Eyes on the Prize Postseason

By Kent Mueller Special to PrepsKC
Posted: October 31, 2015 - 12:34 AM

There was a lot of football played in Missouri over the weekend. But, very little was settled. Throughout the state, there were 159 games. The season ended for half of those 318 teams.

That means there are over 750 coaches checking in equipment this week. Most likely giving a few players a final hug as he accepts their shoulder pads. I’m sure some are relishing the feeling of knowing they can put off time in the film room, even if only for a few days. There is no next week, but there is next year.

There are also over 7,000 football players checking in the equipment the coaches are receiving. That is a lot of kids who will have to process the Fall’s events in their minds over the next few weeks. Many will be back next August to strap it on again under the hot Missouri summer sun. Some know they have played their last game of football. That realization was probably the hardest hit they took all year.

Do I say this in some weak attempt to be maudlin? No, not at all. But rather as a tribute to all of those boys whose season has ended. Boys who this Fall took a step towards adulthood. Boys and their coaches who were indispensable in another successful year of Missouri high school football. To you men, both young and not so young, job well done.

Those games played also produced 159 victorious teams. Those teams will combine with the 16 teams who had byes in the first round as competition heats up in round two of the playoffs. This week’s winners will play for their district’s title.

Perhaps not quite of the magnitude of a tectonic shifting of the plates below our feet, but for the first time in the four year history of the current playoff structure, a No. 8 seed has traveled to the field of the No. 1 seed, and came away victorious. In Class 4, District 3 the No. 8 seed Riverview Gardens overcame No. 1 Clayton by a score of 24-20. There have been a handful of close 1/8 games in the past. One such occasion was when class 4, District 5 No. 1 St. Charles West slipped past No. 8 MICDS in 2012, 33-28. Another occurred this year in class 6, District 4 when No. 1 Kickapoo survived against No. 8 Lee’s Summit, 30-26.

Clayton wasn’t the only victim in Class 4, District 3. No. 3 seed St. Charles West fell by 11 to No. 6 seed MICDS while No. 5 St. Dominic pushed past No. 4 St. Charles, 14-12. Only No. 2 University City’s win over No. 7 Jennings prevented a lower half sweep.

Upsets are major when there is such distance between the seeds, as is the case with a No. 1 and a No. 8. But, sometimes the impact of the upset comes with the magnitude of the distance in terms of the score. As we found this year, not all upsets are nail biters, but rather are settled early.

While Class 6 gave us the 8 over a 1, the other classes gave us resounding upsets. Class 4, District 4, No. 5 Priory upended No. 4 Sullivan, 49-14. (A shout out to my good friend Ed Hauptmann) In Class 3, District 2 we saw No. 5 Lift for Life Charter defeat No. 4 Confluence Prep, 42-6. Class 2 gave us two such upsets. In District 4, No. 5 El Dorado Springs defeated No. 4 University Academy, 42-6 while District 7 No. 4 St. Paul Lutheran-Concordia fell to No. 5 Hallsville, 0-42. And Class 1 gave us the grand daddy of all the upsets when District 1 No. 6 seed Monroe City blasted No. 3 Barat Academy, 62-0.

Should 48 points be enough to stave off a lower ranked team? Maybe, but that proved to not be a sure thing. In what may have appeared to look more like a track meet (Or, Baylor vs TCU), Class 3, District 5 No. 5 Glendale sped past No. 4 Central-Springfield, 76-48. Just imagine scoring 48 and coming up four touchdowns and a two point conversion short. Wow.

Those upsets have done nothing to tarnish the reputation of the formula MSHSAA uses to seed each team into its district play. The formula has projected the winner of the contest a high percentage of the time. There will always be notable exceptions as described above. That is a big part of what makes the games fun. There were 26 upsets in week 1, the most since the formula came into use.

Over the four years of first round action, the formula correctly seeded the teams 86% of the time. What is even more impressive is the narrow range of fluctuation over those four years, with a high of 87% in 2013 and a low of 84% this year. That is excellent consistency.

So, what will happen this week? If history repeats itself, most of the higher seeds will win on their home fields. But, not all. Where will the upsets occur? We have absolutely no idea. And that is why all of this is worth the price of admission. This week’s winners will advance to compete in a district championship. A win this week puts you a third of the way to the prize of a state championship.

Speaking of championships, all six of the reigning champs from last year were among the 86% who won as a higher seed. None of the five who didn’t have a bye were pushed, winning by an average score of 59-9. Christian Brothers, Battle and Webb City each take their No. 1 seed into the second round against the No. 3 seed. Lamar faces a four seed. The only defending champion attempting to be in the 14% minority of upset victors is No. 3 seed Oak Grove as they travel to No. 2 seed Hogan Prep.

See you again next week as we evaluate the 44 district championship games. Oh, and Let’s Go Royals.