Deciphering playoff trends

 
 
Updated 11/6/2018 5:48 PM
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  • Wheaton Warrenville South's Noah Henkel looks to pass during varsity football at Bulldog Stadium in Batavia earlier this season in DuKane Conference play.

      Wheaton Warrenville South's Noah Henkel looks to pass during varsity football at Bulldog Stadium in Batavia earlier this season in DuKane Conference play. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Make no mistake about it...DuPage County took a pretty good hit on Saturday.

Of the 11 football teams that entered the second round, only five made it through to the quarterfinals.

This week's Eyes on Five looks at some of the interesting stories as we try to keep this ride going through the semifinals.

1. DuKane and able:

How about the DuKane Conference?

Four of the eight teams qualified for the playoffs and three still remain with the guarantee of at least one Class 7A semifinalist. Not a bad splash in the league's first season.

As a recap, the conference was formed when Glenbard North, Lake Park, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South left the DuPage Valley Conference at the end of last school year to form the DKC with Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East and St. Charles North, who left the Upstate Eight.

Batavia, the defending 7A champion, has beaten Granite City and Moline. The Bulldogs take on fellow unbeaten Willowbrook for a berth in the semifinals.

The real news, though, is in the bottom half of the 7A bracket where No. 14 Wheaton Warrenville South (10-1) and No. 22 St. Charles North (8-3) play for the second time in three weeks. The Tigers won the first meeting 13-11 on a last-minute field goal by Jack Olsen.

A 6-1 playoff record is a major point of validation for the DKC. After all, it's no secret there was some ill will following the breakup of the DVC. And while one year does not guarantee sustained success, it's a sound start.

The 15 teams from the DVC and UEC had a combined eight qualifiers, and the final four were eliminated in the second round.

It's something to keep in mind as the leagues continue to develop. Not only in the DKC but also the DVC with DeKalb joining next school year, and the UEC when it switches out West Aurora for Fenton.

2. Gloomy:

About that rough Saturday.

I've got a theory of halves that says DuPage County will lose half its playoff teams in every round of the playoffs. That's pretty much what happened when our numbers dropped from 11 teams to six last weekend.

How we got there, though, was the rough part.

Glenbard East, Glenbard West and Waubonsie Valley lost to three of the state's storied programs -- East St. Louis, Lincoln-Way East and Maine South, respectively -- by a combined margin of 142-28. I knew those games would be difficult matchups, but I didn't expect those margins.

Putting aside Glenbard East's loss in 7A, this is first time since 2010 that DuPage County hasn't had a Class 8A quarterfinalist. Naperville Central made the quarterfinals last season, which was the first time since 2010 DuPage County didn't have an 8A semifinalist.

Is this a trend or a blip?

Whatever it is, it'd be nice to see DuPage County become a player again in Class 8A.

3. Prop 1:

The IHSA on Monday unveiled its list of bylaw amendment proposals. They'll head to the townhalls later this month and the IHSA Legislative Commission will then decide which proposals advance to a statewide member vote in December.

Two of the proposals are football-related, and they are doozies.

The first proposal is the introduction of districts -- something we've talked about at length here. Conferences would be eliminated in football only, with the IHSA creating eight districts per class based on geography and enrollment.

The goal is to end the conference jumping caused by teams chasing the best path to five or six wins and playoff qualification. Stability is especially important to conferences like the DuPage Valley Conference, which is why Naperville Central athletic director Andy Lutzenkirchen was one of the administrators who submitted the proposal.

After pondering districts for months, I think it'll struggle to gain approval if it reaches a member vote. It's simply too drastic of a change without enough active proponents.

Which leads us to the second football-related bylaw amendment proposal...

4. Prop 2:

The second proposal, submitted by the principals at Glenbrook North and St. Patrick, expands the playoff field from 256 teams to 384 while reducing the regular season from nine games to eight. The ninth week becomes the preliminary round of the playoffs.

Teams not qualifying for the playoffs are free to schedule a Week 9 game against another non-qualifier. The top seeds in each of the eight classes get a first-round bye.

Expansion is not ideal. Look at the first-round blowouts this postseason, multiply that number, and that's what you'd see with 50 percent more teams in the field.

But it still kind of accomplishes the goal of reducing conference jumping because expansion vastly increases the odds of making the playoffs. Nonconference scheduling also would be easier.

What are the chances that expansion passes a member vote? Way better than the district proposal, in my opinion.

Expansion is the accepted path in the IHSA, which pushed football from five classes to six in 1980, expanded each class from 16 to 32 teams in 1985 and went to eight classes of 32 teams in 2001.

It's still a lot of change to swallow, but much more palatable than the elimination of historic conferences.

5. Stat time:

The five remaining DuPage County playoff teams -- IC Catholic Prep, Lisle, Montini, Wheaton Warrenville South and Willowbrook -- have combined for 17 state titles.

WW South leads the way with seven, followed by Montini (six) and IC Catholic Prep (four). Lisle and Willowbrook seek their first state titles.

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@kevin_schmit

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