WALLA WALLA — One in, one out.
And a plethora of questions in between, some easier to answer than others.
That’s where we stand in Blue Mountain Country as this juncture in the prep football season. Seven weeks down and just a few precious games to go before the regular season winds to a close and the postseason begins.
Other than undefeated Waitsburg-Prescott, the area hasn’t produced any big winners this fall. And W-P — the two schools still haven’t come up with a mascot to identify their athletic combine — isn’t the one that has assured itself of a playoff ticket.
That honor belongs to Wa-Hi’s Blue Devils, who can nail down third place in the Big Nine Conference’s Cascade Division by taming Richland Friday night at Borleske Stadium. Third place would also assure Wa-Hi of the home-field advantage in the Big Nine’s cross-division playoffs on Oct. 30 that serve as the first round of postseason play.
The Blue Devils, 4-3 on the season and 4-2 in league play, are a leg up on the Bombers heading into Friday’s showdown. But if Richland (3-3, 3-4) pulls an upset, it presumably would take home third place based on the head-to-head tiebreaker, thus sending fourth-place Wa-Hi on the road for a cross-division playoff game against the Columbia Division’s No. 2 qualifier.
But Eastmont could have something to say about that.
The Wildcats, also 3-3 in the division, finish up the regular season at home Friday against first-place Eisenhower. An Eastmont upset coupled with a Richland victory over Wa-Hi would leave the Blue Devils, Bombers and Wildcats in a three-way tie for third place.
And since Eastmont defeated Richland but lost to Wa-Hi earlier in the year, the threesome would have to get together at a neutral site for a mini-playoff Tuesday to determine seeding for the cross-division playoffs.
In the event Richland and Eastmont both lose Friday and remain tied, Eastmont gets the No. 4 seed based on its regular-season win over the Bombers.
The top five teams from each division qualify for the cross-division playoffs, with the first and seconds seeds from each division entertaining the fourth and fifth qualifiers from the other. The two No. 3s are matched, and this year is the Cascade Division’s turn to host the game.
The five winning teams then move on to regional playoffs where they will be joined by the top three teams from the Greater Spokane League.
Other than its undefeated record, Waitsburg-Prescott hasn’t achieved anything so far other than last Friday’s oh, so sweet 35-28 victory over Southeast 2B-11 League rival DeSales.
And with just two playoff berths up for grabs and four teams still in the hunt, much remains to be decided.
Waitsburg-Prescott jumps out of the frying pan and into the fire this Friday when it travels to Asotin to take on a Panthers team that is likewise undefeated. The winner of this one will certainly have the inside track to the league championship, albeit without any guarantees.
DeSales, with just one league loss, still has an Oct. 30 date at Asotin. And Waitsburg-Prescott entertains a Pomeroy squad that same night that still hasn’t given up on its postseason hopes.
The Pirates, who host Dayton Friday and travel to Tekoa-Oakedale-Rosalia for their Nov. 6 regular-season finale, need to win out to have any chance at all. But it gets complicated.
Asotin can simplify matters for itself by beating W-P and DeSales in back-to-back home games and claim the league championship. If DeSales, idle this Friday, beats Asotin and Liberty Christian in its final two games, the Irish can do no worse than finish in second place.
And Waitsburg-Prescott is also in position to win out and claim the championship. But if W-P loses at Asotin and at home to Pomeroy, it could render meaningless its Nov. 6 regular-season final at lowly Dayton.
Dayton, by the way, winless in league play and on the season, is the only area team that isn’t entertaining playoff possibilities as the season winds down.
Touchet, 3-3 on the year, greatly enhanced its chances of earning one of the Southeast 1B-8 League’s three playoff tickets by winning 28-26 last weekend at Lacrosse-Washtucna. That victory moved the Indians past the defending B-8 state champs and into third place in the league standings.
The Indians need to take care of business at home this weekend against a St.John-Endicott team still looking for its first league victory. Then, after a non-counter at home against Lyle-Wishram Oct. 30, Touchet travels to Tri-Cities Prep for what could prove to be a major battle on Nov. 6.
Prep and Colton are both undefeated in league play. But while Colton has already defeated both Touchet and L-W, the Jaguars have yet to play any of the contenders.
Tri-Cities Prep hosts Lacrosse-Washtucna Friday night at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco, visits Colton Oct. 30 and then entertains Touchet the final weekend.
Once again, much to be decided. But a Touchet victory over either SJ-E or Prep will put the Indians into the playoffs. And a L-W loss to Tri-Cities Prep would accomplish the same.
Last year, when the Blue Mountain Conference received four berths in Oregon’s Class 2A playoffs, Weston-McEwen squeezed in as the No. 4 team.
The TigerScots aren’t likely to do as well this year when the BMC will send just three teams into the postseason.
Mathematically, however, W-M at 1-4 in the BMC is still alive. Victories at Enterprise Friday, at home to Heppner Oct. 30 and at Union Nov. 6 would improve W-M’s league record to 4-3 and put the TigerScots on the cusp of the playoffs, depending on outcomes elsewhere in the league during the final three weeks.
But there appears to be too many hurdles to clear. Heppner leads the league with a 4-0 mark and Stanfield, Pilot Rock and Elgin are all at 3-1.
Even Enterprise at 2-2 stands between W-M and the promised land.
Burbank’s chances in the South Central Conference’s Eastern Division are markedly better. In fact, if the Coyotes can win Friday’s game at Wahluke, they’ll cinch fourth place and the last of the East’s four cross-division berths.
However, a Warriors win will put Burbank in the unenviable position of needing to defeat Royal the following weekend in Burbank. Royal and Connell are the East’s undefeated co-leaders going into their showdown tonight in Royal City.
River View shares third and fourth places with Burbank, both teams at 2-2, but the Panthers face much easier sledding against bottom feeders Warden and Kiona-Benton during the final two weeks of regular-season play.
And then there’s the Greater Oregon League, where absolutely nothing has been decided so far.
Mac-Hi and its three GOL rivals begin their three-week run to the playoffs Friday when the Pioneers host Baker and La Grande entertains Ontario.
Mac-Hi plays at La Grande the following week and closes out league play at home Nov. 6 against Ontario.
Baker has been the class of the league so far with a 6-0 mark against non-league foes. Ontario is 5-1 and Mac-Hi and La Grande are 2-4.
But by playing two of their three GOL games at home this year, the Pioneers are perhaps justified in their hope that they can secure one of the league’s three postseason berths.