EIGHT-MAN FOOTBALL PREVIEW – WEEK NINE
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
For most teams, this week marks the penultimate weekend of the regular season, but a few others will wrap up their slates. With the postseason looming on the horizon, our focus again this week are the play-off scenarios for each division. All rankings are according to Thursday’s CHSAA Selection and Seeding Index. All seven league champions are guaranteed a spot in the bracket, with the remaining nine teams being selected by that metric.
Dove Creek (2nd) can lock up the league title and the automatic berth into the postseason with a win over Dolores (40th) on Friday. The Bulldogs know that they’ll be in the play-offs regardless of how their final two games go, but completing an unbeaten regular season would secure a home game in the opening round. However, if they are upended this week by the Bears, that would keep the winner of Friday’s contest between Mancos (3rd) and Sanford (6th) in the equation. Both of those teams head into their match-up also knowing a postseason berth is in their futures. Also, both have one league loss… to Dove Creek.
For the Bluejays, it will be their regular season finale. They would not be in control of their league title hopes, as they need a win this week, and losses by Dove Creek this week and next. Sanford wraps up next week with Dolores, so a pair of wins by the Mustangs, coupled with two losses by Dove Creek, and Sanford would earn the auto qualifier. Despite being eliminated from the postseason conversation, Sargent (34th) will still have a say in who does make the field and in what order. The Farmers have a huge non-league affair with Hayden (12th) on Friday, and the Farmers will host Dove Creek next Friday.
Hayden created a bit of havoc in this league’s race by handing previously unbeaten West Grand (15th) its first loss of the season last week. The Tigers handled the Mustangs 54-24, giving them a tiebreaker which places them second in the league, behind leader Vail Christian (9th). Hayden’s at-large hopes (should they not win the division) likely cannot handle a loss in Friday’s game with Sargent.
Vail Christian visits West Grand on Friday and a win by the traveling Saints should give them the league title, thanks to a 36-32 win over Hayden a few weeks back. They still have a league contest with Rangely (26th) next week, but they would own wins over the two closest challengers. West Grand creates a three-way tie with a victory this week. Should the top three end up in a tie, the second tiebreaker (MaxPreps ranking) would be utilized. Hayden sits 11th in that metric this week, with Vail Christian 12th and West Grand 15th.
Simla (4th) could have a share of the league crown locked up by the end of the week, as the two closes challengers to the Cubs meet on Friday, with St. Mary’s (30th) hosting Calhan (21st). If the Pirates win that home contest, they would likely enter next week’s game at Simla just one game back in the standings.
Winning the league looks to be their only way into the postseason. Calhan needs to win this week and have Simla lose both of its final two games to grab the division crown. With a non-league game against South Park (37th) next week, the Bulldogs won’t get much help in the seeding index, so their best chance of making the play-off field is by winning the division. The Cubs, who have outscored their opponents by 201 points this season, visit South Park on Saturday.
A showdown for the League Four (Plains) crown could be on the horizon for the final week of the regular season, should Haxtun (1st) and Merino (8th) both win this week. Haxtun hosts a desperate Sedgwick County (18th) on Saturday, with the Cougars likely needing wins in each of their final two games to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2013. The Fightin’ Bulldogs know that they’re in, but the defending champs are trying to repeat for the first time since the program won three straight titles between 1989 and 1991.
Merino visits Akron (7th) on Friday, coming off a 58-24 win over Caliche last week. They ran for more than 475 yards in that win, with three backs topping the century mark. Akron got close to 200 yards and three rushing scores from Anderson Filla in its 38-0 win at Sedgwick County last week, and that group of Rams needs two wins, and a pair of Haxtun losses, to claim the league title outright. A win creates the possibility of a three-way tie for title. Dayspring Christian, with three straight league losses, is eliminated for the league race, but with the Eagles sitting 11th in the seeding index, a win over Caliche (17th) keeps them in contention for a play-off spot. Caliche needs the win this week to bolster its postseason hopes.
The title in this league will likely be decided on Saturday when Lyons (5th) visits Front Range Christian (20th). Both are unbeaten in league play. The hosts Falcons still have a date with third place Byers (23rd) next week, so a win this weekend could potentially only give them a share of the title. They will know for sure by the time they take the field, as the Bulldogs will host Justice (41st) on Thursday night. A win on Saturday gives Lyons victories over the top two challengers in the league, earning no less than a share of the title for the Lions. They still host fourth place Belleview Christian (29th) next Thursday.
For both Front Range Christian and Byers, the likelihood of an at-large berth is very slim. Unless one of those two can earn the league title, it looks like this division will probably only be represented by Lyons in the postseason.
This league has felt like a runaway all year, but with two weeks to play, Crowley County (10th) and John Mall (24th) are tied atop the standings with 3-0 marks. Fowler (22nd) has remained in contention by winning its last two games and is 2-1 heading into this weekend. Those Grizzlies will host John Mall on Friday, needing a third straight win to keep their divisional hopes, and postseason aspirations, intact.
Crowley County, who visits John Mall next week, hosts Hoehne (28th) on Friday. The Chargers have won their first three league games by a combined score of 170-28. Hoehne has dropped its last two games by a combined tally of 98-36. Should Crowley County and John Mall both win this week, next week’s showdown is winner-takes-all in the division. It really looks as if the play-off chances for the Panthers hinge upon them winning the division.
We’re probably going to have to wait until next Friday to crown the champion in the old Ark Valley league, as Holly (13th) heads into this week as the lone unbeaten in league play, but there’s a three-team logjam behind the Wildcats at 2-1. One of those teams is Wiley (19th), who will host the Wildcats on Thursday. The other two, Swink (14th) and McClave (16th), will be heavily favored in games against Las Animas (32nd) and Springfield (35th), respectively.
McClave pushed Holly last week, before eventually falling by a 44-26 final that Holly head coach Dayne Eaton said was not indicative of how close the game actually was. The Cards own a win over Swink, so they need to win out and also have Swink do the same to earn the league title. McClave can also win the division by winning its final two games and having Wiley upset Holly this week, and having Swink beat the Wildcats next week. For Wiley, the path to the division crown begins by winning on Thursday, and next week, while also having Swink drop one of its two remaining games. Holly is the only team truly in control of its own destiny, as the Wildcats take the division with two wins, regardless of how the rest of the league does in games which they are not involved.
Stay tuned and get your popcorn ready, as the final two weeks of the regular season still hold a lot of drama.