BY CHAD DARE email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — Once a team makes the IHSA state football playoffs, the goal for the next season is make it back.
That’s what happened this year for four Vermilion Valley Conference programs.
Bismarck-Henning, the VVC champions at 9-0, will be joined by Salt Fork (8-1), Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman (5-4) and Milford/Cissna Park (5-4) in the 2013 IHSA state football playoffs. The Blue Devils and the Buffaloes are in the Class 2A field, while the Storm and Bearcats are in Class 1A.
“It’s a little bit of a surprised,’’ said Bismarck-Henning coach Mark Dodd about entering the playoffs at 9-0 for the second straight season. “Last year, it was kind of expected. Our kids this season rose to the challenge and this is a good reward for continuing to play well.’’
After back-to-back trips into the south bracket of the Class 2A playoffs, highlighted by heart-breaking second-round losses to Marshall (2011) and DuQuoin (2012), Bismarck-Henning finds itself in the north bracket this season. The Blue Devils will open the playoffs against the Red Devils of Hall Township High School out of Spring Valley.
“Maybe going north will be a welcomed change for our program,’’ said Dodd, who knows very little about the Red Devils. “I know they are a very tradition-rich program from my earlier coaching days up at Richmond-Burton. Other than that, we are going to be searching for information all week on them.’’
While the Blue Devils are going north, the Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman Buffaloes find themselves in the south bracket where they will open on the road against the Carlinville Cavaliers. A year ago, the Buffaloes had to play the Blue Devils in the first round, a team they played two weeks earlier.
“Getting back into the playoffs was the goal of this team all along,’’ Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman coach Josh Cavanaugh said. “Getting into the playoffs is new life, it’s a new opportunity. We are elated to be in this situation and we look forward to playing a team outside of our area.’’
Ironically, Cavanaugh was a substitute teacher at Carlinville during his first season at the helm of the Buffaloes.
“I probably spent a 100 days in that building during my first year here,’’ Cavanaugh said. “I’ve started contacting family members to help us with our scouting. Right now, it’s all about preparation and information.’’
Making a return trip to the playoffs is a big deal for most teams, but it’s becoming an expectation every season with the Salt Fork Storm.
For the 13th consecutive season, Salt Fork will find itself in a first-round playoff game. The Storm will host the Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond Knights (7-2) next weekend at Jamaica High School.
“It’s always exciting to make the playoffs,’’ Salt Fork coach Brian Plotner said. “Every year, it’s a different group of kids trying to achieve that goal and it’s huge accomplishment for each team. We don’t want to become complacent with what these young men have achieved each year.’’
And in keeping with their tradition, Plotner said there are only two teams he is worried about this week.
“It’s Arthur-Lovington and Salt Fork,’’ he said. “We are going to try to find a way to beat a very good football program. Coach (Dale) Schuring and I are really good friends, so I know they are going be well-coached and I know they have some athletes, considering we played them last year in the basketball sectional tournament at Schlarman.’’
While Bismarck-Henning and Salt Fork knew before Friday night’s season finales that they had make the playoffs, and Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman knew it made it after Friday’s win over Westville, the Milford/Cissna Park Bearcats had to do a little bit of scoreboard watching.
Entering the final week of the season, Milord/Cissna Park had just 34 playoff points and most projections had the cutoff being at 37. The Bearcats did their part with a win over Hoopeston Area and then they got a little help with wins from Bismarck-Henning, Iroquois West and Tri-County.
“We knew we had to do our part and as I was checking scores last night, I thought we were going to make it,’’ said Milford/CP coach Clint Schwartz. “When we brought the kids in today, I knew we had made it.’’
Milford/CP will hit the road for the second year in a row as the Bearcats will face the top-seeded Ottawa Marquette Crusaders.
Official game times will be announced by the IHSA on Monday.