With just one final weekend left in the regular season, no division championships remain undecided in six-man, and most of the postseason qualifiers have been determined. However, there are still several games that will help shape the final bracket that will be released on Sunday.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY OT SPORTSCHECK
Most of the big games take place on Saturday, but things get started early with an important non-league clash between Otis (4-5, 18th RPI) and #8 Prairie (5-4, 9th RPI) on Thursday. Both teams elected to take advantage of the opportunity to schedule a 10th game during the regular season.
Otis has the most to gain in this match-up, as a win over a top-ten RPI team could be enough to propel the Bulldogs into the postseason. They are coming off a 58-6 win over Pawnee (0-7, 30th RPI) last week. Carter Wells threw for two scores, Erick Thorn ran for two, and Jack Willeke caught two, and Charlie Kendrick had a hand in three touchdowns, including a long kick return.
Prairie will be looking to get the taste of a three-game slide out of its mouth when the Mustangs take the home field on Thursday. They fell to Idalia (47-42), Fleming (52-51), and then last week, it was a 79-14 loss to #1 Cheyenne Wells (9-0, 1st RPI) on a neutral field. Andy Long threw for 118 yards and two scores in that loss, but the Mustangs were held to just 10 yards on 12 running plays.
The Mustangs trail Otis by a game in the series, with the Bulldogs holding a 4-3 edge. They’ve split the last two meetings, with Otis claiming a wild 64-59 victory in 2018 and Prairie grabbing a 59-12 decision the following year.
Two games highlight Friday’s slate, starting with an afternoon affair between #10 Genoa-Hugo (5-2, 10th RPI) and North Park (5-4, 17th RPI) at Briggsdale. The Pirates enter the contest having dropped their last two games after beginning the season 5-0. Last week, they allowed a late touchdown to fall 50-48 at home against #7 Cheraw (6-3, 7th RPI). Trey Smith threw for 171 yards and two scores, and the sophomore QB also added another TD on the ground. Colby Simmons (128 yards, three TD) and Wyatt Miller (104 yards, 1 TD) both went over the century mark on the ground, and each also had a receiving touchdown. Defensively, the Pirates allowed close to 400 yards and five touchdowns through the air.
North Park got back into the win column with a 50-13 victory at home last week over Cotopaxi (2-6, 23rd RPI). The Wildcats, who have not faced Genoa-Hugo since 2015 (GH 28-14 win), got three rushing touchdowns from Cameron Gonzales and three fumble recoveries from Preston Gonzales in last week’s victory. A win could be enough to vault the Wildcats into the playoffs.
The other key game on Friday has Eads (3-5, 14th RPI) visiting Hi-Plains (4-3, 15th RPI). While both teams hold down postseason positions ahead of the match-up, the loser could potentially drop out, depending on what happens below them.
After missing a week due to COVID concerns, Eads returned to action with a 52-27 victory at Mountain Valley last week. The Eagles allowed more than 250 passing yards in that contest, but also came up with a pair of crucial interceptions.
Hi-Plains pushed its winning streak to three with a 60-38 win at La Veta last week. Cody Banks put the Patriots on his back as the senior standout had a big effort. Banks ran for 235 yards and seven touchdowns, completed five of six passes for 136 yards and another TD, and posted a game-high 19 tackles, 18 of the solo. During the winning streak, Banks has recorded 13 rushing touchdowns, three receiving, and one passing.
Saturday is loaded with big contests, as teams bulked up their schedules with high-powered opponents. The biggest has a pair of league champions squaring off in Branson. Sierra Grande (7-0, 6th RPI) from the South West, will travel to face South Central winner Branson/Kim (6-1, 11th RPI). The fifth-ranked Panthers went over the 50-point plateau for the fifth time this season as they downed Primero (0-5, 29th RPI) 68-12 last week. The defense was the star, recording six takeaways, including five interceptions.
