DANVILLE — When the football season begins, one of the primary goals for every team is making the IHSA State Playoffs.
That’s because unlike other sports where every team is eligible for the state tournament season, in football, a team must qualify for a postseason berth. The magic number is five victories to become playoff-eligible or a team must win its conference championship.
“Reaching the playoffs is a an accomplishment for teams,’’ said Westville coach Guy Goodlove, whose team is 3-4 on the season. The Tigers need wins in their final two regular season games to become playoff-eligible. “We believe that we have plenty of playoff points (the IHSA tiebreaker) if we can get ourselves to five wins.’’
After considering that the Tigers started the year at 0-4, winning the final five games of the regular season to making the postseason would be a remarkable turnaround.
“We will have certainly earned our spot in the playoffs, if we can get to five wins,’’ Goodlove added.
Under the current IHSA setup, the top 256, regardless of class, will make the playoffs. Teams are first chosen by conference champions, and then comes all teams with six or more victories. The remaining spots will be filled with teams reaching the five-win mark. Those teams are ranked by playoff points (opponent victories) and if there is a still a tie for the final spot, those teams are then ranked by number of wins for the teams that each squad defeated during the year.
“Coming into the season, you know that every game during the season matters,’’ said Milford/Cissna Park coach Clint Schwartz, whose Bearcats at 3-4 will need two more victories.
In the Vermilion Valley Conference, the Bismarck-Henning Blue Devils and the Salt Fork Storm have already secured their spots in the playoffs. The Blue Devils, winners of 20 straight regular-season games and 15 straight conference games, has secured a share of the conference title and they will be the league’s representative in the playoffs. The Storm, who are 6-1, is guaranteed a playoff berth with six victories.
That leaves Westville (3-4), Milford/Cissna Park (3-4) and Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman (4-3) with some work left to do this season.
“We came into this season looking to build upon what we’ve done in the past,’’ said Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman coach Josh Cavanaugh, whose Buffaloes have made the playoffs the last two years in a row. “We believe with our playoff points, that we will get back into the playoffs with one more victory.’’
And while each coach admits their teams are striving to reach the playoffs, they also know it takes victories to get there.
“We are getting ready for a very tough Bismarck-Henning team,’’ said Cavanaugh, who will returning to the sidelines after a two-week absence. “This is our senior night and we’re going to need to play a really good game to beat them.’’
If the Buffaloes, who have lost two straight, are not able to beat the Blue Devils this week, that could set up a very interesting season-finale in the annual Coal Bucket Game against the Tigers.
But, even Goodlove wouldn’t let himself get past this week’s game against the Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers.
“Our opponent this week is Hoopeston and our focus is on Hoopeston,’’ he said.
It’s basically the same line for the Milford/Cissna Park program.
“All we are talking about is going 1-0 this week,’’ Schwartz said. “If we do what we have to do to win this week, than we can worry about what is going to happen next week.’’
Milford/Cissna Park, who suffered a tough 21-14 setback on Saturday against Attica, is on the road with a contest against the Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac Comets, who are 1-6 and eliminated from postseason consideration.
But even with two more wins, the Bearcats will still need a little help to make the playoffs. Right now, Milford/Cissna Park is sitting with 30 playoff points, depending on the results in the final two weeks, the Bearcats can finish with anywhere from 34 to 41 playoff points.
“We are definitely the definition of a bubble team,’’ said Schwartz. “Hopefully, our non-conference opponents are able to win out to help us.’’
The official IHSA playoff pairings will be announced on Oct. 26.
This week’s action in the VVC features Bismarck-Henning traveling to Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman, while Milford/Cissna Park is at Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac and Westville travels to Hoopeston Area (0-5). The Salt Fork Storm will play a non-conference contest on Friday night against the Heyworth Hornets (4-3). All four games will kickoff at 7 p.m.