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Ottumwa in must-win, wait-and-see mode

October 18, 2011
Ottumwa High School

Ottumwa in must-win, wait-and-see mode

OTTUMWA — Is this the last game of the year for the Ottumwa Bulldog football team come Friday night?

The Bulldogs will know after midnight Saturday.

Ottumwa’s final regular season game versus Des Moines Roosevelt this Friday could be for a matter of pride. It’s an uphill climb for head coach Zach Wigle’s Bulldogs in order to crack the Class 4A postseason field.

The Bulldogs sit at 2-6 overall and received a bye last week. Ottumwa, 2-2 in the CIML Metro, is in the midst of its first losing season since 1990. Ottumwa is also in danger of not qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2008.

There is still hope for a 10th game.

Many teams ahead of Ottumwa for the final spot in the large-school class postseason field are expected to lose.

Then it gets dicey — as it always is for teams that don’t garner enough wins to be a lock for a first-round playoff contest.

Math majors — or people with a lot of time on their hands would be more apt to break down what squads are getting in and which team’s are going where. The Class 4A playoff point system is complicated, to say the least.

But it’s worth a try to at least scratch the surface of what might materialize when the Iowa High School Athletic Association breaks out its calculators late Friday.

This is much is true right now — Ottumwa is currently the 20th seeded team on the west side of the state. The IHSAA hands out 16 playoff berths each on the east and west sides of the state – which comprise the 32-team playoff rumble royal.

Seven teams in the west won’t make the postseason and eight squads on the eastern portion of Iowa will head home after their final regular season game.

Sitting in front of Ottumwa is 19th-seeded Mason City (2-6), No. 18 Council Bluffs Jefferson (2-5), No. 17 Sioux City North (3-6), No. 16 Sioux City West (3-6) and No. 15 Roosevelt (3-6).

Mason City is a heavy underdog at Marshalltown (6-2) and Jefferson hosts Sioux City East (3-5). There’s not many in the state that think Jefferson will top the Black Raiders. Roosevelt slipped past Jefferson 16-13 in its fifth game of the year. Sioux City North hosts Sioux City West. Jefferson beat North 29-27 and West topped Jefferson 30-7 just last week. The winner of West and North is likely getting in.

Ottumwa could conceivably knock Roosevelt out of the playoffs with a win. Ottumwa’s point total (300 points, 33.3 avg.) would be equal to the Roughriders (300 points, 30 avg.), but Ottumwa would jump ahead of Roosevelt based on the agate average. The confusing part comes when teams are awarded extra points for beating or losing to a team with a winning record. The state also deducts points for taking on a team with a losing record. That final calculation is all determined after the regular season is over, but there is a running point total during the season.

Stay focused.

For instance, Ottumwa has a chance to gain 15 points if Ames (4-4), Johnston (4-4) and Des Moines East (4-4) all win. Ottumwa lost to all three in the non-conference. Those squads would then all have winning records — though the trio is favored to lose their respective tilts.

Time to catch your breath.

This much can be said, if Ottumwa slips in the Class 4A playoffs, with the best-case scenario being a No. 15 or No. 16 seed — it could be a rematch versus top-ranked West Des Moines Valley.

That would obviously be on the Tigers’ home turf — Valley Stadium.

Valley (8-0) plays at Fort Dodge (3-5). The Tigers are the No. 1 seed in the state in the point system and thumped Ottumwa 42-7 in the Bulldogs’ second game of the season at Schafer Stadium. Southeast Polk (7-1) is seeded second and Ankeny (7-1) is seeded third. Ottumwa has played all three aforementioned schools in the playoffs in recent years with little success.

Des Moines Lincoln (7-1, 4-0), which cracked the Associated Press’ Prep Poll this week at the No. 10 position, is seeded fourth. The Railsplitters ran roughshod over Des Moines Hoover 70-16 last week. Head coach Tom Mihalovich’s Railsplitter squad is the highest-scoring team in Class 4A and best rushing squad. Lincoln hosts Des Moines East (4-4, 4-0) this Friday. The winner between the Railsplitters and Scarlets is crowned the outright Metro champ and receives an automatic playoff berth.

In other Metro play, Des Moines East topped Roosevelt 13-3. Des Moines North (0-8) had a bye.

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