The 3A Playoff Chase
The Rifle Bears moved up one spot in the weekly CHSSAA Wild Card points after a convincing 47-3 win over the Steamboat Sailors on Friday. The Wild Card points are the sole criterion used to determine which teams make the 16 team field for the 3A state football playoffs. The list is generated by a mathematical formula and is not a product of human voting like a lot of other statewide football polls. Strength of schedule is a huge defining factor in the rankings.
In this week’s wild card standings, Delta dropped from 9th to 14th after an upset loss to Eagle Valley. With two league losses and three overall, Delta is now likely on the outside looking in when it comes to the league championship hunt. Their priority now is to beat both Grand Junction Central and Palisade to close out the year. Delta, a near consensus #1 overall pick in the preseason 3A football polls is now in a difficult spot. Just one more loss would leave the Panthers’ playoff hopes hanging by a string.
Eagle Valley Devils
Eagle Valley, despite their big victory over Delta, remained at number 11 in the standings. They would make the playoffs if they are able to beat Palisade and Grand Junction Central to close out the season. With two league losses, the Devils are likely out of the league championship conversation, barring an unlikely series of late season upsets league-wide.
Palisade remained at the 12th spot this week. The Bulldogs can win at least a share of the league title and can assure themselves of a top 8 seed and a first round home playoff game by beating Eagle Valley and Delta to close out the season. This will be no easy task, however. Both Eagle Valley and Delta need to win out to make sure that they will be a member of the playoff 16.
Glenwood Springs Demons
Glenwood Springs dropped a place in the standings despite beating Summit last Friday. The Demons are now #15 in Wild Card points and find themselves in an interesting position. Wins over Rifle and Steamboat Springs to close out the season would earn the Demons an outright league championship, a top 8 seed in the playoffs, and a first round home playoff game. One loss to either opponent, and Glenwood (5-3) is in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs altogether.
With a 7-1 record, the Bears are likely already in the playoffs no matter what the outcome of their final two games might be, but a win over either Glenwood or Summit in the final two weeks would cement a spot in the final 16 and fulfill Rifle’s primary team goal. As Coach Wells tells the team all the time, “league championships make for nice t-shirts, but we just want to be in the playoffs.”
But if the Bears should win both games to end the regular season, they would not only make the playoffs, but would earn at least a share of their 4th straight league championship. More than likely, winning out would also earn Rifle a top 8 seed and a first-round home playoff game.
Bears fans should not only hope for two more wins, but also for Palisade to drop a game to either Eagle Valley or Delta. This scenario nets Rifle the best possible playoff seeding as well as an outright league championship.
An interesting side-note to the 3A playoff chase is former West Slope League foe, Battle Mountain. The Huskies (5-2) are still a 3A team, but are playing in the 2A West Slope North League. If Battle Mountain should win that league (which they are currently leading) and generate enough wildcard points in the process, they could make the final round of 16. Currently they reside at #24.
As for the rest of the West Slope League, with just two games left, Steamboat, Grand Junction Central and Summit are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff conversation.