Week 9 always provides a certain amount of chaos.
Teams with their playoff lives hanging in the balance will often deliver an inspired effort over a team that had already secured a playoff spot.
Then, there’s often a substantial number of teams that enter Week 9 with nothing to lose and use that free-wheeling style to play spoiler.
Typically those two groups of teams co-exist rather nicely, eventually evening out the majority of the time, with the few upstarts taking the spots made available courtesy of the spoilers.
But like they have been for most of the 2021 season, things were different this year.
We entered Week 9 with 28 teams with 4-4 records playing teams with better records than 4-4. There were also 28 games with 4-4 teams squaring off against teams with worse records.
The first group typically produces three to seven teams that rise up and defeat teams with the better records. And while we anticipated a few of them ahead of time (Bishop McNamara, Simeon and Arthur), a whopping 10 of them ultimately completed that feat.
Rolling Meadows, Wheaton Warrenville South, Hillcrest, DuQuoin, Kaneland, Yorkville and Greenville joined the three teams previously mentioned that had suddenly and, in some cases, totally unexpectedly, punched their way into postseason consideration.
Most of these schools had excellent playoff-point situations and were looking to possibly qualify as 4-5 at-large teams, but that dream was dashed when so very few teams managed to play spoiler from the other group of 28 teams.
In the end, just two teams managed to perform that task as Wood River-East Alton toppled Red Bud on Friday, and Urban Prep Bronzeville took out Von Steuben on Saturday in a wild rally that had low-point five win teams breathing a sigh of relief and every team that resided on a bubble between Class 1A and Class 6A watching with bated breath for the outcome.
The wide gap between those two groups also dashed the hopes of any team hoping to qualify as a 4-5 team. The eight-team gap between breakthroughs and spoilers left us with 256 teams with at least five wins heading into Saturday. Beardstown joined that group Saturday to make it 257, bumping out the only five-win team to not make the field, Warrensburg-Latham. It was the lowest number of teams with five wins that ever failed to qualify for the field, with three being the previous low.
Two factors ultimately doomed the 4-5 hopefuls. The 10 breakthroughs played a substantial part, but the fact that a large majority of Chicago Public League schools that needed a fifth win this week had favorable matchups led to the CPL sending the largest concentration of teams from its league, 24, in CPL history.
• Another interesting number was also unearthed as the playoff field took shape. With a few losses from the undefeated group in Week 9, just 24 teams finished the regular season without a loss. It’s the lowest number of undefeated schools to complete the regular season unbeaten in the playoff era.
Nearly a third of that group ended up congregating in the Class 2A draw, while Class 1A didn’t end up with any undefeated teams at all.
While Class 5A had three teams get through the regular season unscathed, the north side of the 5A bracket not only features no undefeated squads but also only has one entrant with just one loss.
Another thing speaking to the overall even distribution of losses is the fact that 12 different teams, across several classes, are hosting opening-round playoff games with regular season records of 6-3.
Twenty different conferences sent a conference champion into the playoff field with at least two regular-season losses, which is an astonishingly high number, further speaking to how this field has a number of capable challengers with multiple regular-season losses.