By Jim Steele
Last Thursday and Friday night, we drew the curtain on the high school football regular season.
For a few teams, the season’s conclusion would be their last hurrah. For others, it’s a new beginning, where everybody is 0-0.
I’m talking playoffs: the second season.
Under our publishing umbrella, there are several teams who are taking that next step. How far any of them will go is hard to say. I’ve seen undefeated regional champs get bit by the upset bug in Round One and I’ve seen teams with 5-5 regular-season record win a state championship. Those are extremes, but one thing is certain – if you get to The Dance, anything can happen.
I remember in 1996, as memory serves, I covered Fayette-Ware, who was mired in a 4-6 season. The Wildcats were very talented but hadn’t put it all together. They had a versatile and speedy quarterback in Avis Carter, but they couldn’t get it going … until the playoffs. That team surged all the way to the state semifinals and finished with a 7-7 mark. A few years ago, Livingston Academy was 5-5 heading into the playoffs, got hot and won it all.
Sometimes that football bounces funny.
This year, we have a few teams in our publication stable who will embark on their post-season adventures. Huntingdon, Dresden, McKenzie, Westview and West Carroll are poised for playoff runs. And they all have decent chances. The combined records of those playoff teams are 39-10. Dresden is unbeaten, while McKenzie and Huntingdon sport 9-1 marks.
Sure, you hear all sorts of things regarding teams from other parts of the state, but you never know until you play them. You hear that a particular team’s region is weak, and you visit them and get romped by 35 or more points. Or maybe a region is really tough, and your team goes on the road and eeks out a thrilling victory.
Dresden, 10-0, ranked No. 2 in the state, has some quality victories over Westview, McKenzie and Union City … all on the road. This is a senior-laden team that has gotten better each week and certainly will be in the mix for a long playoff run.
Huntingdon, meanwhile, is 9-1, losing its opener to McKenzie, but surging to its regional championship. The Mustangs went on the road to defeat then-No. 1 Milan and knocked off a talented Riverside team. You get the sense after the season-opening loss to McKenzie, this team has been on a mission ever since.
McKenzie, at 9-1, beat Huntingdon, as previously mentioned, then suffered a lopsided loss to Dresden. Since then, the Rebels have played pretty well, having run the clock in the second half on their last six opponents. But the Rebels have had to dig out of some minefields along the way. This team had much rebuilding to do after winning the Class A state title a year ago, but this team has grown since then and found its identity.
West Carroll, 5-4 this season, had a rough ending to the season, but showed early on in its finale Thursday night at McKenzie that it came to play. That was a dogfight for a while when the Rebel defense stiffened to halt a West Carroll drive deep in McKenzie territory in the first quarter. The War Eagles, however, showed they had the chops to break big plays and make big stops. This team could surprise some folks in the post-season.
Martin-Westview, 6-4, suffered a couple of heartbreaking losses to start the season, but found some success after that. The Chargers results were mixed, but if you remember Donteze Joy’s big receiving night against Dresden, you know the big-play capability is there. I’ve said many times this season to Charger coach Jarrod Neal that the Chargers could be in for big things in the post-season. They are seeded fourth in their region and hit the road for Bolton in the opening round of the playoffs. Bolton has been a hot-and-cold playoff team going back to 1986, when Dresden captured a 26-0 road win. This could be interesting.
Camden isn’t headed to post-season this year, finishing at 4-6, but returns a solid nucleus next year, including potential all-stater Isaac Moore, who delighted Lion fans with his running and passing acumen. They’ll be a team to watch next year.
Other teams, including Gleason, Greenfield and Hollow Rock-Bruceton, featured young teams this year. Gleason, finishing 6-4, had some great moments, but probably played in a region that had teams as good as they’ve been in a while. The Bulldogs also fielded a young team. Everything mentioned about Gleason could be said about Greenfield and Hollow Rock-Bruceton. Greenfield had a young team but showed some talent and flashes of brilliance. Hollow Rock-Bruceton is extremely young but has some talented players on the team. These teams should be fun to watch next year.
So how will the playoffs go for our local teams? You never know. Injuries, turnovers, inclement weather all could rear their ugly heads and create issues. I think these teams will enjoy a fun and interesting playoff run. Could any of them bring home that gold football? It’s certainly within the realm of possibility.
It’s playoff time, so you just never know.
Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing.