Numbers game: Moffat County football playoff chances remain favorable in final week of season

Moffat County High School football players observe the national anthem before the MCHS Homecoming football game.
Andy Bockelman

As one of the strongest conferences in 2A football this year, the Western Slope League could possibly send four of its six teams to the postseason in the coming weeks, Moffat County High School among them.

Despite a sobering 52-0 road loss to Delta Thursday night, the Bulldogs stayed high in the Ratings Percentage Index compiled by Colorado High School Activities Association.

The Dogs were 14th in the 2A standings before heading into the match with the 7-1 Panthers, and by the time Friday games came and went, MoCo’s status had not changed thanks to the rest of the WSL’s games for the week going pretty much how they were expected.

At 8-0, Rifle remains the only undefeated team in the division, officially retaining their league title as the Bears had their closest, most challenging game yet this year, nonetheless downing Basalt 21-9 Friday.

Even with their perfect record, Rifle remains third in RPI — measuring win percentage, opponent’s wins and opponent’s opponent’s wins — behind Resurrection Christian and Sterling.

Delta stands at fifth and Basalt eighth, both a lock for the playoffs along with the Bears, though not all with hosting duties guaranteed.

RPI will play heavily into CHSAA’s postseason seeding to ensure the strongest teams make it, though league champions are guaranteed a slot regardless of their record.

“Each conference champion will automatically be placed on the playoff bracket. Conference champions are determined by the conference bylaws or policies,” states CHSAA’s football season bulletin. “If a conference champion is not ranked in the top 16 based on the final RPI ranking, they will replace the lowest ranked team that is not a conference champion in the top 16.”

With several of the seven 2A league champs confirmed and already in the RPI top 16, there is little confusion in most instances, but neither the Colorado League nor Intermountain League has a team in the upper echelon.

At 19th, Englewood will likely be the one bumped up for the former conference, while the Intermountain title will come down to a Nov. 1 game between 4-4 Pagosa Springs and 6-2 Alamosa, the two ranked 23rd and 21st, respectively.

Even at 5-3 and guaranteed fifth in the WSL, Moffat County remains in the postseason conversation thanks to a 4-0 start — including three wins against 3A teams — and a hard-fought league schedule against highly ranked groups such as Basalt and Delta.

And, it’s the Bulldogs’ final regular season foe that could help them into the postseason.

A win against Rifle this week would certainly rocket the Dogs up the rankings, yet even a defeat to the Bears is likely to keep MCHS players among the top 16.

“The thing is our league is so stinking good, these losses haven’t hurt us much since everyone’s so good,” said Moffat County head coach Jamie Nelson.

The Bulldogs will also be keeping an eye on the rest of the conference, with 4-4 Aspen right behind them in the rankings at 16th.

The Skiers’ Friday win of 54-20 over 1-7 Coal Ridge did little to improve their postseason odds, and even though Aspen defeated MoCo earlier this month, a shaky early season hurt them too much.

Skiers will end the regular season against 6-2 Basalt, and while a win over their rivals will pay off big for Aspen, a loss will all but eliminate them from the playoffs, given both the Longhorns’ lower win percentage compared to Rifle and Delta and the need to factor in the lower league champs.

With his first winning season at MCHS assured, Nelson is looking forward to the possibility of taking the Dogs to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, even if it’s on the road.

“It would have been nice to have a win over Aspen or Basalt or Delta, because that definitely would have helped us, but that’s not an option now. We’ll just have to wait and see how things turn out,” he said.

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