While the playoff picture is becoming a little more focused for metro-east football teams, there are still plenty of playoff spots to be decided in the next two weeks.
Teams that have already clinched playoff berths are Althoff (7-0), East St. Louis (7-0), Columbia (7-0), Edwardsville (6-1), Highland (6-1), Central (6-1) and Red Bud (6-1).
Teams needing one more win to clinch a playoff spot are Triad (5-2), Nashville (5-2), Civic Memorial (5-2), Marquette (5-2) and Centralia (5-2).
After that there’s a large group of that either needs more wins, more help from opponents to provide playoff points (wins by opponents) or a combination of both.
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That list of postseason hopefuls include O’Fallon (4-3), Cahokia (4-3), Granite City (4-3), Mater Dei (4-3), Waterloo (4-3), Wood River (4-3), Belleville West (3-4), Carlyle (3-4) and Wesclin (3-4).
One major factor that could have impacted the playoff possibilities for many teams was the potential of a strike by Chicago public school teachers. That strike was averted late Monday night as the Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s school board reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract.
Latest projections show Edwardsville and O’Fallon in Class 8A and East St. Louis, Granite City and Belleville West in Class 7A. More projections show Highland, Triad, Waterloo and Centralia in 5A, Althoff, Columbia, Mater Dei, Central, Civic Memorial, Wood River and Marquette in 4A, Nashville in 3A and Red Bud in 2A.
The final pairings won’t be released until after the regular season ends. The 32 teams with the highest enrollment figure based on Illinois High School Association playoff classification rules are placed in 8A, the next highest 32 are in 7A, etc.
Shootout at the Red Bud corral
On the one hand, scoring a school-record 67 points Friday and engineering a crazy comeback in a 67-60 victory over Portageville, Mo., had Red Bud coach Dave Lucht feeling pretty good about his team.
“This is the wildest one,” Lucht said. “We’re scoring points and we’re never safe. I don’t mind scoring 67 but I sure don’t want to see anybody scoring 60 on us again.”
Then again, since Lucht runs the defense the victory was not without a few nightmares along the way.
“We’ve never scored 67 in a game and we’ve never had an opponent score 60,” said Lucht, who credited Red Bud offensive coordinator Ben Schwartzkopf and the offense on the big night. “Ben is happy because his offense is chugging along and scoring some points, but my defense isn’t doing what I want them to do.
“It is bittersweet but like some coaches told me, ‘Hey, you won.”’
Trailing by two touchdowns with less than three minutes remaining, the Musketeers still managed to escape with a victory.
On a drive that included a crucial pass interference call on Portageville to stay alive, quarterback Griffin Ziebold tossed a 35-yard TD pass to Brendan Heller with 30 seconds remaining to tie it. Red Bud took a 61-60 lead on the extra point, then scored again on an interception return by Lucas Tobin.
Portageville had one more possession and the third of three Red Bud interceptions finally put a wooden stake through the heart of their more than worthy opposition.
“Even when we scored with 30 seconds left I said there was still too much time left on the clock,” Lucht said. “There was never any time to relax. Usually when you score 67 points you’re subbing kids and you’re not working with your spotter any more, you’re just relaxing and enjoying the game.”
Lucht said it was probably the wildest game he’s been involved in. Red Bud trailed 26-21 at halftime, then outscored Portageville 46-34 in the second half. That included 26 points in the fourth quarter.
“If we’d have been on the losing side that would have hurt us pretty bad,” he said. “We know we can play better than we did, especially defensively. Our best game is still out there because we still have yet to play our best offensive, defensive and special teams game.”
Red Bud running back Ryan Hess had another monster game, running for 277 yards and three TDs on 24 carries. Hess also contributed 13 tackles on defense.
“He took a lot of hits,” Lucht said. “He got his hard shots and had to work really hard on both sides of the ball. We really leaned on him heavy for defense this time and he was whipped. There was no no doubt he gave everything he had for us.”
Ziebold also continued his major impact this season, completing 12-of-19 passes for 193 yards and four TDs. He also had a season-high 125 yards rushing while finding time to make an interception on defense.
“It’s just like he’s been doing all year for us,” Lucht said. “He keeps his composure and is turning out to be a quality quarterback for us.”
The run stops here
His previously unbeaten team was held to six points and 175 yards on 41 carries in a 33-6 loss to Columbia on Friday. After the game, Central coach Brian Short was asked if he felt coming into the night whether the Eagles’ defense would be able to stop the Cougars’ most effective weapon this season, their highly productive ground game.
“No, absolutely not,” Short said. “That’s not being arrogant, that’s the best thing that we do. I was very confident that we would be able to run the football and we were not. That says a lot about what they have going on at Columbia, which I don’t think anybody’s doubting whatsoever.”
Columbia coach Scott Horner talked about the importance of remaining unbeaten this season and stretching the Eagles’ Cahokia Conference win streak to 29 games.
“It’s something that we don’t talk about, but certainly we feel like we’ve built something here at Columbia and without question, it was something we’d like to keep going,” Horner said. “We’re certainly not done, but we’ve got a tough team next week.”
Columbia (7-0) can wrap up the Cahokia Conference title with a victory over Red Bud on Friday in Columbia.