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The Times Football Notebook: If 4-5 teams get into playoffs, could Seneca or Streator?

In a season when Friday Night Drive high school football expert Steve Soucie predicts some four-win teams will likely earn at-large IHSA playoff berths, teams such as the Seneca Fighting Irish and Streator Bulldogs — who can both finish the regular season 4-5 with a win Friday night, Seneca at Dwight and Streator at Coal City — still have a possible path to the postseason.

For the Irish and even more so the Bulldogs, however, that path is a narrow, uphill one.

The first tiebreaker for 4-5 teams hoping for a spot in the playoffs will be playoff points, defined as the total victories by opponents on the schedule.

Both Seneca’s and Streator’s opponents this season enter Week 9 with 35 wins, giving each 35 playoff points heading into this weekend. Also, six of both teams’ previous opponents are playing each other in Week 9, meaning barring any COVID-19-caused last-minute reschedulings, the Fighting Irish and Bulldogs are guaranteed three, and only three, playoff points from those opponents.

The other two possible playoff points out there for the Irish to gather are if Salt Fork (5-3) defeats Fithian Oakwood (2-6) and Hoopeston Area-Armstrong (5-3) can upset Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin (8-0).

Streator’s two other opponents would both need to pull off upsets to help the Bulldogs’ playoff chances, with Ottawa (2-6) hosting Plano (5-3) and East Peoria (0-8) playing Washington (6-2).

Neither can gain an additional point from its Week 9 opponent, Dwight (1-7) for Seneca and Coal City (5-3) for Streator, as they’ll need to beat the Trojans and Coalers to reach four wins and even be in the conversation.

Finishing with between 38-40 playoff points – most likely 39 for the Fighting Irish and 38 for Streator –would come in well below 44, Soucie’s current projected minimum cutoff for 4-5 teams to qualify.

– J.T. Pedelty

Sam Mitre getting his kicks at Marquette

His name may not be mentioned as often as some others on this year’s prolific offense, but Marquette’s Sam Mitre has proved a most reliable member of that attack the past few weeks.

Since making only 1 of 4 PAT kicks in the Week 4 win at Heyworth, the freshman has missed only one kick in his past 24 attempts, going 6 for 7 in the 62-42 win over Hope Academy, 3 for 3 in a 21-6 win over LeRoy and 7 for 7 in each of the past two contests, a 49-14 home win over Walther Christian and a 49-6 win at Chicago Christ the King.

– Charlie Ellerbrock

FCW’s 6-2 mark has come against 8-man’s best

The Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland Falcons eight-man football team enters its regular-season finale Saturday at 5-3 Champaign St. Thomas More with a 6-2 record, one of those two losses a forfeit.

Perhaps more impressive?

The competition the Falcons have posted that record against.

With only two exceptions – Week 2 against 0-1 Peoria Heights and Week 4 vs. then 1-2 Milford-Cissna Park – every team the Falcons have played this season was at or above .500 when FCW played them. And one of those exceptions comes with a big, bold asterisk and looks pretty impressive in hindsight. After falling to 1-3 when FCW beat it, the Milford-Cissna Park Bearcats have won their past four games and now stand at 5-3.

The IHSA isn’t counting playoff points (combined wins of opponents) for eight-man teams, but if it were, FCW would have an impressive 45 with more on the way in Week 9.

– J.T. Pedelty

Marquette defense rock solid again

Because of the clock difficulties in Marquette’s game with Christ the King at Melrose Park’s Serpico Field on Friday, the Gladiators ran only two plays in the first quarter: a 1-yard loss by quarterback Jalen Bea and Bea’s swing pass to Raphael Boyd that went for an 84-yard touchdown.

That means that the Crusaders’ defense surrendered only 34 yards on 22 plays over the last three quarters of the 49-6 win, an average of 1.54 yards a play.

— Charlie Ellerbrock

Ottawa QB moves up leaderboards

Ottawa senior quarterback Braiden Miller has been climbing up or breaking many all-time Pirates passing records each game this season, and Friday night against Kaneland was no exception.

Miller recorded 300 yards passing against the Knights, surpassing his own single-game record of 258 he had against Kaneland in the spring. He also moved into second place, overtaking Mike Cassidy (1,985, 1981-1982), in career passing yards with 2,237 and now trails only Dan Battles (2,898, 1962-1964). Miller’s 16 completions Friday also gave him the most in a season, passing the 98 by Cassidy in 1982, and he also is 19 away from eclipsing Battles on the career list.

The current OHS signal-caller surpassed Battles with a fourth career passing game of 200 yards or more, and Miller needs 238 yards against Plano on Friday to pass Bob Burns (1966) for the top spot in single-season yards through the air.

– Brian Hoxsey

Crusaders’ Durdan passes 1,000 yards

On his last carry of Friday’s 49-6 win over Chicago Christ the King – a 10-yard touchdown run with 3:44 left in the third quarter – Marquette’s Tom Durdan went over 1,000 yards for the season (1,008), and his four ground scores give him 17 rushing TDs for this season.

Although the junior back did not have a pass thrown his way for the first time all season, he now sits at 1,356 offensive yards with 24 total TDs with one regular-season game to go, a home contest against the 1-7 Fisher Bunnies.

– Charlie Ellerbrock