R-C Sports Notebook: Playoffs, Pass Defense and Painting Practice Fields
I’ve heard some opinions out there that the Northern 4A football schedule and playoff format is broken because a team with as few as two wins could make the postseason.
While I agree with the idea that the format needs some work, I don’t agree that the eighth-seed team is undeserving of a spot, regardless of record.
What we’ve already begun to see this season is that the current Northern 4A football league is as close to a perfect league as you are going to come by in high school sports.
That team that ends up 2-6 and in the playoffs (under my projections, I see two teams ending up in the playoffs with that record) will have had to run the region’s gauntlet to get there. Reno and Galena, the teams I see clinching the 7 and 8 spots, don’t even see Damonte Ranch, the team I see finishing winless this season simply due to the sheer lack of numbers, during league play.
But more than that, there is a lot of parity in this league. Every matchup, every week is intriguing, if not great. At this point, there’s no clear favorite to win the region.
Logic would say it should be Carson, but you just can’t count Reed out. Remember, the Senators won’t even see the Raiders or McQueen — arguably the top two remaining teams in the region — until the playoffs.
And that’s where my problem with the current schedule lies. I don’t have any problem with an eight-team playoff bracket. The overall league is just too strong to punish a team for a slow start, especially in high school sports where you are dealing with a distinct lack of depth compared to the pro or college level.
There needs to be incentive for teams that improve as the year progresses and peak at the right time. Here’s the way I see the regular season playing out:
*1T. Reed 8-0 (No Carson)
*1T. Carson 8-0 or 7-1 (No Reed, McQueen)
*3. McQueen 7-1 (No Carson)
*4. Manogue 6-2 (No galena, no Spanish springs)
*5. Douglas 5-3 or 6-2 (No Reno, no Reed (25-14 loss doesn’t count)
*6. Spanish Springs 4-4 (No Manogue, no North Valleys 45-44 opener didn’t count)
*7. Reno 2-6 (No Douglas, No Damonte Ranch, 26-22 win doesn’t count)
*8. Galena 2-6 (No Manogue, No Damonte Ranch)
9. Hug 2-6 (No McQueen, No North Valleys)
10. North Valleys 1-7 (No Spanish Springs 45-44 loss doesn’t count, No Hug)
11. Damonte Ranch 0-8 (No Reno 26-22 loss doesn’t count, No Galena)
*- playoff qualifier
The thing that bugs me is the tiebreaking process. This season will be a great example. Reed and Carson very well could end up tied for first place at the end of the regular season and, having not met up, there won’t be a head-to-head tiebreaker.
What’s more is that the highest possible common opponent for the two teams will likely be fourth-place Manogue.
In the grand scheme of things, a tie for first doesn’t mean much. Both teams still end up on opposite ends of the bracket and the championship game is now played on a neutral site, meaning there’s no true advantage to one spot or the other.
But what happens in the event the top three finish tied at 7-1 or 6-2? It won’t happen this year, but it is possible. Let’s say they all manage to miss each other on the schedule as well (not likely, but still possible).
It leaves it up to common opponents, without being able to win home-field advantage for that tricky potential 1-3 matchup in the semifinals on the field.
Personally, I’d like to see the league play a 10-game regular season, seeing every other school in the league. There’s still the potential for ties in the final standings, but head-to-head match-ups would be the first and most-logical tiebreaker.
This would require that everyone to drop their out-of-state and non-conference matchups, but it would create a balanced scheduling system.
The argument there would be there’s no chance to get better against teams from out of the area. But out-of-area games in football are such a weird mix. You get some really good teams (i.e. Granite Bay, Nevada Union and Del Campo for Reed, McQueen and Carson to start this season) and you get some odd matchups (Reno against a 20-player Oakland squad earlier this season).
Plus, the Northern 4A is pretty good as it is.
Why not put everyone against the same slate? They used to do it before the Division/League format took over in the 1990s, but then again, they also used to only take four teams to the playoffs.
No high school kid is going to complain about a mandatory 10th game. The high school football season evaporates in a split-second anyway. They’ll take every game they can get, especially the seniors.
I can’t get a good read on this week’s big rivalry game between Carson and Douglas. Carson has looked unbelievable, dare I say unbeatable, to open the year, but Douglas hasn’t really been at full strength yet and has faced three of the top four teams in the region. The fourth will come this week.
The Senators have the momentum heading in while Douglas is at a crossroads, looking to move to .500 in league play.
A win at home would be huge for the Tigers, not only in the confidence boost but also in setting the team up for a crucial run through the final four weeks of the season.
Carson hasn’t truly been pushed yet this season (Manogue came the closest last Friday), so it’ll be interesting how both teams respond to the big crowd and high intensity.
I can’t say either way what I think is going to happen. It’s a rivalry game, and you throw out any and all expectations as one watching from the outside. It’ll come down to whoever wants it more.
