When the Kansas State High School Activities Assn. unveiled its 2006 postseason football schedule, area fans had two good reasons to look forward to a Halloween buzz.
What better way to embrace your inner child than raid your own kid's candy bucket, then take that sugar high to the local high school and root on the home team in the opening round of the state playoffs?
However, a combination of bad luck, bad execution and plain old bad football helped ensure that most area fans won't be bringing their Pixie Stix euphoria to the gridiron tonight.
Only two area teams - Class 4A powerhouses Eudora (9-0) and Tonganoxie (8-1) - earned the right to strap on their helmets at least one more time this fall. The Cardinals will play host to Kansas City Piper (5-4) at 7 p.m. at Laws Field, while the Chieftains must travel to Holton (9-0) to face the defending 4A state champs at 7.
Talk about a crashing after a sugar high. Last fall, one of the best cumulative regular seasons in area history landed six of the 11 teams in the postseason. Baldwin, Eudora, Perry-Lecompton and Tonganoxie all qualified in 4A, while McLouth and Wellsville cracked the 3A bracket.
So what happened to lop off a full 67 percent of last year's crop? Let us count the ways.
For Perry-Lecompton (6-3) and Mill Valley (6-3), it was a matter of solid seasons losing out to unfortunate geography. The KSHSAA lumps every one of its football teams into a four-team district based on enrollment and location, and only two teams from each group advance to the state playoffs.
Both the Kaws and the Jaguars finished third. Perry-Lecompton fell to both Atchison and Tonganoxie - two schools that finished a combined 17-1 in the regular season - while Mill Valley lost to once-beaten Overland Park Aquinas and Roeland Park Miege, a 3-6 team that took its lumps against Eastern Kansas League competition before taking care of business in district play.
So, nevermind the fact Perry-Lecompton has a better record than 11 of the 32 teams in the Class 4A field. Or that Mill Valley grades out higher than eight teams - not including Miege - in the 16-team 5A field. They both stay home.
For Baldwin (4-5) and De Soto (4-5), it was a case of wasting a prime opportunity. Grouped in the same district as Eudora and Spring Hill, the heavy betting had three area schools battling for two playoff spots.
Instead, neither the Bulldogs nor the Wildcats kept their houses in order. Each booted away opportunities to seal their own postseason fate during the final three weeks, and in the end, Spring Hill - which also finished 4-5 overall and 1-2 in district play - snagged the second berth via a tiebreaker.
For the remaining five schools, it was the simple reality that they just weren't good enough. Oskaloosa (4-5) continued to make strides in its rebuilding effort, but didn't match up well against 3A heavyweights. McLouth (3-6) took a step back after undergoing its own makeover. Santa Fe Trail (3-6) won its first three games before reverting to recent form. And Wellsville (1-8) and Ottawa (0-9) never had a chance.
The end result is a lonely two programs that will still get to enjoy a treat tonight.