Oct 18, 2013
Jeriko Styles (22) with the ball for Sanderson. Friday night football at Leesville Rd High School as they host Sanderson. Homecoming ended well as Leesville defeats Sanderson by 17 to 28. Photo by CHRIS BAIRD
Believe it or not, there are only four weeks left in the high school football season, and as time winds down, the pressure heats up for area teams who sit on the playoff bubble.
Already some teams are watching as they slide off the wrong side of the bubble. Some teams have already clinched playoff berths, but the playoff bubble in the East this season – at least at the 4-A level – appears to be very large.
There is a lot to be sorted out in the last four weeks of the regular season, but this week we'll take a first look at the playoff bubble for area 4-A conferences.
Here's the disclaimer ... These bubbles can change week to week based on game results. So just because a team is considered "in" at the moment, upsets could move them to the bubble over the next few weeks. The same can be said for teams who are considered "out" today.
The bubble isn't all that big in the Cap 8. Right now we can project that Heritage, Leesville Road, Wake Forest, and Wakefield are all in. Three of those teams will likely receive the three automatic spots, while the other will get an at-large bid.
Millbrook (5-2, 2-1) is likely in, but given the large playoff bubble and teams around the five-win mark, two conference wins is not enough to consider the Wildcats a lock at the moment. Millbrook has a tough schedule left too – home against Wakefield and Leesville Road, and road games against Heritage and Sanderson. I don't think Millbrook will go oh-for in the last four weeks, but they do need to get another win to be considered a lock.
Sanderson (3-4, 1-2) is sitting more squarely on the bubble. While it's possible Sanderson gets in with one more win, the Spartans likely need at least two more wins to get a berth on Seeding Saturday, and even that could leave them on the bubble. Sanderson has three home games left against Broughton, Enloe and Millbrook, and a road game at Wake Forest.
Circle that Millbrook-Sanderson game on Nov. 8. That could be a biggie when it comes to playoff implications.
Broughton and Enloe, both winless, are out of the playoff picture.
The bubble in the Greater Neuse is bigger than the one in the Cap 8. Let's start with teams that have clinched a playoff berth already – Knightdale and Garner are the only two teams who meet that criteria at the moment.
Clayton (5-3, 1-2) is probably the bubble team in the best shape for an at-large bid. One more win will lock Clayton into a playoff spot. The Comets have two home games left against East Wake and Southeast Raleigh, and they go on the road to West Johnston as well. It is possible Clayton could even get in without another win, but it would be close.
Southeast Raleigh (3-3, 2-0) could also qualify for an at-large bid, but right now they're in good shape for the last automatic bid from the conference. Southeast Raleigh will need to get two more conference wins to ensure an at-large bid, but the final automatic bid could come down to the season finale at Clayton.
East Wake (2-5, 1-1) is slipping off the bubble, and the Warriors need to collect three wins in the final four games to clinch a spot. East Wake has games left at Clayton and Knightdale, and also at home against West Johnston and Harnett Central.
West Johnston (2-5, 0-2) has an uphill battle, but they're technically still on the bubble – barely. The Wildcats need to win three more games. They have three away games left at East Wake, Southeast Raleigh and Harnett Central, and one home game against Clayton.
Harnett Central (1-6, 0-3) is out of the playoffs.
Things are also interesting in the Mid-South Conference. Jack Britt, Pine Forest and South View will be in the state playoffs. Cape Fear (5-2, 2-0) is in good shape, and they will likely make the cut, but one more win would solidify that. The Colts have a tough schedule left though with home games against Pine Forest and Jack Britt and road games at E.E. Smith and South View.
E.E. Smith (4-3, 0-2) is another team that is looking for wins. The Golden Bulls need at least one more win, and possibly two more to ensure a berth, because they have no conference wins at this point. With games against South View, Cape Fear, Overhills and Seventy-First left, E.E. Smith does have opportunities to lock themselves in.
Seventy-First (4-4, 0-3) is in a similar situation to E.E. Smith, but the Falcons have a more urgent need for wins because they only have three games left – at Overhills, home against Pine Forest, and at E.E. Smith.
The Seventy-First vs. E.E. Smith game will be a very important game for playoff purposes, more than likely.
Barring a major run by Overhills (2-5, 0-2) in the final four weeks, the Jaguars appear to be out of the playoffs at this time. Overhills has games left against Seventy-First, Pine Forest, E.E. Smith and Jack Britt.
This conference is tough to judge at the moment, mostly because no one has separated themselves aside from Hillside and Riverside. The Hornets and Pirates should be locks for playoff berths at this point.
After that, who knows? Literally, the rest of the conference is sitting on the bubble.
Northern Durham (1-6, 1-0), East Chapel Hill (1-6, 0-1) and Jordan (1-6, 0-1) are all in the same boat. Person (2-5, 0-1) has one more non-conference win than the rest, but hasn't won a conference game yet.
One of these teams has to receive the last automatic bid from the conference. After that, it is entirely possible that no other team from the PAC 6 makes the state playoffs.
Things in the Southeastern Conference aren't all that confusing at this time. Pinecrest, Richmond County and Scotland County are in. The only bubble team at this time is Purnell Swett (2-5, 0-1), who has games against Richmond, Pinecrest, Hoke County and Lumberton left.
Wins against Hoke County and Lumberton could be enough to put Purnell Swett in, depending on how many teams have more than four wins in other parts of the state, but it is a tough road to the state playoffs for Purnell Swett.
Hoke County and Lumberton are out of the playoffs right now.
This is another conference that is very much up in the air with just four weeks to play.
Right now we can project that Middle Creek and Panther Creek are in, although if the Catamounts were to lose the rest of their games (Fuquay-Varina, Apex, Holly Springs, Green Hope), they could slide back onto the bubble.
Holly Springs (4-3, 3-0) is technically on the bubble, but they're on the right side of the bubble at the moment. One more win would ensure a berth for Holly Springs, and they have games left with Middle Creek, Green Hope, Panther Creek and Apex.
Athens Drive (5-4, 2-2) is also on the bubble, but the Jags only have three games left – at Middle Creek and home against Fuquay-Varina and Cary. One more win would most likely put Athens Drive in the playoffs with fives wins and three conference wins.
Fuquay-Varina (4-3, 1-2) will have a shot at a playoff berth as well. The Bengals may need two more wins (again, depending on what happens with the rest of the state) to clinch a berth, although one more could be enough. Fuquay-Varina has games at home against Panther Creek and Cary, and games on the road at Athens Drive and Middle Creek.
One more four-win team in the SWAC is also on the bubble – Green Hope (4-4, 1-3). One more win could be enough for the Falcons, but only two conference wins could leave Green Hope sitting square on the bubble. The Falcons only have three games left, a home game against Holly Springs and two road games against Apex and Panther Creek. If Green Hope can win two of those three, they would lock themselves in, but it is possible the Falcons could get in with just one more victory.
The bubble doesn't stop there though. Apex (2-5, 1-2) is technically on the bubble as well, but they have an uphill battle. The Cougars need three more wins, and they have games left at Cary and at Panther Creek, and home games against Green Hope and Holly Springs.
The bubble is big in the SWAC, but Cary (2-5, 0-3) is not on it. Right now the Imps are on the outside looking in.
Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT
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