With one week remaining in the high school football season, the playoff picture for all but one area team has come into focus.
Eight of the 16 teams in The Beacon-News coverage area, led by undefeated Batavia and Kaneland, are automatic qualifiers. The other automatics are one-loss Aurora Christian, Mooseheart, Oswego and Waubonsie Valley and two-loss Aurora Central and Sandwich.
A ninth team, 5-3 Plano, is a virtual lock to make it in with 0-8 Dwight next on its schedule, and six teams — East Aurora, West Aurora, Metea Valley, Geneva, Marmion and Yorkville — are definitely out.
That leaves 4-4 Oswego East, which plays host to 6-2 Plainfield North on Friday, needing a win to become playoff eligible for the first time in the eight-year history of the program.
“Honestly, I think we’re in a tough spot the way it looks,” said Wolves first-year coach Tyson LeBlanc, who came to the school after coaching Chicago Curie to five straight playoff appearances.
His team has 32 “playoff points” based on the total number of wins posted by its opponents and the number used to break ties among potential at-large 5-4 playoff teams. Last year, such qualifiers needed 40 or more points. It’s not clear how many will be needed this year, but the Wolves are pretty far down the list with 32.
“Even if Rich South (3-5) and Oak Lawn (2-6) win (this week) I don’t know if we’ll have enough,” said LeBlanc, referring to his team’s two nonconference opponents. “I’ve looked at all the 4-4 and 5-3 teams and I don’t think there’s a way we can get enough.”
Six of the nine teams on the Wolves’ schedule are under .500.
“If we lose (Friday) we definitely don’t make it, no question about it. But even more than (being playoff eligible), just to finish over .500 is important to us. Plainfield North is no slouch, so it’s a pretty tall order,” LeBlanc said.
“(Beating) North would be a memorable victory. Any time you beat a team you’re not supposed to beat, it could be a turning point in getting a program like ours going in the right direction.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but I don’t know that I expected just how competitive and even the Southwest Prairie Conference is. A couple bounces of the ball here and there and we could’ve been 6-2. For us, the biggest strides we’re gonna make is in the offseason in the weight room.”
Signature win lifts Plano
Plano coach Jim Green got one of those noteworthy wins last week in the Reapers’ 24-20 Interstate Eight crossover win against Wilmington, a 6-1 team that had beaten I-8 Large co-champion Sandwich early in the year.
It was just what the doctor ordered coming on the heels of an upset 35-13 Plano loss to Manteno, although the Reapers are in good shape with 35 playoff points that are sure to top 40 this week.
“The (Manteno loss) was difficult because we played Coal City and Sandwich well enough to have won both (close losses) and to play so poorly against Manteno was disappointing. We just stunk that night,” Green said. “We challenged them (last week), letting them know if we lost and ended up 5-4, we wouldn’t have a win over a playoff team going into the postseason.”
Kaneland is currently listed the No. 1 team in Class 5A in the IHSA playoffs after being listed in 6A the previous two weeks.
“I’m not looking at it this week at all,” Knights coach Tom Fedderly said. “We were in the same position last year. We’ll play wherever they tell us to play. We think we have a pretty good team and we’ll do the best we can. I don’t have a preference (between the two classes).”
Not making the playoffs ends a streak of eight straight trips for Geneva and coach Rob Wicinski and three straight for Marmion and Dan Thorpe.
Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy says there are so many scenarios out there he’s not sure who the Warriors are likely to open with and won’t have a good feel until Friday. He did note, “it’s an outside shot,” but he saw one in which Oswego could move up from 7A to 8A.