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I hate to say it, but the high school football season is beginning to wind down. We have just two weeks left in the season for teams to make their final bids for district championships and playoff seedings.
Around this time of year, teams tend to find that extra bit of motivation to pull out a win or two that they aren’t expected to win. With that being said, lets look over a couple of teams that are on the edge of playoff contention and take a wild guess at how things will finish out for them.
Lets start with Clearwater-Orchard. After a loss to Burwell last week, the Cyclones are now 2-4. They are a team that is full of youth, so they are as unpredictable as any team in the area.
However, their final two games are no gimmies, taking on West Holt and Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing to wrap up the year. That is a brutal way to end the year. If they play well, they can pull an upset, but it’ll be tough. Prediction: Finish 2-6, sneak into playoffs as a lower seed.
Next, we look at the Cardinals of Boone Central/Newman Grove. At 4-3, they have dealt with a tough schedule. However, they still control their own destiny. They take on district foe Columbus Scotus this week in what will likely determine the district runner-up. After that, they have a date with 1-6 Grand Island Central Catholic to end the year.
Scotus will not be a cakewalk, but the Cardinals have hit a hot streak lately. Plus, they have Dylan Gentrup, and Dylan Gentrup is the real deal. Prediction: Finish 6-3, make playoffs as a wildcard.
From there, we take a look at the Stuart Broncos. The Broncos started off with what seemed like two strong wins in 2016. However, from there, they faltered to four straight losses, including a loss to North Central. a squad that had just one win entering the game.
The Broncos lost a lot of talent from last year, and the inexperience has shown at times. They always seem to reload, but a showdown with Bloomfield to finish the season could prevent them from seeing the post-season this year. Prediction: Finish 3-5, just barely miss the playoffs.
Our final team we look at is Niobrara/Verdigre. At 1-5, it may seem a longshot to be thinking playoffs for the Cougars, but with the number of teams ineligible to participate in the playoffs this year in D1, they still have as good a shot as anyone.
They earned their one win over Laurel-Concord-Coleridge on the legs of dynamic athlete Kevin Rudloff, who went for 286 yards on the ground that night. They finish with games against Hartington-Newcastle and Wakefield, a couple of 4-2 teams that have already locked in a playoff bid.
As things stand right now, the Cougars are as close to the edge as anyone in the playoff picture and an upset or two is the only way they will make their way in. If they can get their run game going like they did against LCC, it’s certainly possible. Prediction: Finish 1-7, miss playoffs.
On top of the teams that are right on the edge of playoff contention, their are many other teams that you can all but pencil in to a playoff game when they start October 27.
Undefeated squads such as O’Neill and Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing obviously have their spots, Crofton, Bloomfield, Creighton, West Holt and St. Mary’s will all likely have great seeding when the brackets are announced at the end of the season. Of course Riverside and St. Edward are locks to return to the six-man tournament as well after they wrap up two spectacular seasons.
It’s safe to say area fans will have a lot to cheer for between now and November 21 and 22, when we hopefully see an area finals team.
Game of the Week
We are in the final stretch of the 2016 fall sports season. Some teams will even be wrapping up the regular season this week. The games are about to start getting a lot more meaningful, as teams are working for playoff positioning and district titles.
On the football side, I can be found out in Atkinson as West Holt hosts Clearwater-Orchard. The Cyclones are looking to rebound after a two-game losing streak and make their way back into the playoff picture. West Holt, coming off a tough loss to Chambers/Wheeler Central/Ewing, will also be looking to return to the win column and boost their playoff seeding.
For the volleyball Game of the Week, look for me at the Knox County Tournament as we look to find out who the top team in Knox County is for 2016.