Here’s the top positive to take out of a tough situation last week:
Don’t let Friday night’s 28-0 loss to McQueen fool you. The Douglas defense really is very good – one of the better overall units they’ve had since the monster defense that won a league title in 2006.
They held McQueen to just seven points through the first half and the Lancers stretched it to 14 when a fumbled punt return at the start of the third quarter set them up at the Douglas 10.
They did an admirable job with their backs against the wall for most of the night, including two interceptions in the end zone and a goal-line stand to end the first half.
If not for a pair of late, long touchdown runs — not to mention a safety given up by the offense, the game isn’t nearly the blowout it appeared to be on the scoreboard.
Douglas has a ruthless pass rush and a strong backfield. The unit as a whole is averaging 2.5 takeaways and 2.75 sacks per game.
They’ll need all of that this week as Carson brings perhaps the best offense in the state (not to mention the best player in the region) to Minden this weekend. Douglas has been solid against the run (Carson’s strong suit), allowing 161 yards per game.
But the scary thing about the Senators is they’ve developed an exceptional, not to mention efficient, passing game to take pressure off of running back Dylan Sawyers.
The Tiger defense will be tested to their limits Friday night, but a strong night there could set up a solid end to the regular season.
I’m planning to be at these games this week, so check online for updates (Cover It Live is the tool we use to post automatic updates during games and also allows for comments and questions from fans during the game, so be sure to check out our Web site if you can’t make it to the games I will be posting from.):
Here’s where I’ll be
Tuesday: Volleyball vs. Galena
Wednesday: Boys’ Soccer vs. Hug
Thursday: Volleyball vs. Hug
Friday: Football vs. Carson (Cover It Live, hopefully!)
– The Douglas football team has not scored a first-half touchdown at McQueen since the 2005 playoffs.
– The Douglas girls’ soccer team’s 3-1 loss to Galena marked the largest deficit in a game for the Lady Tigers since the 2008 regional championship game (a 3-1 loss to Reed).
1. Carson (Last Week: beat Manogue 29-14. Previous Ranking: No. 1;
Record: 4-0, 3-0)
Why they should be No. 1: Other than a landmine-type game at Douglas this week, the biggest tests on Carson’s schedule are already behind them. The defense showed huge signs of regaining its 2009 form Friday night against Manogue, even though most every position features a first-year starter. The offense, after a slow start, wore the Miners down and put up the kind of numbers they’ve become accustomed to putting up.
Why they should be ranked lower: This will be a tough one to get around all season, but the fact of it is the Senators won’t even see the best two defenses in the area (Reed, McQueen) until the playoffs, if at all. It’s tough to really separate the Senators from the remaining top three teams because they won’t see each on the field during the regular season.
2. Reed (Last week: Beat North Valleys 49-7. Previous Ranking: 2. Record: 4-1, 3-0)
Why they should be ranked higher: The Raiders are setting themselves up on a collision course with the Senators in the regional title game, barring any missteps. The Raiders do have a loss, but it was at Granite Bay (currently ranked No. 12 in the San Joaquin section). Held up against Carson’s home win over Del Campo (San Joaquin No. 24), there’s no saying the Senators are really all that far ahead of the Raiders, especially since the two schools have posted similar winning scores against their common Northern 4A opponents.
Why they should be ranked lower: At this point, they are no lower than a 2, and I can say that without hesitation. They have arguably the top defense in the region (look what they did to McQueen) and the offense, led by first-year starter Brent Showalter, has gotten progressively better every week. No one in the region can match their size on both lines. That will be a huge plus come playoff time.
3. McQueen (Last Week: beat Douglas 28-0. Previous Ranking: No. 4;
Record: 4-1, 2-1)
Why they should be ranked higher: You want to talk about impressive wins, the Lancers’ defensive win at Nevada Union to open the year just got a little nicer as Nevada Union has risen to a No. 10 ranking in California’s San Joaquin section. McQueen flexed some more of the defensive muscle in the win over the Tigers, getting a couple of timely turnovers to help its effort. Many, including myself, were ready to write the Lancers off after nearly being shutout by Reed, but maybe it’s just a matter of the Raider defense being that good.
Why they should be ranked lower: The offense wasn’t great against Douglas, but managed to hold serve in the absence of starting running back Nick Shepard. That being said, McQueen is in the midst of the real teeth of its schedule. This week’s matchup at unbeaten Spanish Springs is huge. It will say a ton about where both teams actually stand.
4. Manogue (Last week: lost to Carson 29-14. Previous Ranking: 3. Record: 4-1,
Why they should be ranked higher: They contained the state’s most uncontainable player, Dylan Sawyers, for a half. That’s saying something. They also built a lead on what looks to be the region’s most unbeatable team. That’s saying something as well. All of the pieces are there for the Miners to be an exceptional football team. It’s just a matter of them putting it all together and fighting through some of these lessons they’re having to learn. This is the team I’d point to as a dark horse in the playoffs.
