Every high school football season, at least a few area teams are on the playoff bubble as the regular season winds down.
Almost invariably, there was a game early in the season that easily could have landed in the victory column, but for one reason or another did not. That loss could be the one that denies a playoff berth.
Three area schools lost games last week that may be devastating at playoff time.
Joliet Catholic Academy had a late lead, but St. Patrick mounted one last scoring drive and knocked off the Hilltoppers, 30-29.
Lockport was stopped on four plays after having a first-and-goal at the Thornton 2-yard line, and the Porters eventually fell to the Wildcats, 7-6.
Plainfield South got itself in position for a game-winning field goal on the final play, but it sailed wide left. The Cougars went to overtime with Plainfield Central and lost, 21-14. They were on defense first in overtime and, after Central scored, they had second down from the 3-yard line, but could not reach the end zone.
Those results left JCA, Lockport and Plainfield South with 1-2 records. What makes things even scarier is this week’s schedule. The Hilltoppers take the long trek to Notre Dame, which is 2-1, and the Porters and Cougars both go on the road to face unbeaten opponents. Lockport is at Lincoln-Way Central and South travels to Oswego East.
Of course, South also suffered a difficult-to-swallow loss in Week 2 as the Cougars led Joliet West, 18-0, and wound up falling, 19-18.
The season is not finished, of course, if a team comes out of this week 1-3. However, that means you need to go 4-1 the rest of the way to finish 5-4 and make the playoffs, and all three teams in question have more than one quality opponent remaining on the schedule.
In JCA’s case, the Hilltoppers will face Marian Central, Nazareth, Benet and Marist down the road. Nazareth and Marist, probably the two strongest opponents they will see, both are away.
In addition to visiting Lincoln-Way Central this week, Lockport will play at Bolingbrook and at Lincoln-Way East back-to-back, in Weeks 6 and 7.
Plainfield South’s final three opponents are Plainfield North at home, at Oswego and Minooka at home.
What all of this means is JCA, Lockport and Plainfield South must beat multiple strong opponents the rest of the way in order to be playoff teams. It basically comes down to having to win playoff games during the season.
You can wish you had a mulligan on one or two of your early-season games, but unfortunately, it does not work that way.
• Dick Goss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.