SIX-MAN FOOTBALL PREVIEW – WEEK NINE
BY: KERRY SHERMAN
The regular season wraps up next weekend and several league championships will be decided before then. We’ll take a look at the key games in each of the five leagues and check out potential play-off scenarios. All rankings are according to Friday morning’s CHSAA Selection and Seeding Index. The five division champions are guaranteed a spot in the 16-team bracket, with the remaining 11 teams earning at-large bids through that metric.
The East will get at least four teams into the final bracket, as the division currently has half of the top eight spots in the seeding index. Idalia (17th) could make the field, despite entering this week at 1-6. That’s because the Wolves have played the toughest schedule, according to the CHSAA RPI. They travel to Hi-Plains (28th) on Friday, to face a Patriots squad that is also 1-6. Idalia closes with Eads (10th) next week, so a win this week keeps them in the equation.
Stratton (1st) hosts Arickaree (3rd) on Friday, with the victor claiming the division title and the automatic berth into the postseason. Both are locks to make the field, but a first round home game could hang in the balance for the Bison, who have the weakest strength of schedule for teams in the top-10. They are coming off a 52-33 win over Otis (5th), who is also safely in the postseason field. It’s the finale for Arickaree, while Stratton still has a trip to Fleming (2nd) on the schedule for next week. Otis wraps up with a non-league affair against Walsh (20th) on Friday.
The fourth team that is safely in the field is Genoa-Hugo (8th), who has the week off. The Pirates close out with a home game against Hanover (19th) next week. As is the case with Arickaree and Otis, these final two weeks will determine if the Pirates open the postseason at home or on the road, as they hold the final “home” spot in the index.
Hanover visits Deer Trail (15th) on Friday and the winner is the league champion. It’s that simple. Both teams are unbeaten in the division, and it’s very likely that only the champion makes its way into the postseason bracket. There is a path for the Hornets, should they lose on Friday, but it involves upsetting Genoa-Hugo next week. Those two programs have a lot of familiarity, as they were members of the same league for many years.
If Deer Trail loses, the Eagles would need a win in their finale next week at Cotopaxi to get an at-large, and even then, might need some help to squeeze out one of the final spots. A win over Hanover removes that scenario, as they would be safely in the field, but would be on the road in the opening round.
Outside of those two top contenders in the league, it doesn’t look as if anyone else has a shot at making the postseason. Kiowa (26th) is the next highest team in the seeding index, and the Indians have wrapped up league play. They do have two games left with teams above them in the metric, as they host Cheraw (9th) on Saturday and visit La Veta (18th) next week. Wins in both could get them back into the mix, but the stars still might not align properly to get the Indians into the field.
Fleming visits Briggsdale (12th) on Friday and the Wildcats are the league champs with a victory. They are the only team in the North without a league blemish and they remain in the discussion for the top overall seed with a win over their rivals. For Briggsdale, it becomes the league champion with a win and then a loss by North Park (6th) against Prairie (13th) on Saturday.
However, if Briggsdale wins and North Park also gets the W, it would create a three-way tie, which would be broken by the standings in the MaxPreps rankings. It would appear as if all four teams mentioned are safely in the field, but things could get dicey for both Briggsdale and Prairie with losses this weekend. The Falcons were scheduled to face Flagler next week, but have already received a forfeit from the Panthers. The Mustangs host Hi-Plains next week. Both North division teams will see their strength of schedule take hits.
The South East division has been cannibalizing itself all season, but the league still has four teams in the top-10 of the seeding index, and a fifth could potentially get itself into the field. We start at the top of the standings, where Granada (4th) is the league champion by virtue of the Bobcats’ 31-20 victory over Cheyenne Wells (7th) earlier in the season. Those two are tied at 4-1 in the league, and that game serves as the tiebreaker. Both still have a strong chance of hosting opening round contests. Granada closes with a non-league contest at Sierra Grande (14th) next week, while the Tigers travel to Branson/Kim (11th) next week.
Cheraw is tied with Eads (10th) for third in the division, but the Wolverines own the head-to-head tiebreaker in that pairing. They are also one spot ahead of the Eagles in the seeding index. After this week’s game against Kiowa, Cheraw will close with Primero (27th) next week. Eads was set to visit Miami-Yoder (30th) on Friday, but the Eagles received a forfeit earlier in the week. They will conclude the regular season at Idalia next week.
While those four teams are all securely in the postseason, Walsh still has a chance of joining them, but the Eagles face a tough challenge. They must beat Otis (at Flagler) on Friday. That is the most important step. With a trip to Manzanola (32nd) on tap next week that will hurt their strength of schedule, the Eagles have to take down the highly-ranked Bulldogs and then get a little bit of help in front of them. A loss on Friday will effectively end their postseason hopes.
The penultimate weekend of play in the classification begins with three teams from the South West in the bracket, and another knocking on the door. Depending on how things shake out these final two weekends, the division could get anywhere from one to four in the final field.
Branson/Kim is the league champion and the Bearcats can complete a clean sweep of the division with a win against La Veta on Saturday. The Redhawks have a pair of league losses already, so their only shot at making the field is by way of an at-large bid. An upset victory over the league champs would go a long way to making that happen. It could help them leap-frog the loser of Friday’s clash between Sierra Grande and Cotopaxi, who will slug it out for sole possession of second place in the division.
Cotopaxi is in a very tenuous position, as the Pirates begin the weekend occupying the final postseason spot. A loss to the Panthers drops them out of that slot and puts them in chase mode, hoping that the teams directly below them also lose. There is still a chance to make the play-offs, even with a loss, but that requires a win over Deer Trail next week. For Sierra Grande, there is a little more wiggle room, but a loss definitely hurts their play-off aspirations. The Panthers would most likely have to beat Granada next week to offset a loss this week. They lost a wild 48-44 shootout with the Bobcats in the postseason last year.
Mountain Valley (23rd) isn’t completely out of the equation, but the Indians have to beat Primero and North Park over the final two weekends, and then get an extreme amount of help. It bears mentioning, as there is still a path to the postseason, but with tons of variables in play. The same goes for Peetz (21st) in the North and Kit Carson (22nd) in the South East.