Why they should be ranked lower: Guess what Miners, you hung in there with the top-ranked team in the region. Let’s take a look at your prize: A home matchup against No. 2 Reed. And if you survive that one, we’ll send you on the road to No. 3 McQueen. The Miners could very well be 2-3 in league play heading in to their final two weeks of the regular season (Hug and North Valleys).
5. Spanish Springs (Last week: beat Reno 24-14. Previous Ranking: 5.
Record 5-0, 3-0)
Why they should be ranked higher: Hey, they’re one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the region. That’s saying something right?
Why they should be ranked lower: I’m sorry, Cougars. I’m just not feeling it. You somehow managed to draw the bottom five teams in the region to open the year. Things will get very real in the next month as you see the top three ranked teams in the next four weeks. The only non-ranked team on your schedule is an away game vs. Douglas, a team that could be getting back to full-strength after an injury-riddled start right about when you come to town. It’s entirely possible the Cougars could enter the playoffs on a four-game losing streak. Time will tell.
On the outside looking in: Douglas, Reno.
5. Damonte Ranch
On the outside looking in: Reno, Spanish Springs.
3. North Valleys
4. Spanish Springs
On the outside looking in: Wooster, Hug.
5. Spanish Springs
On the outside looking in: Damonte Ranch.
I’ve made no small passing mention of my time at TCU in this column over the past couple of years. So, you all know my keen interest in the Horned Frogs somehow finagling a way into the BCS title game.
As with any non-AQ school, the list of things that would need to happen could probably stretch the length of a football field (and it’s about as likely as me throwing a football the length of one), particularly after TCU struggled with SMU last week. But, because I really do spend time thinking about this stuff, here is what needs to happen every week for the rest of the season. Let’s just call it the Purple Perfect Storm:
Oct. 2: Stanford upsets Oregon in Eugene; Florida loses at Alabama; Oklahoma loses to Texas
Oct. 9: Stanford loses at home against USC; Boise State loses to Toledo; Alabama loses at South Carolina
Oct. 16: Ohio State loses at Wisconsin; Nebraska loses to Texas; Arkansas wins at Auburn
Oct. 23: Wisconsin loses at Iowa; LSU loses at Auburn
Oct. 30: Oregon loses at USC; Texas A&M loses to Texas Tech
Nov. 6: TCU needs to blow away an unbeaten Utah on the road; Stanford beats Arizona; South Carolina loses to Arkansas; Oklahoma loses at Texas A&M; Alabama loses at LSU
Nov. 13: Utah wins at Notre Dame
Nov. 20: Nebraska loses at Texas A&M
Nov. 27: Boise State loses at Nevada; Michigan loses at Ohio State; Auburn loses at Alabama
Dec. 4: Oregon loses at Oregon State; Alabama loses in SEC title game. Nebraska preferably beats Texas in the Big 12 title game.
Now, in the event, this all somehow happens, TCU still needs to win out convincingly and it would sure help things if Oregon State somehow ran the table in the Pac-10 to earn the Rose Bowl berth. It helps that they have a favorable conference slate, with USC, Oregon and Cal all having to make the trip to Corvallis. The trip to Arizona next week is their toughest remaining road date.
OK, Niners fans. You can officially blame me. Ever since I officially revoked my Cincinatti Bengals fanship in favor of San Francisco, the Bengals have gone 2-1 and the Niners have been listless in opening up 0-3 against the likes of Seattle and Kansas City.
It’s my fault. But I’m there with you. Doesn’t that count for something?
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Visit recordcourier.com/profootball to sign up and make your picks.
Last week’s winner: Kat Alderz, Houston, TX. 10-of-16 picks (edged me by three points on the tiebreaker).
My Week 4 picks:
Falcons over Niners
Jets over Bills
Bengals over Browns
Packers over Lions
Titans over Broncos
Rams over Seahawks
Saints over Panthers
Ravens over Steelers
Colts over Jaguars
Texans over Raiders
Cardinals over Chargers
Eagles over Redskins
Patriots over Dolphins
Tiebreaker: Giants 21, Bears 14
Season Record: 21-11. Last week: 10-6.
Time for this week’s installment of Edd Roush’s All-Stars (Formerly “This Wacky World of Sports”) – Celebrating Edd Roush, the only player ever ejected from a Major League Baseball game for sleeping in the outfield.
The town of Nejapa, El Salvador celebrated the “Los Bolas de Fuego” festival at the end of August.
The festival, which celebrates a mythical 1922 fight between San Jeronimo and the devil, pits two teams of young men, with their faces covered by war paint, throw flaming fireballs at eachother while hundreds of bystanders who watch their every move.
Equipped with gloves and clothes soaked in water, the combatants throw and evade the flaming fireballs made from gasoline-soaked rags.
Clothes are known to catch on fire and some of the participants have been in in the face at point blank. Despite all the health hazards, few injuries have been reported during the Fireball Festival.
– I paid $7,000 to paint my practice field blue and all I got out of the deal was a whooping at the hands of a Non-AQ school and a letter from PETA complaining about all the blue aphids flying around Corvallis.