High School Football

Playoff berths and conference titles come into view as regular season winds down

Like many other high school football coaches in Illinois, Josh Lee doesn’t want to be sitting with his Mascoutah Indians on Oct. 26 double checking playoff points to see if they’ve earned a postseason berth.

With wins the next two weeks, they won’t have that worry.

Mascoutah is one of four local 4-3 teams which control their own destiny heading into the final two games of the regular season. With victories at home on Friday against Waterloo (1-6) and on Oct. 25 at Carterville (2-5), the Indians will secure a playoff spot for the second year in a row.

Mascoutah last made consecutive postseasons in 2008 and 2009. The Indians were in the playoff five straight years from 2005-09.

“You never really know how that stuff is going to shake out until it actually happens. We are absolutely planning to have to win 6 games to get in,’’ Lee said Thursday.

“Obviously this week is incredibly important to us. We know Waterloo will come to play, they have some speedy skill kids and play aggressive like usual. We have had a great week of practice; we have an experienced team that understands our back is against the wall, so we are going to give it everything we got.’’

Shaking off a tough loss against Triad, Mascoutah responded with one of its best performances of the season a week ago in a 48-28 win over Jerseyville. Senior running back Devin Wills rushed for 206 yards and scored five touchdowns to key the win.

Lancers look to keep improving

The Belleville East Lancers won’t be competing in the IHSA playoffs and they won’t finish the season with a winning record.

But after an 0-5 start — during which three losses were by a total of 11 points —wins over Belleville West and Alton the last two weeks have first-year coach Michael Harrison seeing progress in his program.

The Lancers improved to 2-5 a week ago with an impressive 21-7 win at Alton.

“Honestly, our kids have been getting better and better each and every week since Week 1. The last two weeks have been a testament to all of the hard work the kids have been putting in all season long,’’ Harrison said. “ Heck, we are a couple of plays away from winning each of the three games before Belleville West. Fortunately for us, the ball has bounced our way the last couple of weeks.”

The Lancers get a chance to see just how much they’ve improved on Saturday when they host mighty East St. Louis. The top-ranked Class 5A team in the state, the Flyers (7-0) defeated O’Fallon 51-3 a week ago.

“Coach Sunkett and East St. Louis have a really good football team this year. They have several of the top players in the state and they have a good coaching staff,’’ Harrison said.

“They are definitely one of the best high school teams over the last handful of years. No doubt, we have a tough challenge ahead of us but in this conference no one feels sorry for you so I have to find a way to make sure we are ready to go and compete. ‘’

A look at the postseason

Undefeated East St. Louis, Columbia and Nashville are all in the IHSA playoffs and so are the once-beaten Triad Knights and Mater Dei Knights.

With two weeks left in the regular season and only nine days away from announcement of the first-round pairings, there are nine other teams with between three and five wins who are holding out hope for a playoff berth.

All teams winning six regular season games and those with five wins and enough playoff points based on the IHSA system advance into the playoffs.

Cahokia, Salem, Edwardsville and Civic Memorial are all 5-2 and need one more win to secure a playoff spot, while Mascoutah, Red Bud, Highland and Freeburg are all 4-3.

Alton, Central and O’Fallon are currently 3-4 with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Much at stake for the Comanches

The Cahokia Comanches can clinch a Class 5A playoff berth Friday when they host the Althoff Crusaders (2-5).

But coach John Clay’s Comanches (5-2) will also be anxiously awaiting a final score from Carbondale, where the Terriers (6-1) will host the undefeated Marion Wildcats.

Marion (7-0) , which defeated Cahokia (26-20) in week 4, is undefeated in South Seven Conference play and can clinch the league title with a win.

If Carbondale beats Marion and Cahokia beats Althoff, all three teams will finish 4-1 and in a three way tie for the league championship.

Triad looks to bounce back

The Triad Knights (6-1) are in the playoffs. On Friday, they will try to clinch a tie for the Mississippi Valley Conference title.

One week after seeing their dreams of an undefeated season end with a 21-7 loss to Highland, the Knights will host Civic Memorial (5-2, 3-1) in the MVC game of the night.

Highland (4-3, 3-1), can clinch its share of the MVC championship and move closer to a playoff spot, when it hosts Jerseyville.

The winner of the Triad-Civic Memorial game will clinch no worse than a tie for the league championship.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.