Playoff picture coming into focus

Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic’s meetings with Bishop McCort on the football field always have a lot of significance in terms of diocesan bragging rights.

The Crimson Crushers are going through a rare down year, but the rivalry still burns, and, to add fuel to that fire, the result of Friday night’s meeting at Mansion Park also is vital to Guilfoyle’s hopes to get at least one District 6 Class A home playoff game.

The playoffs kick off Nov. 8.

Guilfoyle and defending champion Bellwood-Antis are two of the eight teams from the Mirror coverage area still vying for one of the eight slots in the 6-A tournament with two regular-season games remaining. Portage, Bishop Carroll, Juniata Valley and Williamsburg are the other area teams with the best shots of playing on.

Currently third in the rankings, Bellwood is almost certain to get a top-four finish and a home game in the quarterfinals, just to long as the 7-1 Blue Devils don’t stumble at 1-7 Glendale this weekend.

Although Guilfoyle is 6-2 and on a six-game winning streak that includes five wins over Class AA opponents – worth 20 points more per game than wins over Class A teams according to a district point system that also awards 10 points for each win a beaten opponent has at the end of the season – the Marauders currently are sitting in fifth place behind Homer-Center, Penns Manor, Bellwood and Portage and will need a little help to move up.

Guilfoyle should win out – McCort is 2-6 and week 10 opponent United has yet to win a game – but that in itself won’t be enough for the Marauders. They need someone in front of them to slip up somewhere along the line, too.

Homer-Center and Penns Manor, both undefeated, play each other this week, and, barring a Bellwood upset win at Richland on Nov. 1, the winner of that game is going to be the No. 1 seed. Even if the loser of that game could very well finish with more points than Guilfoyle regardless of what it does in the last game of the regular season.

Guilfoyle’s eyes are on Portage’s spot. The Mustangs are 7-1 (one of their games was cancelled because Rockwood couldn’t field a team this season) but have a pair of tough games to finish, going to 5-3 Blairsville before hosting Homer-Center. If Portage loses both of them and BG wins its two games, the Marauders will get the fourth seed and get to play a quarterfinal game at Mansion Park.

Because it is playing one less game, though, the playoff spots will be determined by power points divided by games played in 6-A; Portage would finish in the top four just by splitting in the next two weeks.

The other big developments for area fans involve who will claim the last. Only Homer, Penns Manor and Bellwood have mathematically clinched their playoff spots, but Portage, Guilfoyle and Bishop Carroll are almost certainly in, too. That leaves eight teams in the mix for the last two positions.

Even McCort still is mathematically alive, although it would take a virtual miracle for the Crushers to get in.

Realistically, those last two slots are going to be filled by Juniata Valley, Williamsburg and/or Blairsville. The Green Hornets finish with a difficult game against Huntingdon, which itself has playoff hopes resting on its finish, but should solidify its spot by beating winless West Branch at home this Friday.

Williamsburg also has a game against West Branch that it should win, but the Blue Pirates have what probably amounts to a make-or-break game on Friday at 6-2 Northern Bedford. If the Pirates win, they have a great chance to advance. If not, it doesn’t look good, because Blairsville can overtake them just by beating Moshannon Valley in week 10 – it wouldn’t even matter whether or not the Bobcats could pull at minor upset on Portage this week.

Northern Cambria is a bit of a wild card in the mix. The Colts could shake things up a bit by winning at Ligonier Valley this week. That seems like a long shot, because Ligonier is 6-2 with its two setbacks coming against Homer-Center and Penns Manor, while Northern Cambria’s four victories have come at the expense of teams that have three total wins.

Moshannon Valley still is alive, too. The Black Knights should get a win this week at home against Southern Huntingdon and then will need to hope they are still in a position for their week 10 game against Blairsville to matter.

SUBHED: The rest of District 6

It looks like the magic number for wins in District 6 Class AA is six. It appears six wins will definitely get a team in, and five might even be enough to do it.

That’s what Huntingdon is hoping heading into this week’s game with Central. The Bearcats are 4-4 and, while they’ve been playing much better or the past month, a win against the explosive 6-2 Scarlet Dragons, who already have secured a spot in the field along with Richland and Mount Union, seems unlikely.

However, Huntingdon currently resides in seventh place even with the .500 record and is being chased by three other 4-4 teams – Bald Eagle Area, Penns Valley and Forest Hills – along with 3-5 Juniata. Huntingdon probably can afford to lose to Central as long as it beats Juniata Valley next week, because most of those other teams have games in which they’ll be the underdog, too.

Penns Valley has to play 6-2 Tyrone and 7-1 Mount Union in the last two games, so, while the Rams could really help themselves, being able to win just one of those two games is a steep task. Barring a major upset, BEA will win this week against Bellefonte before taking on 6-2 Ligonier in week 10; Ligonier beat BEA twice last season. Juniata has to play undefeated Pine Grove.

Forest Hills has the most favorable schedule. The Rangers host 3-5 Johnstown and finish at 1-7 Philipsburg-Osceola. While neither of those games look like cakewalks for a Forest Hills team that’s been riddled by injuries and inconsistency, the Rangers should be at least a moderate favorite both times out.

If they win both, the Rangers should make the playoffs and might even get as high as the seventh seed.

Richland is virtually sure of the top seed, and Mount Union probably is going to be second, although neither of the Trojans’ last two games against Tussey Mountain or Penns Valley figures to be a gimme.

While Central and Tyrone are in the driver’s seat for third and fourth, Central Cambria, on a two-game losing skid after its surprising 5-1 start, has some work to do. The Red Devils have their work cut out for them against Richland on Friday and final-game opponent Bishop McCort still is dangerous. If Central Cambria wins just one of them, it’s fine. However, the Devils could be overtaken by the winner of the Ligonier/BEA game, Huntingdon and even Forest Hills if it drops both.

The District 6-9 Class AAAA picture is in pretty solid focus. DuBois looks like it will be the No. 1 seed, with the winner of Friday’s State College/Mifflin County game taking second and all three of those teams heading into the playoffs.

District 5-6-8-9 Class AAA also is fairly clear. Clearfield, University Prep and Somerset should be the top three seeds in that order. There are quite a few teams in contention for the last spot – even Bellefonte is alive, technically. Johnstown should take it if it beats Forest Hills, but Punxsutawney has the most favorable remaining schedule.

SUBHED: District 5

It looks like all three Bedford County teams will decide the District 5-8 Class AA champion on the field. The only thing left to be determined is whether or not Westinghouse will enter the playoffs, unlikely because it only has won one game. If Westinghouse doesn’t go in, Everett will be the third seed.

Chestnut Ridge currently is in the top spot in the rankings, but the Lions look like the underdogs in their next two games while clinging to a one-point lead over Bedford, its week 10 opponent. Bedford won’t have it easy against Ridge or Bishop Carroll but still looks like the favorite in both of those games.

District 5 Class A still has a lot of sorting out to do.

Tussey Mountain is 7-1 and holding down the top spot, but the Titans have two extremely difficult road games at Mount Union (7-1) and Meyersdale (7-1) to complete the regular season. If Tussey can’t win one of those, the Titans are looking at probably dropping to third or even fourth place.

Even if Northern Bedford wins out, the Black Panthers need Tussey, Berlin Brothersvalley or Meyersdale to lose at least once to move up in the rankings. Meyersdale’s toughest game is the one at Tussey. Berlin has to play Windber, but the Mountaineers should get an extra point by beating one-win Class AA Westinghouse.

Getting the top seed is important, because, with seven teams qualifying for the playoffs, only the first will get an opening-round bye. Windber and Shade look like they’ll be sixth and seventh, respectively.