The 5A and 4A playoffs are just two weeks away, meaning teams only have two more chances to fight for their postseason lives and positioning.
So let’s skip all the fancy talk and get straight to the games, what’s at stake and the predictions.
The following teams already have clinched their playoff berths: Rocky Mountain, Mountain View, Capital and Borah in 5A, and Bishop Kelly, Middleton and Nampa in 4A.
Only four teams have been eliminated: Timberline and Boise in 5A, and Emmett and Caldwell in 4A.
Eagle at Capital, 7 p.m. Thursday
A Capital (5-2) win guarantees it a top four finish in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference and a home playoff game, either in the quarterfinals or the first round.
Meanwhile, Eagle (4-3) needs one more win to clinch its 11th straight trip to the playoffs.
Eagle will have to do so without two of its top offensive weapons, senior running back Nelson Russell and senior receiver Kaden Baskett. Both left last week’s game early with injuries, and Eagle coach Paul Peterson confirmed both remain out for at least this week.
That creates a hole for the Mustangs’ offense as it tries to keep pace with Capital. Quarterback Ryan Hibbs has torn up defenses the past three weeks with his deep throws, particularly to 6-4 junior receiver Jonah Blackham. His size, leaping ability and hands ensure he’s a mismatch with every corner.
Peterson said the Mustangs will have to mix up pressure and physical defenses to throw off Capital’s deep-threat attack.
“We’re going to try to pick and choose to confuse what they’re seeing, confuse them with how we’re trying to go and stop it,” Peterson said. “You just can’t do one thing against them.”
That’s easier said than done against a touchdown machine like Blackham, especially with a shorthanded offense trying to keep up.
Capital 35, Eagle 28
Skyview at Rocky Mountain, 7 p.m. Friday
No. 1-ranked Rocky Mountain (7-0) enters the week undefeated and with a two-game lead in the 5A SIC standings. But it still needs a win Friday (or a Borah loss) to lock up the league title, a bye into the quarterfinals and home-field advantage all the way until the state championship game.
The Grizzlies learned the value of byes and home-field advantage the hard way last year, losing a coin flip and traveling to Post Falls in the first round.
“That wasn’t very fun,” Culig said. “We played well and won, but it takes a toll on you. In 2015, we had the luxury of a bye, and it was really rewarding for us. It allowed us to rejuvenate ourselves. That’s important to us.”
Skyview (4-3) has yet to seal its postseason fate. An upset Friday and an expected Mountain View victory over Meridian clinches the Hawks their ninth straight playoff appearance and first in 5A in program history. Skyview also faces Meridian next week with a chance to claim a playoff spot and jockey for seeding.
The Hawks face a tall order to knock off Rocky Mountain. In addition to standing as the state’s No. 1-ranked team, Rocky Mountain owns 5A’s second-most prolific offense (41.1 points per game) and its stingiest defense (10.0 ppg). It also leads the state in turnovers forced (22) and turnover margin (+18).
But Skyview coach David Young said upsetting the Grizzlies starts with one key task: Slowing 5A rushing leader Nick Romano (1,248 yards, 22 TDs).
“That’s not easily done,” Young admitted. “I don’t think anyone has done that. Nick Romano and their run game is the best we’ve seen this year. Their line is big and strong, and he’s a powerful runner. He doesn’t go down very often on first contact. And when he’s in space, he’s gone.”
Add in Colby Jackson and a passing game that will punish anyone who loads the box to stop Romano, and Rocky Mountain celebrates a league title Friday night.
Rocky Mountain 40, Skyview 28
Borah at Centennial, 7 p.m. Friday
Another Borah (5-2) win earns the Lions a top four finish and a home playoff game. Borah needs to win out and have Capital and Mountain View lose to secure a bye into the quarterfinals as those two teams hold tiebreakers over the Lions.
Centennial (2-5) can’t earn one of the 5A SIC’s guaranteed five playoff spots, leaving it to fight for an at-large spot. The nine teams statewide who didn’t automatically qualify for the playoffs battle over the at-large berths. The three teams with the best winning percentage against Idaho 5As, or out-of-state teams with a large enough enrollment to compete in Idaho’s 5A classification, earn the at-large bids.
A lot can still happen in the at-large race, but any win boosts the Patriots’ odds.
Centennial catches Borah at the right time for an upset as injuries have grounded the Lions’ high-flying offense. Quarterback Jake Standlee spent last week on the sidelines with a forearm injury, forcing the Lions to put receiver Ellis Magnuson under center.
Borah still gave Mountain View a scare without Standlee, so expect the Lions to scrape together one more win.
Borah 32, Centennial 21
Meridian at Mountain View, 7 p.m. Friday
Mountain View (5-2) clinches a home playoff game with a victory. And with head-to-head tiebreakers over Borah and Capital, it would then hold the inside track for the league’s No. 2 spot and a first-round bye heading into the final week.
Meridian (3-4) must win for a chance at one of the league’s five guaranteed playoff spots. A loss sends the Warriors into the race for an at-large bid, where their three wins award them a head start.
Meridian remains dangerous with its option offense. But Mountain View has dominated its neighbor lately, winning 10 in a row over the Warriors. Make it 11.
Mountain View 42, Meridian 14
Middleton at Vallivue, 7 p.m. Friday
Middleton (6-1, 5-1 4A SIC) secures a first-round playoff game at home with a win. And should Middleton, Bishop Kelly and Nampa all win out (as expected) and force a three-way tie atop the standings, Middleton holds the tiebreaker for the league title.
Vallivue (5-2, 4-2) needs a win to end its seven-year playoff drought. The Falcons have fallen oh-so-close the past two years, missing the postseason by one game last year and via a tiebreaker in 2016.
Vallivue’s physical run game and do-everything quarterback Lan Larison pose a mismatch against most teams. But Middleton handled Bishop Kelly’s power-run game three weeks ago, limiting the Knights to 4.6 yards per carry.
Middleton 35, Vallivue 30
Columbia at Ridgevue, 7 p.m. Friday
Columbia sits in position for the program’s second playoff berth since the school opened in 2006. The Wildcats need to win Friday and get help from Vallivue knocking off Middleton or Caldwell upsetting Kuna to clinch a playoff berth. Otherwise, it heads into the final week still fighting for its postseason life.
For Ridgevue, it’s simple. The Warhawks must win to avoid elimination.
Columbia has lost three in a row. But with Allamar Alexander, 4A’s leading rusher (1,186 yards, 20 TDs), the Wildcats start their turnaround here.
Columbia 36, Ridgevue 20
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