By Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Posted: November 1, 2012 - 1:22 AM
The two teams that are considered to be the best in a classification often don’t end up playing each other for the state championship.
In high school football, there are plenty of variables that factor into each game’s final score and who will ultimately play on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Weather, field conditions, matchups, game plans, home field advantage, experience and momentum are all key factors, especially in the playoffs.
Also playing a big role is a team’s playoff draw. Since the brackets are based more on travel and less on seeds, the top-ranked teams don’t always receive the easiest road through the bracket.
Take the Garden Plain Owls, for instance. Garden Plain finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in Class 3A and finished with an unblemished record. The Owls improved to 10-0 on Tuesday night with a 49-14 win against Marion.
What do the Owls get for their efforts? Possibly the most difficult draw in the state.
Garden Plain has to go on the road to face rival fifth-ranked and defending state champion Conway Springs, a 69-38 first-round winner over Wichita Independent on Tuesday.
The Owls have already beaten the Cardinals once – 41-21 in Week 6. However, this time they must go on the road and a beat a good team twice in the same season. Garden Plain knows how difficult that can be, falling to Conway Springs in the playoffs last year after winning the regular season matchup. These two teams also split a season series back in 2008 when it was again the Cardinals who won the all-important playoff rematch.
The winner of the Garden Plain and Conway Springs game would likely have to face undefeated and second-ranked Scott City in the following round. That game’s winner potentially could meet fourth-ranked and undefeated Beloit in the state semifinals. If things go to plan, that winner would play top-ranked and undefeated Silver Lake for the state championship.
Garden Plain and Conway Springs are the only teams in the classification who theoretically could have to play all of the other ranked teams in order to win the state championship. Silver Lake, on the other hand, won’t have to face a ranked team until the state title game at the earliest.
That’s not to say that Garden Plain and Conway Springs can’t make it through that bracket. Both teams are more than capable, but the state and geography hasn’t made life easy for either team.
Now that we’ve tackled Class 3A, let’s take a deeper look into the brackets for all of the other classifications.
Top-ranked Hutchinson (7-2) has its hands full with its draw. The Salthawks open the first round against Wichita Heights (7-2), which has advanced to the 6A state finals each of the past three seasons. If the Salthawks gets past the Falcons, they could have to go on the road to fifth-ranked Topeka High (8-1). If they win that game, the Salthawks potentially could have a rematch with second-ranked Derby in the state semifinals. Hutchinson beat Derby 31-28 in Week 6.
The east side of the bracket looks wide open as the majority of the Kansas City area schools have beaten up on each other and like opponents throughout the regular season.
A potential battle of the second and third-ranked teams looms in the second round of the playoffs. If second-ranked Salina South (8-1) beats Goddard (4-5) and third-ranked Emporia (8-1) defeats Andover Central (4-5), the Cougars and Spartans will collide in a key second-round game.
Salina South’s only loss was to 6A’s No. 2 Derby in Week 1, while Emporia’s only loss was to 6A’s fifth-ranked Topeka High in Week 6. The winner of that game could potentially face top-ranked Bishop Carroll in the state semifinals. The top three ranked teams in 5A all reside in the west.
Fourth-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas and fifth-ranked Blue Valley West lead the way in a wide-open east side of the bracket.
There is no easy road on the west side of 4A, where all of the top four-ranked teams in the state reside. Meanwhile, No. 5 Fort Scott was upset by Louisburg on the east side of the bracket on Tuesday night.
Top-ranked Holton (10-0) faces a similar path to that of 3A’s Garden Plain. Despite being 10-0 and No. 1 in the state, the Wildcats must go on the road and face fourth-ranked Wichita Collegiate in the second round. The winner of that will have to face either second-ranked McPherson (8-1) or an Andale team with only one loss. After that, third-ranked Mulvane could still be around.
So, Holton would potentially have to go through the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 teams to get to the state championship. Even worse, Wichita Collegiate could potentially have to beat the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 teams. Not an easy task.
Since Fort Scott is out, it’s anybody’s ball game in the east. Last year’s runner-up Eudora may be the early favorite, but a team like Louisburg, Chanute or an explosive Coffeyville squad could make a run.
The east sets up nicely for a semifinal battle of third-ranked Lyndon (9-0) and fourth-ranked and defending state champion Centralia (9-0).
A couple of big second-round battles loom in the west. Top-ranked La Crosse (9-0) could face fifth-ranked Stanton County (8-1) in the semifinals, while perennial powerhouse Smith Center (6-3) could match up with second-ranked Meade (8-1). The young Redmen are on a five-game winning streak after starting the season 1-3.
8-Man Division I
The way the bracket works out, top-ranked Ness City wouldn’t have to face a ranked opponent until the state championship game.
Meanwhile, the other four ranked teams will face each other in the second round on the east side of the bracket. Third-ranked South Haven travels to face second-ranked Madison on Saturday, while fifth-ranked Mankato-Rock Hills will be on the road against fourth-ranked Marmaton Valley.
8-Man Division II
Top-ranked Baileyville B&B wouldn’t have to face a ranked opponent until the state championship game as third-ranked Waverly committed eight turnovers in an upset loss to Caldwell in the first round.
The other three ranked teams reside in the west. Fifth-ranked and defending state champion Thunder Ridge will travel to face fourth-ranked Otis-Bison in the second round on Saturday. Second-ranked Sharon Springs-Wallace Co. will be at home against 9-1 Fowler.