This week, we take our first, in-depth look at the playoff picture, since Week 5 is kind of the midpoint of the season? I guess?
This nine-game schedule, which I said I wouldn’t focus too much on, is becoming an unavoidable topic. The schedule plays out over the same amount of days, but feels infinitely more compact for some reason, and the “Take it week by week” coach speak looms even larger over seemingly every situation.
Obviously, you have to win games to reach the postseason, even in an eight-team region lineup, but suddenly the margin for error is 10 percent thinner.
Sure feels like a lot more.
The nine-game regular season is also playing tricks with the minds of your terminally obsessive-compulsive local sports writer. There is no midpoint. How do we measure checkpoints and milestones? Are we really halfway through the season after four weeks?
Is the old five-week completion mark still the halfway point?
Four out of nine is .444, not .500, does the halfway point have to be a round number?
Is halftime of Week 5 the official marker for midseason? Is that art frame on my office wall a little off-kilter?
I’m going to warm up with an easy one: lone Class 3A Bayside Conference program James M. Bennett.
Through Week 4, the Clippers, now in the 3A South Region, currently sit in ninth place in the 10-team group, a single point behind Northeast-Anne Arundel. If the playoffs started this week, J.M. Bennett would be on the outside looking in, but the bottom four teams in the region are all 2-2, Huntingtown leads the pack at 4-0 and 33 points, while five other schools are 3-1 and occupy the second through sixth slots.
I think six wins will pretty much guarantee a playoff slot, in almost every classification and region, and five will at least get you in the discussion in most geographical scenarios. I was relatively unimpressed by the Clippers during last week’s blowout loss against Kent Island, and right now, I’m thinking they’re going to top out at five wins, with games against city rival Parkside tonight and North Caroline in two weeks looking like losses.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, on the Class 2A front, they are sitting pretty at 4-0, but a good chunk of points (34-28) behind top-seeded Harford Tech. Elkton is also 4-0, just one point back of North Caroline in points earned.
Then it gets crazy.
Easton, Rising Sun, Kent Island, and Parkside are all 3-1, and all are within three total points earned of each other. Rising Sun really did a number on Cambridge-South Dorchester in Week 1, a Class 1.5A school if you will (Ahh... a nice round number. Wait. But is it?!), and the Warriors, Buccaneers, and Rams all possess quality groups that are excellent at their best and a little head-scratching when not clicking.
We might be afforded some clarity tonight when Caroline travels to Easton in the Game of the Week, the Warriors failing to set up a matchup of 4-0 teams after losing to Delmar (Del.) on the road last Saturday. The Bulldogs had no such issues in a 49-0 pasting of quickly fading Stephen Decatur, Caroline’s second shutout in four games.
The Rams picked up a walkthrough victory over also-fading Queen Anne’s County, and I’m going to remove Wicomico from the playoff discussion until the former 2A East power strings together two good weeks in a row.
The 2A East houses 12 teams, so four will be left out of the party. As it stands, my gut tells me the top seven — Tech, Caroline, Elkton, Easton, Rising Sun, Kent Island and Parkside — are all in, in some order or another, leaving North Harford, North East-Cecil, Decatur, Queen Anne’s, and Wi-Hi fighting over the eighth-seed scraps. It’s a race that might be mired in mediocrity week to week, unfortunate considering not too long ago the Lions and Indians were 2A East royalty.
The Class 1A East Region is also shaping up to be an interesting race. Washington (0-3) and Bohemia Manor (0-4) are probably out. Snow Hill, Fallston, and Havre de Grace are all 1-3, and amazingly, two of these schools will be in the playoffs with three (or potentially less) wins.
Patterson Mill (4-0, 25 points) is comfortably ahead of Cambridge-SD (3-1, 20), Perryville (3-1, 19) and Colonel Richardson (3-1, 17), with Joppatowne (2-2, 16) knocking on the door for a playoff home game. Kent County (2-2, 14) is an intriguing case, because the Trojans seem like the classic beat-who-you-should-beat and wish-for-the-best-against-others team. That trait is sometimes enough to get to the next level, but not really a recipe for staying power.
My own staying power as a high school football prognosticator suffered another hit last week despite a 6-1 showing, when Easton took the ‘L’ at Delmar. I was way off on that prediction, and my internet research failed me, very badly. But, I’ll take a 6-1 week, even if it’s a .857 ratio, not the nice round 1.000 us mortals are so often searching.
And so it goes.
* * *
Game of the Week
North Caroline (4-0)
at Easton (3-1)
Better get to this one early at Warrior Stadium. I’m calling all gridiron fans attached to these two schools to fill up Easton’s facilities with a sea of orange, black, blue, and white to take in what is the most important Eastern Shore high school football game thus far this season. North Caroline’s ability to stunt Warriors quarterback Ryan O’Connor and a high-flying passing attack could be the difference. I’m going to say they will limit them enough to remain unscathed in 2019.
— Bulldogs, 28-14
at James M. Bennett (2-2)
The Clippers, save for an early touchdown last week against Kent Island, looked pretty awful on offense, going 36 minutes without scoring after the long TD. Parkside, it just keeps winning, and really dropped the hammer on the Lions last week. A 7-6 defeat to Caroline remains the Rams’ lone loss in 2019, and that was in Week 1.
— Parkside, 33-10
Kent Island (3-1)
at Stephen Decatur (1-3)
The Buccaneers are rising, the Seahawks never took flight in 2019, and their chances of squeezing into the playoffs grow slimmer every week. This one is on running-clock alert.
— Bucs, 42-6
at Snow Hill (1-3)
Nothing to see here. The Indians defeating the Eagles will do almost nothing to raise their overall playoff profile.
— Wi-Hi, 39-7
at Cambridge-SD (3-1)
I keep getting tripped up by these Virginia schools playing our Bayside contingency, but C-SD hasn’t let me down outside of a Week 1 loss at Rising Sun. Nandua rocked Washington to begin the year but got doubled up by Bennett two weeks later. This one is a push. Cambridge-SD, don’t let me down now.
— Vikings, 28-21
Colonel Richardson (3-1)
at Arcadia (2-2)
Arcadia, another Virginia program, is also 1-1 vs. the Bayside Conference, losing to Decatur and routing Snow Hill, so nothing to glean there. A straight-up wash. The Colonels, outside of a listless loss to the Vikings in Week 3, have been pretty darn good, or at the very least entertaining, with 140 points scored in the three wins. Take the more accomplished offensive team here.
— Colonel, 38-22
at Seaford (0-4)
Someone is going to win their first game of the season. Seaford has 32 points scored this season. Washington? Thirty-nine. Fine, whatever.
— Jaguars, 39-32
Kent County (1-3)
at Queen Anne’s (1-3)
I suffer heartache anytime I think about what has happened to the Lions, who are on course to miss the playoffs for the third straight year after 12 appearances in 13 seasons dating back to 2004. The team went 8-2 in 2011 and actually missed the postseason in a ridiculously competitive Class 2A East. A “second-half” playoff push for the Lions begins tonight, and hey, there are still more games to be played than not, so, anything can happen? Right? (Right).
— Queen Anne’s, 35-14
Last Week: 6-1
Season to Date: 23-8