Last chance at the IHSA's big dance
This is it.
The last chance for DuPage County's football teams to make a statement about their postseason status. Some already know they're in, some know they're out.
A bunch of teams remain somewhere in the middle, hoping a Week 10 comes to fruition.
This edition of Eyes on Five breaks down all the craziness to come in Week 9.
1. Win and in:
There are four five-win teams looking for that sixth playoff-clinching win this weekend.
Neuqua Valley faces Naperville North (3-5) while Waubonsie Valley takes on Metea Valley (1-7). Wheaton Academy plays Aurora Christian, which also seeks a guaranteed playoff berth at 5-3.
The most intriguing five-win team in DuPage County is undoubtedly Westmont. As an independent with no conference affiliation, the Sentinels pieced together a wild schedule that concludes with a must-win matchup against Burlington Central (2-6).
Westmont needs a victory because of its shockingly low number of playoff points. Playoff points are a strength-of-schedule tiebreaker number representing the total number of wins by the opponents on a team's schedule.
Basically, if there ends up being more 5-4 teams than there are available playoff spots, the IHSA will pick the five-win teams with the most playoff points as qualifiers. Pairings guru Steve Soucie, sports editor at the Joliet Herald News, projects the cutoff for playoff points to be around 37 or 38.
That's really bad news for Westmont, which, with 18 playoff points, obviously can't double that number this weekend.
So for the Sentinels, the playoffs start on Friday.
2. Win and looking very good:
DuPage County has five teams entering Week 9 with 4-4 records. Based on each team's playoff points, it looks like all five are in the postseason with a win.
Winning, though, won't be easy.
Wheaton North, which boasts a hefty 39 playoff points, takes on unbeaten Batavia -- the reigning Class 7A champion and current No. 1 in the class. The good news for the Falcons is that the game is at home and they'll have the confidence of last year's 20-17 second-round playoff loss to know they can compete with the Bulldogs.
Fenton hasn't been to the playoffs since 2013, but with 35 playoff points the Bison are a likely qualifier if they beat Chicago Christian. The Knights are 5-3 but they've only got 31 playoff points, so this has become a must-win for both teams.
Glenbard South has 36 playoff points and a regular-season finale against West Chicago (1-7). Looks pretty good for the Raiders to win and get in, but West Chicago's coming off a win over Streamwood. Can't look past the Wildcats.
Downers Grove North, with 35 playoff points, was 2-4 before rattling off wins the last two weeks against Lyons Twp. and Downers Grove South. If the Trojans beat York (3-5) they'll be playoff-bound in coach Joe Horeni's first year at the helm.
Speaking of Downers South, the Mustangs had their three-game winning streak broken by Downers North. Downers South, which has 38 playoff points, can get in with a Week 9 victory, but it'll need to be against unbeaten defending West Suburban Gold champion Willowbrook.
It'll be a mighty interesting weekend in DuPage County because of each of these five teams.
3. Also looking good:
Let's go back and look at those five-win teams. I think we can move a few of them to the "In" column for a playoff berth.
Last season Neuqua Valley was 5-4 and had 37 playoff points. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the cutoff for playoff points was 39 and they missed the postseason. With 36 points heading into the weekend, the Wildcats -- even if they lose to fall to 5-4 again -- should be in with around 40 points.
Waubonsie Valley's streak of 10 straight playoff appearances was broken last season when the Warriors missed out at 4-5. With five wins and 39 playoff points this season, consider the Warriors in the playoffs.
Finally, let's looks at Wheaton Academy. The last two times the Warriors finished 5-4, in 2010 and 2014, they missed the playoffs because of a lack of playoff points.
This season is different. Wheaton Academy had 35 playoff points. Maybe not as ideal as Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley, but you'd hope the Warriors could push 40 points and get in regardless of a win or loss against Aurora Christian.
4. What we know:
Nineteen DuPage County teams already know their fate.
The five unbeatens -- Glenbard East, IC Catholic Prep, Lisle, Montini and Willowbrook -- have known for a couple weeks they're firmly in the playoffs and hope to improve their seeding. At 7-1 Wheaton Warrenville South is in for the first time since 2014.
Benet, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South and Naperville Central won last week to claim their clinching sixth win. Glenbard West and St. Francis got their sixth wins in Week 7.
Only seven local teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. Luckily, none fell by the wayside last weekend.
Addison Trail, Glenbard North, Lake Park, Metea Valley, Naperville North, West Chicago and York hope to end the season on a high note with eyes on 2019.
5. Stat time:
Time for my annual shameless plug.
Join me and a tremendous cast of characters starting at 8 p.m. Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago Plus as we unveil all eight classes of the playoff field on the Football Pairings show.
It's always a good time ... except the part where I have to wear a suit and tie.
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