With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the state playoff picture is starting to become a little less fuzzy for area high school football teams.
In Class 5A, Redmond High, which at 6-0 is one of only three 5A teams still undefeated this year, is trying to make the state postseason for the first time since 2007 and is a virtual lock to at least compete in a play-in game. The Panthers enter this week’s home game against Bend High sitting No. 2 in the Oregon School Activities Association’s football rankings.
At the 5A level, the top eight teams at the end of the regular season receive automatic byes into the state playoffs. Teams ranked No. 9 through No. 24 will be paired up in play-in games — No. 24 at No. 9, No. 23 at No. 10, for example — with the eight winners advancing to the OSAA’s state playoff bracket.
Following this week’s game against Bend, Redmond ends the regular season with road games at Mountain View (3-3) and Portland’s Roosevelt High (4-2).
The Cougars, who are coming off a convincing 55-14 road victory over Pendleton, also look likely to advance to the play-in round and could possibly earn a bye into the state playoffs if they continue to win. Currently ranked 14th in 5A, Mountain View is at Summit this Friday before playing Redmond and Bend on the road in the final two weeks of the season.
The Lava Bears (2-4), ranked 17th this week, would go on the road for a play-in game if the season ended today. But with tough tests ahead against Redmond and Mountain View, a postseason bid is no cinch. Bend High has only two regular-season games left this year because of a scheduled bye week on Oct. 19.
Rounding out Central Oregon’s 5A teams is Summit, which at 2-4 has the same record as the Lava Bears. The Storm, ranked 26th after falling to Bend 51-14 on Friday, need at least one win, if not two, in their final three games to rally for a play-in berth. Summit hosts Mountain View this Friday night, plays at Crook County next week, and ends the regular season with a home game against Ridgeview of Redmond.
While the path to the state playoffs is a bit confusing at the 5A level, it’s nothing compared with the Class 4A postseason qualification format. As determined by a vote of the classification’s athletic directors, seven 4A league champions — every conference but Crook County and Ridgeview’s Special District 1 — will be awarded automatic berths into the state postseason bracket, regardless of their OSAA ranking. The eighth team to earn a bye into the state playoffs will be the highest-ranked team that is not a league champion. The 4A play-in round is made up of league runners-up playing teams that finished third in their conference, with two “at-large" berths reserved for teams based on power rankings.
Playing this season essentially without a league, Crook County and Ridgeview can qualify for the state playoffs or the play-in round only by finishing high enough in the OSAA rankings. After last Friday’s games, Ridgeview was 11th in the 4A rankings and Crook County was 12th, which would give both teams a play-in home game.
The football teams at Central Oregon’s three other 4A schools — Madras, Sisters and La Pine — have a more direct path to the postseason in that if they finish as one of the top three teams in their leagues they will be rewarded with a play-in berth. The White Buffaloes are 2-0 and tied for first in the Tri-Valley Conference going into the meat of their league schedule. Sisters is 1-1 in Sky-Em League play, tied for third with Junction City. La Pine, which also competes in the Sky-Em, is 0-2 in league this year, tied for fifth place with Elmira.
Smaller schools Culver (2A) and Gilchrist (1A) have their work cut out for them if they hope to play in the postseason this year. The Bulldogs are 0-1 in Tri-River Conference games — 0-4 overall — and have been shut out three times this season. The Grizzlies are 1-4 in 1A’s Special District 2 and have given up 72 points each of their last two games.
Of course, everything could change in the final three weeks of the season. Be sure to check in daily with me and the rest of the prep staff here at The Bulletin as we follow the always fluid state football playoff picture.
— Reporter: 541-383-0305, email@example.com.