Sure sometimes five wins will get you in, maybe even four if it’s a down year across the state and you only played eight games, but the only local team who can start trying to position itself for home games instead of just struggling to make the 256-team playoff field is Reading. They are one of 50 6-0 teams throughout the entire expanse of the two peninsulas, meaning everyone else is jealous — and also, in need of some victories unless they prefer watching their friends play in November.
As much as fans, coaches and ADs start whispering about who is going to be in and who will be left out, the fact of the matter is that 206 positions remain and the river card won’t be played for another few weeks. As of right now there are 369 teams left in postseason contention according to the MHSAA playoff points summary, with 106 4-2 teams on that list, including North Adams-Jerome and 113 more at 3-3, such as Jonesville, Hillsdale and Pittsford. That means there are several hundred teams who are on the fringe of being in the playoffs right now who could either be 7-2 and hosting a game in a month or 3-6 and looking for a new head coach.
With that in mind, here’s what four local teams have ahead of them in their quest for that often elusive 10th game. Rick Bailey can just smile, knowing its not when you win six games in this format, it’s if you win them.
North Adams-Jerome (4-2)
A win against Tekonsha on Oct. 16 will guarantee the Rams an outright SCAA Division II title, but it will need to win two of its final three games to assure its first playoff berth since 2004.
Here’s the dilemma: a surefire loss is headed their way with Climax-Scotts on tap this week. Don’t try to tell me I’m a villain for not giving N A-J a chance, but I’d rather bet on the state passing a new budget in the next month than on the Rams winning this game. The Panthers are as strong as ever this season and they have humiliated N A-J by a combined score of 226-14 the last four meetings.
Getting over that loss should be easy enough though with a potential field day against Tekonsha (2-4), a school that may struggle to field an 11-man team in the near future.
That leaves the Rams with a season finale against a 4-2 Battle Creek St. Phil who has an almost identical resume to-date.
The Fighting Tigers have wins over Tekonsha, Burr Oak (forfeit), Bellevue (2-4) and St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (a Class D school with enrollment of 125 and in their first full season of competition).
The Fighting Tigers were a perfect 9-0 in the 2008 regular season before a first-round playoff exit and things have been up-and-down ever since. They lost their top two running backs and they are a turnover prone team that relies a lot more on passing than they have in the past.
Starting QB Thomas Bauman is an accurate passer, but he is just a first-year starter who has yet to win a big game. The Rams have a nice road win at Waldron to their credit, and the way they handled the Camden-Frontier offense last week had Rams faithful reminiscing of the school’s glory days.
This weeks St. Phil, Camden-Frontier match-up will go a long way in giving a clearer picture of the Rams future.
The Hornets were the talk of town at the beginning of the year — for all the wrong reasons, and they still have a legitimate shot of being the talk of the entire county once the regular season is complete. It will take some major resiliency on the road though.
The quest for six wins begins this week in Columbia Central, a team that is hard to figure out.
They lost by just three to an undefeated Stockbridge squad last week and they were within two touchdowns of a stellar Onsted team earlier this year. But they lost to Parma Western, who was given a real litmus test on the Hornets home field, and they narrowly beat Albion, a spotty team at best.
They allow a lot of points (27.8 per game) and with Mike Curby and Aaron Blanchard tearing up the ground as of late, prospects look good for Hillsdale.
The following week is a trip to Dundee, to play a 2-4 Vikings team that has its lone wins against two winless programs. They are in the increasingly competitive LCAA, but I’m not going to waste my words on this contest, because if they Hornets can’t beat them they don’t deserve a shot at the postseason in week nine.
Which is the week the Hornets take on currently undefeated (6-0) Manchester.
Manchester had an impressive win over 5-1 Clinton in week one, but ever since they’ve tried to make diamonds out of a schedule lined with tiny pebbles. Even with Clinton taken into account Manchester’s six wins have come against teams with a combined 14-22 record.
The thing that stands out about the Flying Dutchmen is their aerial attack. They have completed over 61 percent of their passes as a team for 1,641 yards and 13 touchdowns against just one interception. The Hornets’ secondary has been very capable this season though, while opposing rushing attacks have caused problems.
If it is a win or go home situation there will be plenty more to say about this one in a short matter of time.
The Comets could easily be 5-1 or 4-2 right now, but “could be’s” don’t earn you tickets to the dance. As it is, John Sigler better figure on a few more 200-yard rushing games and the defense will have to continue to progress at the rate it has been if it wants that first playoff game for the seniors.
This week’s test is a road trip to Concord, a 5-1 team who critics seem to laugh at as a serious threat to any decent team who is well prepared. I guess that’s what happens when you beat Springport by only six and Quincy by seven, plus you get taken to the woodshed against Union City in your one chance to prove yourself.
They can certainly air the ball out though and are capable of big plays, something the Comets continue to try and guard themselves against.
Interestingly, the Massey Ratings, a computerized ratings system used for sports from the high school to professional ranks, predicts a 26-17 win for the Comets this week, according to HighSchoolSports.net.
If the computers are right, which is a laughable phrase in an era dominated by BCS discussions, then the Homer (1-5) game on Oct. 16 should be a gimme for the Comets as long as the bus has enough gas to get them there.
Two wins would give Jonesville a chance to take out a playoff regular to make themselves playoff eligible. Blissfield (4-2) has lost just 10 games the last five years combined and they lost by five points to a Hudson team that everyone is slobbering all over about.
The last two seasons the Royals have left a sour taste in the Comets’ mouth following week nine with 30-0 and 48-6 drubbings of Jonesville.
Josh Lindeman wasn’t the coach though, John Sigler was at QB instead of halfback and the glass was seemingly half empty instead of half full.
If all goes wrong — or right, depending on who you ask — Battle Creek St. Phil could potentially ruin the dreams and aspirations of two local high school football teams.
With the Redskins clinging to the threads of earning three straight wins to get in, they will first have to beat a team that shut them out last year. Then again — four teams shut them out last year — and 2008 is a distant memory for current C-F players and fans.
The Redskins have played well at home, but none of their players have ever experienced the pressure that goes along with trying to sustain success.
Last week C-F had a division title for the taking and now they can’t lose again if they want to take a step into uncharted territory.
What is so important about Friday’s game against Battle Creek St. Phil is that the Fighting Tigers might just be the last major hurdle to clear before the Redskins are home free.
The following week is already a check-mark in the win column because of the automatic forfeit from Burr Oak, leaving Bellevue as the only roadblock.
The Broncos are 2-4 with wins over Litchfield and a team who has won two games in its three years of being a program (Big Rapids Crossroads Academy), but they played St. Phil within a touchdown and stayed with Pittsford for a half.
One thing that has worked to the Redskins advantage on several occasions this year has been the opposition’s unfamiliarity with trying to stop the spread offense and C-F will let it all fly in week nine I imagine, especially if a date the next week is at stake.