There’s a reason we play the games.
That’s a statement we hear a lot this time of year from high school coaches, regardless of sport and regardless of their team’s record.
It’s a particularly accurate statement this fall, especially when looking at high school football playoff seeding scenarios throughout southeastern Minnesota.
While all the No. 1 seeds in Section 1 9-Man through Section 1AAAAA appear to be locks, nearly every other team will be battling for positioning in Wednesday’s regular-season finales.
Here’s a look at where the sections in southeastern Minnesota stand heading into Wednesday:
SECTION 1 9-MAN
No. 1: LeRoy-Ostrander. The No. 2 ranked Cardinals are 7-0 this season with wins against the three teams right on their heels. L-O is outscoring opponents by an average of 26.3 points per game.
Home-field advantage: No. 8 Southland (6-1) and Grand Meadow (6-1) appear to have locked up top-four seeds in the section, which means they’ll play at least one home playoff game. However, a pair of 5-2 teams, Spring Grove and Houston, could throw a wrench into things. Houston plays at Grand Meadow on Wednesday, while Spring Grove hosts Southland.
No. 1: No. 2-ranked Blooming Prairie has been unstoppable. The 7-0 Blossoms’ closest game was a 21-point win against Goodhue. Blooming will get a first-round bye and is outscoring its opponents by an average of 49.0-6.4.
Next in line: Three teams with 5-2 records – Randolph, Goodhue and Rushford-Peterson – will be the Nos. 2-4 seeds. Goodhue beat Randolph, but lost to R-P by one point. R-P’s losses came against Blooming and Lewiston-Altura, the unbeaten No. 5-ranked team in Class AA. Randloph lost to Blooming Prairie and Goodhue.
No. 1: Though there are two unbeaten teams in the section, top-ranked Caledonia looks to be a lock for the No. 1 seed. The four-time defending state champion Warriors have won 61 consecutive games and are outscoring opponents by an average of 40.7-6.3 points per game.
Also unbeaten: No. 5-ranked Lewiston-Altura is a shoo-in for the No. 2 seed. At 7-0, the Cardinals are one of just four unbeaten teams in Class AA. They’ve learned how to win close games – a quality that is invaluable at playoff time – with three of their games decided by a touchdown or less.
Battling for a home game: Chatfield (5-2), St. Charles (4-3) and Triton (4-3) have all beaten up on each other. St. Charles beat Triton beat, Triton beat Chatfield, and Chatfield beat St. Charles. While all three of them have played well this season, one will be left without a home playoff game.
No. 1: No. 5-ranked Stewartville (6-0) is the sure-fire top seed in the section, having scored at least 36 points in all but one game this year.
Chasing the Tigers: No. 9 Waseca (5-2) will be the No. 2 seed, earning the other bye in the six-team section. Behind the Blue Jays is a group of four teams that will provide two toss-up matchups in the quarterfinals: Pine Island (2-4), Zumbrota-Mazeppa (2-5), Plainview-Elgin-Millville (1-5) and Lourdes (2-5). Lourdes could be the No. 6 seed, though its defense is as tough as they come in the section. It’s held three ranked opponents – Stewartville, Caledonia and Cannon Falls – to their lowest outputs of the season.
No. 1: Cannon Falls (6-0) is the defending section champ. Breck (6-1) is rated higher in the QRF rankings – high school sports’ equivalent of Bigfoot; we hear about it often, but no one really knows for certain that it exists. Both teams will have first-round byes and, as Cannon Falls showed last year, it has no problem going on the road in the playoffs if it doesn’t get the top seed.
No. 1: No. 4-ranked Winona (7-0), the defending section champion, will be the top seed.
Battle for a bye: Kasson-Mantorville (4-3) will be the No. 2 seed if it beats Faribault Wednesday. Byron (3-4) will have a case to be No. 2 if it knocks off Winona on Wednesday and K-M falls to Faribault. That would leave the Bears and KoMets with 4-4 records. K-M would still likely get the No. 2 seed by virtue of a 19-point win against Byron on Sept. 27.
No. 1: Top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Owatonna (7-0) is locked in as the top seed.
Looking for time off: Wednesday’s battle for the Addington Jug – Mayo (4-3) at Century (5-2) – will likely determine the No. 2 seed in the section. The top two seeds receive first-round byes.
Hoping to stay home: The loser of the Mayo-Century game should be the No. 3 seed and host a section quarterfinal Tuesday. John Marshall should be the No. 4 seed. It will likely face Austin in a section quarterfinal. JM and Austin could both finish 3-5, though, which would leave the fight for the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in the hands of the QRF.
Jason Feldman is a Post Bulletin sports reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org