Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Steve Soucie’s Week 8 playoff projection: Major changes due to small-school upsets

Just nine new schools but where they fit causes havoc

Prairie Ridge’s Luke Vanderwiel gets a lift from teammates after scoring in varsity football action at Ken Bruhn Field on the campus of Crystal Lake South Friday evening.

I stress one point that often gets ignored time and time again when explaining how the IHSA playoff system works.

What happens in the smallest classifications affects the larger ones. And what happens in the larger classes affects the smaller ones.

Sometimes the changes aren’t easily visible, but other times, well, let’s just say they can cause some major havoc. And that’s what happened to the Week 8 projection.

Every week there are a handful of games that can easily be classified as a toss-up. It’s what tends to make the process so very difficult to do at times. Mostly those games that buck the projection come from a variety of classifications usually end up balancing things out.

But the big moves made in the Week 8 projection were almost exclusively made by schools in the smaller classifications.

Let’s look at a few of them:

• Madison entered the week with a 3-3 record (it did not schedule a Week 1 game). Heading into the week, the three teams Madison had defeated had won just four games combined. It also lost to a team with just one win and and was running clocked by Carterville in Week 7. The Week 8 game against Anna-Jonesboro was perplexing to make a call on. Although Anna-Jonesboro entered the game with a 2-5 record, it had played competitively in most games and played a much stronger schedule.

Madison won the game 18-13, securing its fourth win and closes the season against a 2-6 Trenton Wesclin team. It’s contest that should afford Madison a good chance to get to the fifth win, one I wasn’t sure it would get.

• Chester entered Week 8 with a 4-3 record, but faced Cahokia-Illinois Division leader Red Bud (6-1 entering the game) and closed the season with Eastland-Pearl City, which had a sneaky 2-5 record (now 3-5) and comes out of one of the strongest small school conferences in Illinois. I was skeptical the Yellow Jackets could get to the five-win mark, but their 12-7 win over Red Bud not only got the fifth win, but also earned Chester the conference championship and the automatic bid that will place it in the 2A field.

• Corliss has been one of the more difficult reads in the Chicago Public League’s fray. After the Trojans won their first two games, they dropped the next four games and entered a Week 8 toss-up game with Dyett with a 3-4 record and needing to win out to earn an at-large bid. Corliss won the Dyett game 12-6 and plays 2-6 South Shore in Week 9 with its Class 1A playoff fate in its own hands.

Hall entered the week with a 3-4 record and challenging 6-1 St. Bede in a Week 8 contest. But the Red Devils rose up and copped the win. With a win over a 1-7 Bureau Valley team in Week 9, it will earn a spot in the Class 4A field.

What’s unique about these four teams in regards to the projection? A couple of things actually. All four of them are taking a bid that I didn’t expect them to earn, and none of the four hurt the teams that they beat enough to knock them out of a spot (or they weren’t getting in any way), and all four of them come from one of the four smallest classifications.

So four new spots had to be created and four teams that were previously in the field had to be removed to make room. Those all come from the small group of teams that I’ve projected to be four-win teams with high playoff points, and all of them come from the larger classifications.

That means we’re going to have a field shift. Starting from the top of the classification board (Class 1A) where two new teams were added, the field shifted downward with teams on the high end of each classification pushed down into the next highest classification. It reached its apex between Class 4A and Class 5A where the line shifted a whopping five teams.

Let’s take a look at the bubble spots for the most recently projected playoff field:

ClassificationSmallest school in fieldLargest school in field
Class 1AMadison (156.5)Athens (316)
Class 2AShelbyville (319)Durand-Pecatonica (438)
Class 3ABeardstown (444.5)Johnsburg (595.5)
Class 4AMacomb (606)Highland (886)
Class 5AGoode (920.5)Perspectives/Leadership (1325.5)
Class 6AAmundsen/Antioch (1335)Lake Zurich (1802.5)
Class 7ADeKalb (1807)Glenbard East (2264)
Class 8APlainfield North (2316.5)Lane (4273.5)

Last week, there was considerable stability. This week, almost every box changed and changed in a way where smaller enrollment schools were pushing the enrollment breaks up in every single class.

A lot of conversation has been given to whether or not Sacred Heart Griffin would land in the Class 3A or 4A field. Although the Cyclones could still somewhat easily move back toward 3A, instead of being two teams below the line in 3A, they now stand two schools above the line in 4A. This move all but dismisses any chance Richmond-Burton could slide down to 3A. The Rockets are now four teams deep in the 4A field.

This also had a sweeping effect on what had been a remarkable steady break line between the Class 5A and Class 6A divisions. Simeon and Prairie Ridge had been nestled close to but below the 5A line. For the first time all season, both have moved into the 6A field, and actually comfortably so. Simeon is third smallest and Prairie Ridge fourth. They are buffered from the line by a pair of schools with the exact same enrollment Antioch and Amundsen – both currently share the smallest school position in 6A.

Plainfield North has also moved back into the Class 8A field as the smallest enrollment team.

The surge of surprise teams pushed the list of needed four-win teams to fill the field of 256 teams to just three. Buffalo Grove, Barrington and Oak Park-River Forest are those squads. Each is projected to have at least 49 points. More surprises would lead to these teams being removed first beginning with Barrington, which is currently team No. 256.

There are actually four teams projected in the field that are projected to finish with four victories. Mount Vernon, currently 4-4, is part of a four-way tie at the top of the South Seven Conference. The Rams win the IHSA tiebreaker for the automatic conference bid, which is the fewest points allowed in the games played with the teams involved in the tie. Mount Vernon is playing undefeated Mount Carmel (downstate) in a Week 9 nonconference game.

Here’s a look at each of the latest projections for the eight classifications: