By Luke Wiggs, Panhandle News Network Sports
With just two weeks left in the regular season, the eyes of football fans start to wander toward the postseason. The question was asked early in the 2022 campaign as to whether four EPAC teams could make the playoffs, and, with just a few games remaining, we still don’t know. After tirelessly crunching the numbers, scenarios arise where as many as 5 and as few as 2 panhandle teams could make it to an 11th game. With this week’s playoff rankings released Let’s take a peek at the remaining schedules of each team in playoff contention in the EPAC and where they could possibly finish.
1) Martinsburg (clinched)
Remaining game(s): @ Bishop Ireton (VA)
Playoff Ranking: 4
It’s been since 2015 since the Bulldogs have had multiple losses in the regular season, and yet they are still comfortably the AAA favorites, just as they are favorites in their regular season finale with Bishop Ireton. I have the Bulldogs projected to finish 3rd. Huntington and Hurricane are both ranked above them, both have very winnable games this week but then play each other the next and the loser of that game should fall below Martinsburg. The only way Martinsburg could move up to #2 is if Parkersburg South loses a game before the year as done, which is a reasonable proposition looking at their schedule. They play both Princeton and Wheeling Park, both of whom are also going to be AAA playoff teams and if they lose to 1 of them, they would be leaped by the Bulldogs.
2) Musselman (clinched)
Remaining game(s): H Bridgeport, @ Parkersburg
Playoff Ranking: 5
The Applemen have proved to have one of the toughest schedules in the state this season. All but one of the teams on their schedule are still attempting to make the postseason (including Sherando of Virginia) and because of this, I have them projected to finish with the 3rd most bonus points in AAA. I currently have the Applemen projected to finish 4th. They can finish as high as 3 if Parkersburg South loses to Princeton, but could also tumble a ways as well. This week’s matchup against Bridgeport is pivotal. With a loss to Bridgeport, Musselman could fall as far as #9. Then, if disaster struck again and the Applemen lost to Parkersburg the following week (who beat them last year) they could fall as far as 13. 3-13 is a wide margin but fortunately for Brian Thomas’ men, but, they control their own destiny.
Remaining game(s): @ Hedgesville, H Washington
Playoff Ranking: 13
Jefferson is (saving a nightmare scenario of about 10 unlikely things happening all together) clinched. I have the Cougars climbing up to 11th by season’s end but that is only if they win out, making this Friday’s matchup with Hedgesville a very important game which you can listen to here. If Jefferson loses, I project them falling to #14 (#15 if they then lose the next week to Washington). I find it unlikely Jefferson finishes higher than 11th (they would need John Marshall to beat Wheeling Park or Bridgeport to lose to Lincoln). I also, can almost, definitively say that Jefferson will make the playoffs, but will be on the road in the first round.
Remaining game(s): H Jefferson, H Hampshire
Playoff Ranking: 17
Hedgesville still has a strong case to be a playoff team. I have the Eagles just needing to win one of their 2 remaining games to get in. If they lose to Jefferson then finish the season with a victory over Hampshire, I project them to be #15. A win over Jefferson would move them to #13 with not much chance of finishing higher. Losing both remaining games would force the Eagles to miss the playoffs by 2 spots.
5) Spring Mills
Remaining games: @ Albert Gallatin, H University
Playoff Ranking: 21
The playoff ranking Spring Mills received from the SSAC means the Cardinals don’t control their own destiny. By my projections, even if Spring Mills wins both remaining games (including having to upset University) they would still need several things to happen above them to get into the playoffs. The teams I project to finish just above the Cardinals are pretty much set in stone. Morgantown can lose out and still finish above them, one of Woodrow Wilson and Oak Hill will also finish above them because those two teams play each other. There exists only 2 clear ways in my mind for the Cardinals to make it (and again, this is only if they win their remaining 2 games). #1 My math is off: I have Spring Mills .5 points behind Morgantown in final projections, mostly because the Mohigans have more bonus points acquired from more quality wins. I could be slightly off in my mathematical tinkering (I say just to cover my bases in case I’m wrong) #2 Hedgesville loses out. If Spring Mills finish with a 5-5 record, they would be above a hypothetical 4-6 Hedgesville team, and then take their spot in the playoffs, what cruel EPAC irony that would be.
Nothing, of course, is set in stone, I will make another one of these articles next week when hopefully we have a clearer picture. Regardless, it all adds up to be an exciting finish when the playoffs are tabulated on November 4th.