the postseason, as the Buffs visit Dayspring Christian next week and then host Akron to wrap up the regular season.
The title in league five will likely be decided next week when Lyons (5th) visits Front Range Christian (19th). Both are unbeaten in league play. Lyons is a lock for the postseason, but with games against Justice (41st) this week, and Byers (26th) in week 10, the Falcons probably have to win out to get in as the division champ.
Lyons has Gilpin County (38th) this week, and closes with Belleview Christian (28th). The Lions have outscored their opponents 266-58 on the season, and have wins over two teams in the top-eight of the seeding index. Belleview Christian has one league loss (Front Range Christian) and could still factor into the divisional title mix, but the Bruins must win out and get some help to create a three-way tie. However, the second tiebreaker is MaxPreps rankings, which favors Lyons.
Crowley County (9th) is the favorite in league six, but the Chargers are tied with John Mall (22nd). They meet in the regular season finale, and there’s a good chance that the title is still up for grabs at that time. The Chargers have outscored the opposition by an even 200 points and that is likely to increase as they visit winless Custer County (39th) this week. Next week’s game against Hoehne (23rd) could be a challenge.
John Mall’s schedule the next two weeks has the Panthers visiting Dolores Huerta Prep (32nd) and Fowler (27th), both of which can have a negative impact on their RPI because of opponent’s winning percentage, and opponent’s opponent’s winning percentage. Still, if the Panthers win out, none of that will matter, as they would be in the postseason field as the division champ. Hoehne and Fowler meet this week, with the winner keeping its slim play-off hopes alive.
This league will probably go down to the wire, as the top four teams are all still alive for the championship. Holly (12th) shares the lead with McClave (16th) and those two meet on Friday in Holly. Swink (14th) is tied with Wiley (20th) for third, but the Lions own the tiebreaker after beating Wiley last week.
Swink visits Springfield (34th) this week, while Wiley is at Las Animas (33rd). Wiley will host Holly next week, while McClave goes to Springfield, and Swink hosts Las Animas. The final week of the season has McClave hosting Wiley, Holly at Swink, and Springfield at Las Animas. Depending on how everything shakes out, the league could possibly get as many as four teams into the postseason, or as few as one.