Playoff picture still murky


Two weeks.

That’s all that remains in high school football’s regular season.

Like an Aroldis Chapman fastball, the season flew by — mercifully, for some local teams.

For a good chunk of others, football will continue beyond the regular season.

We’re talking playoffs.

Already 11 local teams have punched their ticket to the Big Dance, which begins Oct. 26.

Kudos to Marist, Crete-Monee, Lincoln-Way East, Sandburg, Mount Carmel, Providence, Thornton, Richards, Lemont, Oak Forest and T.F. South. Time to ice down the cola, stock up on chips and prepare for the playoff pairings excitement on Oct. 20.

The news isn’t so good for 12 local teams that already have been eliminated from the postseason party — no matter how they perform the final two weeks of the regular season.

Thornridge, Hillcrest, Marian Catholic, St. Laurence, T.F. North, Lockport, Thornwood, Stagg, Chicago Christian, Argo and Rich Central are relegated to the role of spoiler, with an eye toward improving next season.

Then there are the local bubble teams — 17 to be exact — that might need the benefit of an additional win or two to qualify for the Big Dance. Remember, six wins or a conference championship guarantees entry to the party.

Five wins requires a bunch of playoff points. Last season’s playoff points qualifier, determined by the number of wins by a team’s opponents, was 40. The year before it was 39, the year before that 38.

This year? Who knows.

Last season, just 35 of 60 five-win teams qualified for the postseason. That left a considerable amount of teams on the outside looking into the postseason party.

For some bubble teams, reaching six wins or racking up enough playoff points — remember, there are still two weeks to increase totals — to sneak in at five victories won’t be a major problem.

For others, though, it’s going to be near impossible.

Let’s break it down by team, shall we?

Evergreen Park (5-2, 30 playoff points) — By no means a lock to gain entry at 5-4. With games remaining against Shepard and Reavis, the Mustangs should get to six wins, possibly seven.

Rich East (5-2, 31) — Faces an improved Bloom and loaded Crete-Monee. Rockets are a borderline entry at 5-4, but should finish 6-3.

Bloom (5-2, 29) — Must win one of two against Rich East or Rich Central. Iffy proposition, but I see a 6-3 finish.

Homewood-Flossmoor (5-2, 32) — Likely would get in at 5-4, but with games vs. Joliet West and Sandburg, will finish no worse than 6-3. Which will spell doom for a higher-seeded first-round playoff foe.

Andrew (5-2, 32) — With games against Lincoln-Way North and Thornton, a 5-4 finish is not out of the question. The good news is that would likely, though not for sure, be enough to make the playoff cut.

Brother Rice (4-3, 44) — Beats Loyola — unlikely — or Leo — likely — and the Crusaders are in.

St. Rita (4-3, 46) — The Mustangs are the last local team to have won a state championship, back in 2006. Take down either Mount Carmel or Loyola and the Mustangs extend playoff streak to 13 seasons. Easier said than done.

Morgan Park (4-3, 28) — Must win both of its games or the Prairie State Conference to land a ticket.

Tinley Park (4-3, 38) — A 5-4 mark will do it. Fortunately, the Titans have winless Hillcrest in Week 9. Christmas arrives early.Bremen (4-3, 34) — Should make it at 5-4. With Lemont and Oak Lawn remaining, it better hope so.

Shepard (4-3, 35) — A win against Argo in Week 9 should be enough to get in, but not enough to erase an ugly performance against Richards in Week 7.

Reavis (4-3, 25) — Hate to break it to the Rams, but 5-4 will not cut it. Must sweep Richards and Evergreen Park. With that said, they might want to get an early start preparing for next season’s opener vs. St. Laurence.

Lincoln-Way West (4-3, 32) — Going to be close at 5-4. Should beat Thornwood Friday, but entry to the dance could come down to a trip to Bradley in Week 9. Friendly tip: don’t call Andrew for its game tape vs. Boilermakers.

Lincoln-Way North (4-3, 27) — Will likely need to sweep Andrew and Stagg. The latter is a given, the former not so much.

Rich South (3-4, 29) — Unlikely to qualify even with a miracle sweep of Crete-Monee and Moline.

Eisenhower (3-4, 39) — Will make it at 5-4. That’s the good news. To do that, Cards will need to secure bragging rights to Oak Lawn with the Spartans and Richards remaining. Plenty of incentive for Cards. A win over Oak Lawn sets up a conference title showdown — Ike, you’ll recall, is defending champions— against arch-rival Bulldogs in Week 9.

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