A not-so-funny thing happened to St. Raphael and Ponaganset on their way to sewing up the Division II-B’s final two playoff spots.
The Saints and Chieftains, who were each just one victory away from clinching berths last weekend and taking on two teams with paper-thin hopes of reaching the playoffs, were instead the victims of two mild upset losses.
Last Friday night, the Chieftains (3-3), who were visiting a Pilgrim team (3-3) that got socked in its three losses to Tolman, West Warwick, and SRA, found themselves dropping a 26-12 verdict.
Less than 24 hours later, SRA (4-2) hosted Mount Hope (3-3), which was trying to make a last-gasp playoff push after suffering a Sept. 25 forfeit loss to the Chieftains. Playing in the rain and mud, the Saints couldn’t get going and suffered a 12-8 loss.
So instead of Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. matchup between these two teams at “The Reservation” simply being a spirited battle between two playoff-bound teams looking to grab the II-B’s No. 3 seed in the playoffs, this game’s for survival.
“This is the playoffs,” Ponaganset head coach Brian Gendreau said less than a hour after last Friday’s defeat. “Everything comes down to our game against St. Raphael. We have to win that game to get in.”
“Bottom line is this — we need a ‘W’ to get into the playoffs,” noted SRA head coach Mike Sassi after his defeat to the Huskies. “We’ll see what we’re made of. If we don’t win [against the Chieftains], then we don’t deserve to go to the playoffs.”
While the SRA-Ponaganset showdown is easily the Blackstone Valley’s game of the week, it isn’t the only game that has playoff implications or importance attached to it.
Tomorrow night, North Smithfield continues its late-season bid for a Division IV berth when it hosts unbeaten Mount Pleasant at 7 p.m. The Northmen (3-2) are one of four playoff teams battling for the division’s last two spots.
At Pierce Field, East Providence (4-1) will try to move one victory away from earning a return trip to the playoffs when its entertains always-tough East Bay rival Barrington (2-4) at 7 p.m.
What seed will Cumberland (4-2) be on the Division II-A side of the playoffs? No. 2, 3, or 4? The Clippers’ II-A finale, tonight at 7 p.m. on the road against Coventry High (1-5), as well as the outcomes of a few other games tomorrow, will answer that question.
On Saturday, Tolman, which suffered its first division loss in two seasons last weekend to West Warwick, will visit winless Toll Gate in a 2:30 p.m. contest.
Right now, the Tigers (5-1) can do no worse than the II-B’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs, but if they, as expected, beat the Titans and Woonsocket (1-5) upsets West Warwick (5-1) on the Wizards’ Homecoming Day on Saturday at 2, then Tolman will earn the No. 1 spot.
As for the rest of the weekend’s schedule, there are two 7 p.m. games tonight. Johnston (3-3) hosts Shea (1-5) and welcomes back Raiders head coach and newly-inducted JHS Hall of Famer Dino Campopiano in a Division II-A duel, and Lincoln (1-6) heads to the Gaudet Middle School to face Middletown (3-3) in a Division III matchup.
And in a Division III affair on Saturday, Burrillville (0-6) takes an hour-long bus trip to Tiverton (4-2) for a 7 p.m. battle with the Tigers.
Central Falls has a bye week.
Here’s a look at the weekend‘s playoff scenarios:
The Division II playoffs actually don’t start until next weekend, but for SRA, Ponaganset, Pilgrim, and Mount Hope, the ‘second season’ begins now.
Because four losses won’t get anyone into the postseason, the Huskies and the Patriots will basically play a survival game tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Mount Hope to see who clinches one of the final four spots.
That sets the stage for the SRA-Ponaganset game. A win by the Saints gets them into the playoffs and kicks out the Chieftains, but a win by Ponaganset creates a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots.
And here’s where Friday’s Mount Hope-Pilgrim game comes into the picture:
If Mount Hope beats Pilgrim, the Saints are out of the playoffs, because head-to-head, the Saints would have lost to both Ponaganset and Mount Hope. The Chieftains would be the No. 3 seed because it would have defeated both the Saints and the Huskies.
If Pilgrim beats Mount Hope, then the Chieftains are eliminated, and it would take a few tiebreakers to knock them out.
In terms of the head-to-head tiebreaker, Ponaganset would have beaten SRA, the Saints already topped Pilgrim, and Pilgrim defeated Ponaganset.
That brings up the next tiebreaker -- quality points. Teams would be awarded one quality point for each game won by the teams they had beaten.
All three teams had beaten Toll Gate and Woonsocket during the season, but the Saints would have more points than the other two teams because they had topped both West Warwick (no worse than five) and Pilgrim (four).
The Chieftains and Patriots, meanwhile, would each have seven quality points based on their victories over the Huskies (three), Ponaganset’s win over SRA (four), and Pilgrim’s win over Ponaganset (four).
As a result, the next criteria would revert back to the head-to-head tiebreaker. Pilgrim beat Ponaganset, and Ponaganset would be out.
This division also has an interesting final weekend, with Central (5-1) hosting Chariho (5-1) for the right to be the II-A’s top seed, Westerly (4-2) heading to Warwick to battle Warwick Vets (1-5), the Clippers (4-2) visiting the Oakers, and the Panthers hosting the Raiders.
The only way the Clippers can slide into the No. 2 berth is if Chariho defeats Central, they take care of the Oakers, and Warwick Vets upsets Westerly. The Clippers had lost to Chariho and Westerly by a touchdown during the season, but they beat Central last Friday and would own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
If that doesn’t happen, then the Clippers are going to have to win their contest and see what transpires around the league before knowing if they will earn the No. 3 or 4 seed.
In terms of the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Bulldogs beat Chariho earlier this year and would have the advantage over them, and in terms of a three-way tie and the possibility of needing quality points, teams would have to wait until the week was over to calculate them.
Johnston is still mathematically alive for the final playoff spot, but they would need Warwick Vets to stun Westerly and Cumberland to top Coventry in order to advance.
With La Salle (6-0) already guaranteed a playoff spot, the fight for the other three spots comes down to the Townies, Hendricken (4-2), Cranston West (3-2), and South Kingstown (3-2).
For the Townies, if they lose two of their last three games to Barrington, S.K., and La Salle and end up with five wins, it may not be enough to get them into the playoffs.
If S.K. captures its final three contests against Cranston East (1-4), E.P., and winless N.K., Hendricken beats West tonight and Barrington next week, and West downs Portsmouth (2-4) and Cranston East to end up 5-3, the Falcons would advance to the playoffs because of their head-to-head tiebreaker over the Townies.
All three of the Townies’ remaining games are tough, but if they can win two of them -- and make sure one of the victories is at the Rebels’ expense -- then they should find themselves playing bonus football after Thanksgiving.
With Mount Pleasant (6-0) and Central Falls (5-2) pretty much locked into the postseason picture, it’s the Northmen, Smithfield (3-2), North Providence (3-3), and Exeter/West Greenwich (3-3) who are scrambling to join them.
It looks like the Northmen may have the toughest road to travel in order to get there, but realistically, all they have to do is split their next two games -- this week‘s showdown with the Kilties and next Friday’s duel at home with C.F. -- and put away winless Scituate on Thanksgiving in order to advance.
The Northmen own the head-to-head tiebreakers with EWG and N.P., which means that regardless of what those teams do, three losses will be enough to return N.S. to the postseason. But should the Northmen lose two of their final three games, they are going to need a lot of outside help.