When the Moffat County High School football coaching staff walked off the field after its season-opening 26-22 loss to Evergreen, James Neaton turned to Lance Scranton and said, “I hope that doesn’t come back to bite us.”
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Neaton’s fear became reality Sunday afternoon when the Colorado High School Activity Association released the Class 3A playoff bracket and wild card points.
For the second-consecutive year, the Bulldogs finished the season with the 17th best power ranking. The top 16 make the playoffs.
“I wish for our boys that the system would have worked in our favor,” MCHS head coach Kip Hafey said. “The way we had been playing, if you put us in the playoffs, I like our chances.”
The Bulldogs finished the season 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the Western Slope League.
In the final wild card points, MCHS had 74.4 points. Englewood was the last team to make the playoffs with a 74.9 ranking.
The wild card system awards a set amount of points for each game. For instance, the Bulldogs earned 73 points for defeating winless Steamboat Springs and 60 points for losing to Palisade.
At the end of the season, the total points are divided by 10, and that’s a team’s score. All the Bulldogs needed to move in front of Englewood was for any of the three non-league teams they played to win one more game or for a league opponent to have won one more non-conference game.
This is the first time in Hafey’s nine years as head coach that more than two teams didn’t make the playoffs from the WSL.
In two of the four years Hafey’s Bulldogs have made the playoffs, his team had a 5-5 record.
“Our league has traditionally been one of the toughest,” he said. “We have eight tough teams and other leagues only have six teams, and have three teams in the playoffs.”
What kept the Bulldogs out this year, other than four losses, was the size of Class 3A and the rule that each league winner earned an automatic berth.
Northern League champion Frederick, which had a worse power ranking than the Bulldogs, made the playoffs.
Hafey said he thinks that because 3A has now grown to more than 50 teams, the playoffs should be expanded.
“I was looking at the 5A playoffs (which has 32 teams) and there were a couple of upsets this weekend, and I think you would see that in 3A, too, if the playoffs were expanded,” he said. “The discrepancy in some of the leagues keeps some very good teams from getting a chance to prove themselves.”
Hafey pointed to the strength of the two league opponents, Palisade and Glenwood, that made the playoffs as proof that he thought his team earned a post-season berth.
“We lost to the second and third best teams in the state according to the power rankings,” he said. “Yet our win against 0-10 Steamboat Springs earned us more points in the system than losing to 9-1 Palisade and Glenwood. I guess we need to schedule more 0-10 teams.”
The schedule for next year is already locked in for the Bulldogs, but Hafey said he wouldn’t be surprised if the playoffs aren’t expanded for 3A that teams will start to schedule weaker non-conference games.
“We aren’t the only team that is hurting today,” he said.
The football team won’t meet today because the coaches are traveling to a league meeting, but Hafey said when they do meet, he will tell them one thing.
“I want them to know that we are proud of what they did this year,” he said. “With all the injuries and ill-timed sicknesses, our kids stayed together and did a great job.”