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Archive for Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tittrington: Football playoffs start now

October 13, 2005

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Ask the folks at the Kansas High School Activities Assn., and they'll tell you the state high school football playoffs don't begin until Nov. 1.

Ask anyone else with a vested interest in the sport - coaches, players, fans, the poor kid who dresses up in the furry school mascot suit - and they'll tell you the real answer: Playoff football begins Friday.

With the exception of Veritas Christian, the remaining 13 area football-playing schools open district play this week, which basically means there are a whole bunch of four-team, round-robin football tournaments getting ready to kick off across the state.

It doesn't matter if you're an unbeaten Eudora or a rebuilding Oskaloosa. From now on, everyone is on equal footing and taking aim at a simple goal: Earn at least two victories in the next three weeks, and official entry into your respective state bracket is guaranteed.

When it comes to the local combatants, the road ahead differs greatly depending on which classification a school finds itself in.

If a smooth ride into the state bracket is your thing, check out the Class 6A quartet that includes both Lawrence High (5-1) and Free State (2-4), alongside Topeka and Washburn Rural. The Lawrence schools have dominated this gathering the last three years, and there's no reason to believe that will change anytime soon. Of course, the highlight will be each team's sandwich game in the three-game mini-tournament - the head-to-head battle on Oct. 21 at KU's Memorial Stadium.

Conversely, if you're a pessimistic sort, then Class 5A might fit the bill, where both Ottawa (2-4) and Mill Valley (2-4) have struggled despite being among the bigger fish - enrollment-wise - in their respective leagues. The Cyclones' must fight through a field that includes unbeaten Paola and traditional power Pittsburg, while a school that knows a little bit about state championships - Olathe North - is among those standing in the Jaguars' way.

A mystery fan? Then you'll want to keep an eye on Class 3A, where questions abound. Can McLouth (6-0) add to its best start in more than a decade by fighting through a loaded foursome that includes fellow unbeaten Pleasant Ridge? Will Wellsville (3-3) take advantage of the lessons learned from an uneven showing this season against bigger foes? Does Oskaloosa (2-4) have a legitimate shot at the second state berth in a district where two of the remaining foes are a combined 2-10?

Should none of those categories suit your needs, don't despair. All that remains is the best class, top to bottom, in the area.

Six local teams are grouped within two Class 4A districts. Best-case scenario - four squads survive their three-week trial by fire and continue on to state, while two others turn in their gear and look ahead to 2006.

One district includes the local threesome of Eudora (6-0), Baldwin (5-1) and Santa Fe Trail (2-4), as well as Spring Hill. It's hard to believe, but that may be the weaker of the two groupings.

That's because the other quartet offers three local schools with a combined 15-3 record: Perry-Lecompton (6-0), Tonganoxie (5-1) and De Soto (4-2), with Bonner Springs rounding out the group. And remember, no matter what happens, just two of them will advance to state.

Think any of those schools won't be playing with playoff intensity come Friday night?

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