IR could make Henlopen South race interesting

STATEWIDE – The dust has almost settled.

After this weekend, we could have official Henlopen Conference Northern and Southern Division champions. Then again, we might not. It all depends on who wins what, and as an ancillary plot margin of victory is important as well.

Also important to note is that none of the following is official. One more week of football will be played after this one regardless of what happens and official playoff pairings will be released once everything concludes.

IR needs a win this week over Lake to stay alive in the D-II playoff chase. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

IR needs a win this week over Lake to stay alive in the D-II playoff chase. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

In the North, with a win this Friday over Cape Henlopen, Smyrna is the division champion and earns the automatic Division I playoff berth. Should the Vikings upset the Eagles, however, Cape could win the North by way of defeating Sussex Tech in week 10. A Cape loss to the Ravens, however, would still make Smyrna the champion – provided the Eagles defeat Polytech – in the event of a Vikings’ upset Friday.

Regarding at-large berths, it looks like the North could get one of the four open spots in the Division I tournament field. Sussex Tech, which has an uphill battle this weekend versus Salesianum, would appear to be the front runner but it could come down to the Ravens versus Cape Henlopen winner pending the outcome of the Vikings’ Friday game against Smyrna.

Onto the Henlopen South.

Resulting from Woodbridge’s win over Milford last weekend, if Lake Forest defeats Indian River by any margin at home Friday night the Spartans repeat as South champions and get the automatic Division II tourney berth.

However, if IR wins, a few unlikely scenarios could place the Indians on top of the division standings. At 5-1, which is what the Indians’ division record would be if they defeated Lake, IR could win the South if Woodbridge falters against either Laurel or Delmar (or both) by way of the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Spartans regardless of what the latter does in its finale against Milford.

But, if Woodbridge wins its remaining conference games, IR would not only need to have beaten Lake Forest by more than 32 points, it would also need the Spartans to beat Milford and setup a three-way tie atop the division. All of this is due to Woodbridge beating IR 34-0 but losing to Lake 9-7 earlier in the season.

For Woodbridge it’s a little simpler. The Blue Raiders need to win their final two conference games and have Indian River defeat Lake Forest by less than 32 points. In that case, Woodbridge would win the South.

From an at-large perspective, it’s almost safe to say that with a loss to Lake Forest, IR’s chances of reaching the tourney are about nil even if it upsets district rival Sussex Central in the regular season finale.

Woodbridge, though, with the right circumstances and bonus points could still earn an at-large berth provided it wins out.

Milford too is alive in the at-large race, but it would appear the Buccaneers need to win out over Delmar and Lake Forest for any chance at continuing their season.

Understand all of that? That makes one of us.

Let’s look at this week’s games.

Indian River at Lake Forest: As stated before, for Lake Forest it’s simple: win this one and repeat as division champions.

What might not be simple, however, is actually winning the game. Outside of last week’s lopsided victory at Seaford, none of Lake’s six wins have come easy this season. The Spartans’ largest margin of victory in those other five games is an eight-point win over Glasgow two weeks ago and Lake trailed by three touchdowns early in that contest.

Of course, Indian River isn’t blowing teams out either. Excluding the Seaford game, IR’s largest margin of victory is a 10-point win over Laurel and the Indians were behind by quite a bit in that game before a late rally. Other than that the Indians have a four-point victory versus Milford and last week’s 21-20 win over Delmar.

Truth be told, this game feels like it should be close but if it’s a blowout, that likely means Lake Forest won. It’s hard to see IR blowing out any team with a winning record.

That’s not because the Indians aren’t capable, their multiple running backs are all capable of having a big day.

Defensively the edge probably goes to Lake in this one, as IR in the past has shown it can be deceived by misdirection plays. Look for the Spartans to take advantage of that fact and win the game 28-13 and keep the division crown in Felton.

Milford at Delmar: Going strictly by record, this game shouldn’t be much of a contest. Milford is 5-3 and two of its losses are by four points or less, while Delmar is 1-7.

The Wildcats, however, are better than most one-win teams and with Delmar there is always a great pride factor that comes along with playing for a storied program. Not to mention few home field advantages rival the one at Delmar.

How many of those fans will show up though with the Wildcats uncharacteristically struggling this season? Not as many that would if they were winning, that’s for sure.

And Milford is a solid five-win team, particularly on defense where the Bucs surrender about two touchdowns a game on average.

If the Buccaneers can get their offense back on track, including their passing game because in last week’s loss Woodbridge was blitzing all game long and stopping the run, they’ll win this one. But if things aren’t clicking and the in-fighting gets going on the sidelines, a loss could very well be the result.

Let’s go with the former happening rather than the latter and pick Milford to win 26-19 and keep its playoff hopes alive.

Salesianum at Sussex Tech: Most will consider this rematch from last year’s Division I playoffs – won by Sussex Tech – Friday night’s top game.

After all, Salesianum appears to be the state’s top team having defeated both Smyrna and William Penn and Sussex Tech has suffered just one loss.

Looking deeper though, it doesn’t feel like the Ravens are quite at Salesianum’s level. Tech’s best win of the season is probably last week’s two-touchdown victory over a mediocre Dover squad. The Ravens failed their biggest test so far this season when they were blanked 42-0 by Smyrna, albeit without a premier player.

Sussex Tech is a solid team and probably one of the six best in Division I, but it’s difficult to not think Salesianum is just too good this season. Expect the Ravens to keep it close for a while before Sallies leaves Georgetown with a 42-20 win.

Sussex Central at Dover: Although neither team is very much alive in the playoff race, this game could be one of the weekend’s better matchups.

Dover’s got another athletic team capable of scoring points in bunches on a good night and Central’s defense has the potential to be really good at times.

Of the two, the Golden Knights are probably a little better overall but Dover has home field advantage in its favor. Flipping a coin leads to a guess that Central wins this one 27-21.

Predictions for the remaining games involving Henlopen Conference teams are: Red Lion 19, Seaford 13; Caesar Rodney 28, Polytech 14; Smyrna 48, Cape Henlopen 21; Woodbridge 14, Laurel 6.

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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