OK, now that I’ve had some time to digest last night’s loss, I thought of something I came across last season. Fayette went 3-6 (technically 4-6 if you count the forfeit win over Sacred Heart); all six teams Fayette lost to advance to the playoffs (Knox County, Tipton, Marceline, Paris, Salisbury, Westran) and all three teams Fayette beat sat at home after Week 10 (Hallsville, Cole Camp, Slater).
Just for the fun of it, let’s take a look at how each of Fayette’s 10 opponents are looking in the prospects of reaching the Class 1 or Class 2 state playoffs.
- South Callaway (9-1):This game feels like it was played six months ago. At that time, nobody thought the Bulldogs were the real deal. Guess again. With Tipton out of the conference, South Callaway swept through the Mid-Missouri Conference and also won its district. With a 9-1 record (only loss was to, you guessed it, Tipton), the Bulldogs are in the Class 2 playoffs and will face the District 10 runner-up. They’ve climbed as high as No. 7 in the Class 2 rankings this year.
- Tipton (10-0): Anybody surprised about this? Sure, the Cardinals moved to a weak conference, but they kept some of the same opponents as before and still beat them to a pulp, Fayette being one of them. They host Santa Fe in the Class 1 regionals on Wednesday.
- Marceline (6-3): The Tigers may not have gone unbeaten this season, but all three of their losses came against state-ranked opponents. They have already clinched a playoff berth, but the battle for champion and runner-up will be decided tonight against Princeton. They might want to win, because the loser gets to face Westran.
- Knox County (3-6): Not sure what to make of this team. Two of their three wins this season came against North Shelby, the third was Fayette. How do you get to play the same team twice in one season? I wasn’t impressed with the Eagles, but if they beat Schuyler County by two points or more tonight, they’re in the playoffs. However, since it’s a road game against a better team, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
- Hallsville (3-7): It’s unfair to pick on the Indians really. You think it’s bad having Salisbury and Westran in the same district? Try going up against three ranked teams in the final three weeks of the season. I’ll trade our loss in return for not having to play in the “District of Doom.”
- Paris (5-5): I don’t get it. Every year, the Coyotes seem to be a .500 team, and every year they seem to make the playoffs. Another team that didn’t really impress me, but when their backs were against the ropes, they did seem to get the job done. They will take the spot as district runner-up, facing the winner of Knox County’s district in the regionals, which will most likely be against Schuyler County.
- Cole Camp (6-3): It’s really a shame the Bluebirds won’t be going on to the playoffs. Their 5-1 start may have been the result of playing in a weak conference, but from what I saw when they dominated Fayette, if they were a Class 1 school, they look like a quarterfinal contender. I mean, come on. They only lost AT Tipton by 15 points. That’s pretty impressive.
- Salisbury (8-1): Yes, the Panthers’ playoff hopes come down to tonight’s game, but believe me, they’re in. While it is at Slater, and anything and everything is possible, I think the Panthers are a safe bet to win. However, they will lose in the sectionals to Westran. I wish they were on opposite sides of the bracket.
- Slater (3-6): Again, the Wildcats are technically still alive and they will need a miracle to take the district runner-up spot. Crazier things have happened, but I think Travis Holt will need to rush for 500 yards to make it a reality. That’s one game Fayette wishes it could have back. It was a very winnable game.
- Westran (10-0): I’m going to go ahead and say it. The Hornets are going to win the state title. They’ll easily win the regional round over, let’s go ahead and say Princeton. Then they’ll top Salisbury again in the sectionals, followed by a victory over state-ranked No. 5 South Shelby in the quarterfinals, then they’ll knock off West Platte in the semifinals. The question is, who will the Hornets face in the title game? No. 2 Tipton, No. 3 Concordia and No. 4 Valle Catholic are all on the opposite side of the bracket. Pick your poison. Personally, I’d like to see a Westran-Tipton matchup, but I think Westran would beat any of the three.
So there you have it. Heading into tonight’s final district games, Fayette’s opponents have a combined 63-32 record, but then again, 10 of those wins were against Fayette. Just like last season, it looks as if six teams (South Callaway, Tipton, Marceline, Paris, Salisbury and Westran) will advance to the playoffs, while four teams (Knox County, Hallsville, Cole Camp and Slater) will sit at home watching. Remember, Knox County, Slater and Salisbury are still up in the air, so the numbers could change to seven advancing and three going home.
However, this is the fourth year of the four-year deal where MSHSAA expanded the playoffs to a 32-team bracket. I honestly doubt it stays like that after this season, so look for the brackets to drop back down to the 16-team format in 2011, where only the district champion advances. Maybe it will make things less confusing that way. Then again, maybe not.