Lake Country Publications Sports Director JR Radcliffe provides tidbits and details from the Lake Country prep sports scene to the Wisconsin sports world at large. His weekly column presents exclusive interviews, commentaries and observations.
The 2014 season was one of the most entertaining on record in Lake Country football, with area programs involved in the four-way tie for the Classic 8 title, a couple teams needing to rally for playoff berths and a number of nail biters. The most memorable moments from 2014 will be made in the playoffs, most likely, but take a look back at the great moments of the regular season:
As the fall postseason kicks into high gear, athletes will flock to venues in Madison, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Rapids and Green Bay for the WIAA state tournaments. Each venue offers its own blend of historical intrigue and modern marvel, though some lean more heavily one way or the other.
In past years, multiple teams with losing conference records have been admitted to the WIAA football playoff field to fulfill the allotment of 224 teams. Because of a number of factors, including greater parity in some conferences and realignment, that number will be a great deal smaller in 2014.
Kettle Moraine, playing in the loaded Classic 8 and finishing with heartbreaking single-digit losses to playoff bound Arrowhead, Catholic Memorial and Waukesha West, passes the eye test as perhaps one of the best teams unlikely to make the playoff field, entering the final week of the season at 2-4 in league play.
But that doesn’t mean the Lasers are out just yet. I projected final outcomes for all the teams still within shouting distance of a playoff spot to arrive at a field of 223 teams with winning or .500 records, leaving one spot open for a sub-.500 team. In my scenario, that spot belongs to Loyal from the Cloverwood Conference because of one key tiebreaker.
In years past, the WIAA has used overall record as the primary tiebreaker for determining which teams fill out the 224-team field. This year is different, with nonconference games weeded out of the early tiebreaking process. The new top tiebreaker is overall winning percentage. Loyal happens to be the only remaining school projected to have a losing record with nine conference games (4-5 record), which gives it a higher winning percentage (.444) than KM (.429 percent) or any other 3-4 team.
It seems like a technicality, but if your conference is bigger, you get an edge here.
The next tiebreaker is what gives KM hope: conference winning percentage for opponents beaten. That means the Lasers’ ridiculous comeback from a 24-point deficit against Mukwonago in Week 7 pays huge dividends; because Mukwonago is one of the better teams in the Classic 8, the Lasers have a higher percentage in this tiebreaker than many teams at 3-4. Most teams at 3-4 have defeated the three poorest teams in the league.
Kettle Moraine is tied with Wausaukee of the Marinette and Oconto Conference with a .286 percentage, highest among the 19 teams at 3-4 that are next in line for a playoff spot (Note: that number is current winning percentage of projected opponents beaten, and thus the number will change based on Week 9 results). Right now, both KM and Wausaukee are out, but if a team that is “expected” to win its final game in my scenario loses in Week 9, that opens a door for another team to step into the field of 224.
At the moment, KM would get an edge on Wausaukee, because the next tiebreaker is win-loss percentage against playoff teams. In my projections, KM is 2-4 against those teams (including a nonconference win over Milwaukee Riverside), and Wausaukee is 1-4. But there’s a catch. Wausaukee is guaranteed to get a bump in that first tiebreaking number in Week 9, as two of the foes Wausaukee has beaten in conference play each other. KM gets no such guarantee and would need Mukwonago to defeat Muskego or Waukesha South to defeat Arrowhead to keep pace with Wausaukee. Because KM is expected to beat Waukesha North in Week 9 in this scenario (and must beat North to even be in this conversation), that’s one less team that can get a win to boost KM’s cause in Week 9.
Here’s what KM needs to cheer for:
To beat Waukesha North. This is an obvious given. There is no scenario where KM makes the playoffs without a win.
For Mukwonago or Waukesha South to win. If KM winds up in a tiebreaker with Wausaukee, Mukwonago defeating Muskego or Waukesha South upsetting Arrowhead is a must, because Wausaukee will leapfrog KM in the tiebreaking procedures without it. Even if Wausaukee isn’t part of the equation, wins from those teams would further enhance KM’s profile and prevent other teams from sneaking in.
