Eyes on the Prize: After week No. 4
By Kent Mueller Special to PrepsKC
With a fourth week of play, each Missouri high school football team moved closer to its eventual seeding for the district playoffs.
If you did not read my article from last week (Eyes on the Prize Week 1), I suggest that you scroll there and scan the first portion. This article will make more sense if you do.
This is the second article in a weekly series that tracks the high schools as they increase or decrease their power rating as calculated by MSHSAA. The formula has been very predictive in the past, which makes it useful to follow throughout the season. It starts out with less precision, but as more data is available each week, it becomes increasingly accurate. That makes each of the 44 districts like a horse race to follow through to the last week of the season.
Are we closer to the true seeds at the end of the year? One would think so, but there is a lot of football to be played. What happened with the results of Week 4 added to the formula? Well, lots of changes.
As I look at all the changes spread out over the 336 schools, I am reminded of the ticker of the stock market with individual companies either rising or falling. A snap shot tells you very little, but if you pay attention you will see some rising more than others just as some are falling more than others.
Those are the same types of movements in Missouri high school football. Of the 44 districts, only four ended the week’s play with the same seeding order as the prior week. The changes in the other 40 districts include 8 districts that have a new No. 1 seed.
Last week I noted how a school benefits by playing a school from a higher classification. That remains true just as it will throughout the remainder of the season. To see how playing larger schools can enhance your seeding score, just look at the typical Class 6 score and compare it to the scores of the smaller classifications. Class 6 is unique because it is the only class that can’t play larger teams in order to garner the extra points. And their average scores are lower than the other classifications because of that.
Last week I commented on the two schools with the highest score overall. The highest last week, as is the case this week was Class 4, District 5, Webb City. They defeated Class 5 Republic last week. That keeps them the highest score of all schools.
Last week’s No. 2 was Class 2, District 8 St. Joseph LeBlond. They lost to Class 3, District 8 Maryville. The result was LeBlond dropped out of the overall Top 10. However, they remain first in their district and No. 7 among all fellow Class 2 schools. Both schools continue playing up this week with Webb City meeting Class 5 Nixa and the Golden Eagles taking on Class 3 Chillicothe.
Class 6, District 4 continues to be turned upside down. We are 44 percent of the way through the regular season and Blue Springs and Rockhurst occupy the bottom two rungs on the eight step ladder. They have one win between them.
Before they meet each other in week 6, Blue Springs will play once defeated Lee’s Summit this week while Rockhurst meets up against undefeated Blue Springs South. Let this set in. Those two schools could meet each other over half way through the season being a combined 1-9. The best combined record they could have is 3-7. Yet, with every school advancing to post season play, there is always a path to the state championship, a place with which both of those schools are familiar.
As noted above, Webb City remains with the highest score of all 336 schools in all the classifications. Let’s take a look at this week’s Top Ten. The last column tells the schools movement relative to the prior week.
Top Ten Schools
Here are the updated Top Five for Class 6 and the Top Ten for Classes 1 through 5:
What are we to make of these Top 10s? Well, four of the six class leaders held their top spot from a week ago. Of the six leaders from last week, only Webb City and Park Hills Central increased their leads. The other four had their lead narrowed or, were replaced in the top spot.
When we look at the highest districts among all the classifications, we see seven of last week’s Top 10 repeating this week. In fact the top five districts from last week are in the same order this week.
Class 2, District 5 which is led by Brentwood, lengthened its lead as the district with the highest average seeding score. As mentioned last week, there is no sure metric to anoint a district as the “Toughest District in Missouri.” If you think the toughest district is the one with the highest average seeding score then yes, Class 2, District 5 is the most difficult district.
Perhaps the toughest district is the one with the highest rated last place team. This week that would be Class 4, District 1 North County which sports a 26.67 score, tops of the 44 last place teams. That score may get you last in that district, but is higher than a full third of all the teams in the state.
Home field is a distinct advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It is more difficult in Class 2, District 5 to get a first round home berth than in any other district. For Lutheran North to be in line for the last home berth in that district, they had to produce a seeding score of 49.52. If the season ended today, they would barely get the home field in the first round as the fourth seed. And for that, if victorious in the first round, they would have the honor of traveling to the first place seed in the second round. What would that 49.52 get them in other districts? That score would give them the No. 1 seed in 22, or half, of all the districts in Missouri.
When we take a look at how last year’s champions are faring this year, all six defending champs lead its district while four are in the top two of their entire classification. Here are the defending champs:
Impact Games of the Week
All games are important, but some have more impact than others. If Blue Springs South is to challenge class leader Francis Howell for the home field advantage throughout the district games they will probably have to beat Rockhurst this weekend. It is also possible that Rockhurst must win this week against Blue Springs South to get even one home game in the district games.
In Class 5, District 6 No. 2 and 3 Neosho and Carthage square off. That game will go a long way to determining the second seed for that district. The game of the week would probably be between Fort Osage and Staley, both of which lead their respective district. They are both also in the top four of Class 5 statewide. Given its large lead in its district, Fort Osage would still lead with a loss this week. Staley has a smaller, yet comfortable lead in Class 5, District 8. That should be a great game.
There is a pitched battle for first place in Class 4, District 6 where Center and Harrisonville have separated themselves from the pack. That district top seed may be determined when those two teams meet on the field on October 2. Platte County can maintain its sizable lead in Class 4, District 8 with a win over Winnetonka which would also include extra points for playing a higher class team.
There is a great game this week in Class 3, District 7. No. 1, and defending state champion Oak Grove hosts No. 2 Odessa. Ironically, if that game is close (the point spread being less than 13) it could allow No. 3 Hogan Prep to inch closer to the No. 2 seed. Hogan should win by more than 13 this week.
In Class 2, District 8 Bishop LeBlond seeks to protect its No. 1 seed position when they travel this week to play a very good Chillicothe team.
High school football is always changing. But, there are a few constants here in Missouri. There are great games with a lot of impact each week. Given how the post season games are seeded, there is no off week. Every game is important. Slip up once and you will probably have to start with a more difficult opponent in the playoffs, perhaps on the road. What will happen the rest of the year? We only know one thing for sure, and that is that the intensity will continue to increase each week.
Oak Grove Panthers
Blue Valley West Jaguars
Anderson County Bulldogs
Olathe Northwest Ravens
Hogan Prep Academy Rams
Crest Ridge Cougars