There are three sets of potential bubble teams: 1. Six schools that currently have five wins and need only to go 1-1 during the final two weeks to assure themselves of a playoff game; 2. Five schools with four wins. They still control their own destiny, if they capture victories each of the next two Fridays; and 3. Five schools with 3-4 records that need a season-ending two-game sweep to remain playoff eligible, though there will be no guarantees they’ll make it at 5-4.
Arthur-Lovington, Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman, Mahomet-Seymour, Monticello, Prairie Central and Watseka
Of that group, only Watseka should feel comfortable. The Warriors’ playoff points (total wins by the nine schools on their schedule) will easily be sufficient for qualification, even with two more losses. Watseka will have 45 points.
“We are in the playoffs, but 7-2 or 6-3 are better than 5-4 for a first-round opponent,” said Watseka coach Steve Lucas, who will be without two-way starters Alex Gocken and Austin Hasselbring for Friday’s game against Clifton Central.
M-S will have a maximum of 39 playoff points. Last year, the cutoff to advance was 40 points.
“We are on the low side,” M-S coach Keith Pogue said. “We have to get a win to get in; 5-4 will mean we’re done.”
The Bulldogs host unbeaten and state-ranked Normal University High on Friday.
“We have not executed well against quality competition this year,” Pogue said. “We need to step up this week.”
The Bulldogs could regain the services of linebacker Grant Farchmin, but back Tyler Francisco is sidelined. Pogue has his own idea of how the playoff pairings could work, if M-S successfully qualifies.
“I think we will be in 5A, and that may mean a matchup with Urbana,” he said. “That would be a very tough draw for us but would be a very cool game for the community. I really admire what coach (Nathan) Watson has accomplished over there.”
Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman travels to state-ranked and unbeaten Bismarck-Henning this week and wraps up the regular season with the annual Coal Bucket game at home against Westville.
“We’d like to avoid being a bubble team, but given that we’re playing Bismarck this week, it will be tough to handle,” Buffaloes coach Josh Cavanaugh said. “We’re a bubble team, if we don’t win another one.”
The maximum point total for G-RF/C is 38. The Buffaloes this week could be without sophomore center Matt Willaman, who suffered a pregame sprained ankle last Friday.
Monticello is in a situation where it is guaranteed of 34 playoff points but cannot finish with more than 38.
“I am pretty certain we will not get in the playoffs at 5-4,” Sages coach Cully Welter said. “I think we have to get a lot better in a hurry.”
Monticello hosts a Stan Wienke-coached Shelbyville team that has a five-game winning streak and also is seeking to clinch a playoff berth Friday.
The Sages have been without injured two-way starters Dylan Benson and Austin McCall. Brendan Menacher returned in a limited capacity last week but is not yet at 100 percent.
Arthur-Lovington will finish between 33 and 39 playoff points, and Prairie Central’s tally will wind up between 34 and 43.
A-L coach Dale Schuring said his emphasis will be the same as it was for the first seven games. “We will approach them the same way as all others during the season,” he said. “We will try to correct our mistakes and improve our execution in all phases of the game. The final two weeks have no more importance than the first two weeks.”
Arcola, Argenta-Oreana, Danville, Milford/Cissna Park
Of the five, Arcola is in the best shape if it wins one more game. The Purple Riders’ opponents are guaranteed of at least 43 points and could amass 46. Milford/Cissna Park is in the worst shape if it finishes 5-4. The Bearcats will end between 33 and 36 playoff points. The Bearcats, however, will have a better idea of their fate after Friday’s game at Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac because they will receive a Week 9 forfeit from Hoopeston
A-O will conclude with at least 39 points and could have as many as 43. The Bombers are ready for the late-season challenges.
“Our kids understand that we must have six wins to guarantee a playoff spot,” coach Chad Eisenmenger said. “It is a two-week season for us, and we have to win one at a time.”
A-O missed five starters last week and hasn’t been at full strength since the opening game. However, Eisenmenger expects everybody
back for Friday’s game against Warrensburg-Latham.
PBL’s point total will fall between 40 and 45 points in the event the Panthers are a five-win team. Likewise, Danville will wind up between 36 and 40 points if it finishes with five wins.
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac, St. Thomas More,
Tri-County and Tuscola
Tri-County (42 points) and St. Thomas More
(40 points) are in the best position, if they can win out. It won’t be easy. Tri-County takes on
6-1 Villa Grove this week. St. Thomas More has Iroquois West this week and then takes on Rantoul.
Regardless of the school that faces the win-or-be-eliminated contests, GCMS coach Mike Allen said “it is nerve-racking, but there isn’t much we can do but take care of our own business and hope we get enough points. We just need to concentrate on having good practices and staying focused.”
GCMS’ playoff points will range between 34 and 42. Tuscola’s will fall between 38 and 42, and O/A-P’s will wind up between 36 and 39.
Nine area programs are already in the playoffs, including unbeatens Bismarck-Henning, Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement, LeRoy and St. Joseph-Ogden. The current 6-1 teams are Ridgeview, Salt Fork, Unity, Urbana and Villa Grove.