D.C. Everest, for example, has a current percentage of .279, and it’s entirely possible that Appleton East defeats Wausau West in Week 9. Everest defeated East earlier this year. That win would be enough to move Everest past KM in the tiebreaker if Mukwonago and South both lose. Of course, there are scenarios where Wausaukee and KM both make the field, and scenarios like the current projections … where it doesn’t matter, because both are out.
For surprises around the state. None of the tiebreakers matter in my scenario (except Loyal getting in at 4-5 in conference) because there just aren’t enough spots. For openings to appear in the 224-team field, things have to go mostly according to my scenario, with a few surprises mixed in to eliminate teams from consideration.
Here’s a look at a handful games that will matter as it relates to the playoff field:
Games projected to keep teams out (KM wants these games to end as I’ve projected in my scenario)
Central Wisconsin Eight: Bonduel (4-2 in conference) over Manawa (3-3)
Dairyland: Melrose-Mindoro (4-2) over Whitehall (3-3)
Dunn St. Croix: Spring Valley (3-2) over Glenwood City (2-3)
Lakeland North: Unity (3-2) over St. Croix Falls (2-3)
Metro Classic: Burlington Catholic Central (5-1) over Kenosha St. Joseph (3-3)
Olympian-Packerland: Southern Door (4-2) over Chilton (3-3)
Rock Valley South: Clinton (3-2) over Palmyra-Eagle (2-3)
South Central: Adams-Friendship (3-1) over Wisconsin Dells (2-2)
Southeast: Kenosha Indian Trail (4-2) over Racine Horlick (3-3)
SWAC: Mineral Point (4-2) vs. Fennimore (3-3)
Games projected to get teams in (KM wants these games to go to the underdog to "open spots" in the field)
Bay Conference: Denmark (3-4 in conference) over Shawano (2-5)
Big Rivers Conference: Menomonie (3-3) over River Falls (2-4)
Great Northern: Medford (2-3) over Ashland (1-4)
Greater Metro: Brookfield Central (3-3) over West Allis Hale (2-4)
Lakeland South: Chequamegon (3-3) over Tomahawk (2-4)
Southeast: Kenosha Bradford (3-3) over Kenosha Tremper (2-4)
Flyway: Laconia (3-3) over Lomira (2-4)
Woodland West: Wauwatosa West (2-3) over Greenfield (3-2)
If any of the outcomes go differently in the second set of games, that opens up a spot in the field in my projection. But those spots could be swallowed right back up by games that go differently in the first set.
And this is just a sampling of the games. Suppose a major upset happens – D.C. Everest (currently 3-3) takes down Kimberly (6-0) or Sussex Hamilton (3-3) falls to Wauwatosa East (1-5) in Week 9 – those outcomes will also impact the field one way or the other. In my current scenario, Sussex Hamilton has one of the spots and Everest is on the outside looking in. There are countless games to keep an eye on that could change a lot.
One more game to keep an eye on: the aforementioned Appleton East (4-2) against Wausau West (4-2). KM should cheer for the latter team, since an Appleton East win enhances Everest’s tiebreaking profile. To get crazy about it, the Lasers should also technically cheer against teams defeated by schools such as Cochrane-Fountain City, Waupun, Spooner, Cumberland, Roncalli and Racine Horlick, since all have a tiebreaking number hovering close to the Lasers. You’ll probably need a flowchart.
I'm reaching back into my archives to 2012, when I wrote this story about the Kettle Moraine boys volleyball team's biennial trip to Manitoba, Canada for a tournament that has helped many Lasers teams come home as a stronger unit. This year, former KM assistant and current Arrowhead varsity coach Shane Reid will take his team to Canada, as well, with the event beginning Oct. 15. This year's KM team recently defeated Catholic Memorial, 3-0, showing it's already in good position to make noise in the WIAA postseason regardless of how beneficial the trip will be.
Waukesha South won't get a chance to play in the playoffs, missing the field for a 15th consecutive season. Which is too bad, because despite that track record, the Blackshirts might be a team that can get as far as Level 3 in the Division 1 playoffs.