Branson/Kim has had two wait two weeks to try to cleanse its palate after suffering its lone loss of the year to #3 Granada (6-1, 2nd RPI) 72-22. The Bearcats know a thing or two about scoring, as they had a string of four straight games with at least 71 points earlier in the season, and they’ve topped 50 in all of their victories. Despite being a league champion, the Bearcats aren’t guaranteed a home game in the first round of the postseason, but a win on Saturday could change that.
Two matches on Saturday will highlight contrasts of styles on offense. First, North champion Fleming (7-2, 5th RPI) will host Cheraw. Fleming historically likes to get the job done on the ground and behind junior Nolan Japp, they’re averaging better than 200 yards a game, despite seeing running clocks in all but two contests this year. One of those was last week’s 32-24 loss at #4 Idalia (6-2, 4th RPI).
Cheraw likes to put the ball in the air, and the Wolverines have a good one at QB to do it with. Cade Phillips, who tallied 394 yards and five touchdowns in their win over Genoa-Hugo last week, has thrown for 1596 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season. As a team, Cheraw has recorded 1954 yards through the air and 1269 on the ground.
When Briggsdale (6-3, 13th RPI) visits Hanover (6-3, 12th RPI) a similar dynamic will be in play. The Falcons, who were drilled 60-0 last week by #2 Stratton (7-1, 3rd RPI), like to spread the field and get the ball in the hands of a multitude of receivers, including Malik Carlson and Tanner Fiscus out of the backfield. Senior gunslinger Braden Krise has thrown for more than 1300 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season. He’s also one of seven players with more than 100 yards on the ground this year.
The Hornets, coming off a 66-6 win over Deer Trail (3-3, 22nd RPI) pound the rock with the best of them, as they have done in the long tenure of head coach Luke Decker. David Brown had his sixth consecutive 100+ yard game last week, and his 128 yards in that contest pushed him over 2000 in his career. As a team, the Hornets run for 188 yards a game, and throw for better than 122.
The winner of that contest will solidify its postseason position, while the loser could have some anxious moments awaiting the release of the final bracket.
There is one league match-up on Saturday with a lot at stake, as Idalia hosts Arickaree/Woodlin (5-3, 8th RPI) in the East Central. The two sides are tied for second in the league behind champion Stratton, and both currently reside inside the top-eight of the RPI. Idalia will host a first round game, but a win by the Indian-Mustangs would likely have them at home in the first round, as well.
The Wolves are riding the high of last week’s win over Fleming in what was a clash of top-five teams at the time. Idalia opened the game with a pick-six by Eduardo Estrada and they quickly built a 14-0 lead. They led 26-8 entering the final period, and had to hold on for the victory. Tarek Glanz threw for a pair of touchdowns, one apiece to Kye Towns and Yahir Enriquez. Enriquez added 155 yards and two scores on the ground.
Arickaree/Woodlin, who is 0-3 against teams in the top-six of the RPI, moved past Peetz (3-6, 20th RPI) 59-22 last Friday. The Indian-Mustangs’ first unit defense did not allow a point in the contest. Logan Wright completed both of his passing attempts for 83 yards with a TD, and also added 138 yards and three scores in the running game. Samuel Koolstra went for 133 yards and two scores on the ground, and he caught a 65-yard TD from Wright. Those two combined for 21 tackles and a takeaway, as Wright recorded a pick-six.
Arickaree/Woodlin is 4-3 as a co-op against Idalia, but has lost the last two meetings. Last year, Enriquez ran for 159 yards and three touchdowns in Idalia’s 31-27 victory.
Two other games to keep an eye on this weekend are Stratton visiting Walsh (3-6, 19th RPI) and Mountain Valley at Kiowa (0-8, 27th RPI). A victory by Walsh would throw the bottom half of the bracket into disarray, as it would catapult the Eagles into the top-16. While Mountain Valley enters the weekend in the final playoff spot, they may not be able to hold onto that position even with a win. With Otis and North Park both playing opponents who are much higher than Kiowa in the RPI, things could get very interesting this weekend.