Minooka faces must-win at Plainfield N.

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During the area high school football season kickoff that WJOL Radio sponsored at McBrody’s Restaurant, I mentioned that all five Southwest Prairie teams from among Minooka and the four Plainfields had a legitimate chance to qualify for the playoffs, and it could work out that as many as four get in.

A few nonconference losses that could have gone the other way did that projection no favors, however. And now, entering Week 8, it could happen that as few as one or none of those teams qualify.

Such is the precarious journey to the postseason.

It is not all gloom and doom — yet. Minooka’s huge game Friday night at Plainfield North will go a long way toward determining the fate of those two teams.

If Minooka wins, the Indians (3-4, 3-2) will need to beat winless Romeoville next week and they will be in. In that case, North (5-2, 4-1) likely would have to win at Oswego East next week to avoid being left out on playoff points (opponent victories).

Granted, the Tigers would be favored against Oswego East, but why go in needing to win if you can avoid it?

All of that adds luster to a Minooka-North match-up that usually is a good one regardless. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

SPC leader Oswego beat North 35-7 last week thanks in part to limiting area rushing leader Jay Roberts to 22 yards on 13 carries. Whether Minooka’s defense can realize similar success against Roberts may help determine the outcome.

The Indians, on the other hand, have been up-and-down offensively and feel like they have not yet put together a complete game. This is the perfect night for quarterback Joe Carnagio and Co. to make that happen.

Plainfield Central (5-2, 3-2) put itself in good position to make the playoffs with last week’s 21-6 win over Plainfield South (3-4, 2-3). Central likely will not get in with five victories, so the Wildcats must win this week at Plainfield East (2-5, 2-3). They finish next week at Oswego. Not that Central could not win that one, but what a tall order for Week 9.

South is just about gone. The only hope for the Cougars is to beat Oswego on Friday night and Plainfield East next week, then keep their fingers crossed the playoff points will be sufficient.

My guess is Minooka will survive North and win next week to qualify and North will get in as well with a win in Week 9. Central will join them after beating Plainfield East, which has been eliminated. South also will fall short.

So if it all works out that way, three of the five teams I mentioned back in August would get in. But it is very possible fewer will qualify, and that’s not a thought we prefer to have entering Week 8.

Around the area

Joliet Catholic (5-2, 4-1) breathed a collective sigh of relief following last week’s overtime victory over Carmel. The Hilltoppers qualified for the playoffs — they will be in 5A — and now have to go about the business of attempting to get healthy while playing two quality opponents in Notre Dame and Benet. Coach Dan Sharp noted they may be without anywhere from five to 10 injured starters for Friday’s game at Notre Dame.

The other area teams that are in are Wilmington (6-1) in 3A, Coal City (6-1) in 4A, Morris (7-0) in 5A, Lemont (6-1) in 6A and Lincoln-Way East (7-0) and Providence (6-1) in 7A.

Bolingbrook (5-2) needs one more win to qualify in 8A. The defending 8A state champion Raiders have lost their last two with star quarterback Aaron Bailey sidelined with a knee sprain.

Lincoln-Way West is headed for 5A with a win over Thornwood, although a sixth victory in Week 9 at Bradley would not hurt. Joliet West (3-4), Lincoln-Way Central (3-4), Peotone (3-4) and Seneca (4-3) would be interesting if they happen to win their last two.

From the standpoint of classes, Morris will be a small 5A, but I don’t see them dropping to 4A. Lincoln-Way West is a large 5A and Providence and Plainfield North are small 7A teams, but don’t expect them to move, either.

Grouping and seeding

Just as a refresher, nothing is finalized for the playoffs until the 256 qualifying teams statewide are determined. Once that happens, the 32 teams in any given class will be grouped manually by the IHSA into two halves of 16 teams based on the location of the schools within that class.

In most classes, that probably will mean a “northern” and “southern” 16-team bracket. Seeds will be made within those 16 teams by record first and then by combined wins of opponents. Rankings do not matter, nor does anyone’s opinion of which teams are better than which.

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