Playoff implications riding on weekend’s football games

STATEWIDE – Down the stretch they come.

Only three more regular season football games remain on schedules, and right now nothing is settled in the Henlopen Conference Southern Division. So let’s start with the North.

Smyrna, which pulled away from Sussex Central last weekend, is now the clear-cut favorite to win the division and earn an automatic playoff berth.

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

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

The Eagles, who are the only team without a North loss, still have three conference games remaining – this weekend versus Caesar Rodney, then Cape Henlopen and lastly Polytech. They need only to win their next two to clinch the division crown for sure, as Cape currently has just one conference loss and if the Vikings managed to run the table upsetting Smyrna along the way they would by tiebreaker take the division.

While anything is possible, it’s hard to not figure Smyrna will win out its final three games.

On the other hand, the Henlopen South is a little more complicated.

What we can do is begin with Lake Forest, which rallied to defeat nonconference Glasgow last week. The Spartans are currently the South’s only unbeaten team in division play and if they win their next three they repeat as champs and earn the automatic Division II playoff spot.

Behind Lake sits three teams with one division loss each – Milford, Indian River and Woodbridge. The Blue Raiders’ loss came to the Spartans, the Indians’ to Woodbridge and Milford’s to IR.

Milford and Woodbridge play this week and the winner is still very much alive in the division race and the loser pretty much eliminated.

Milford’s loss to IR hurts but it’s not a mountain to overcome in terms of winning the division as it was only by four points, which could come into play in the case of tiebreakers. The Buccaneers also still have a scheduled game versus Lake Forest, so that works to their advantage. That “Battle of the Bell” affair, however, likely won’t decide the division unless the Bucs defeat Woodbridge this weekend and take care of business versus Delmar next weekend. However, if Milford does win out its chances of capturing the division are very real.

Indian River’s 34-0 loss to Woodbridge could be a killer in terms of tiebreakers. Before even thinking about that, though, IR will need to defeat upset-minded Delmar this weekend and then finish its Southern Division schedule with a week nine victory over Lake.

The Spartans, by the way, play overmatched Seaford this week before finishing out with IR and Milford.

Don’t forget that a few Henlopen teams can still earn at-large berths into their respective postseasons as well.

From the North, Sussex Tech and Cape Henlopen still have decent shots at bids if they don’t win the division while Smyrna would almost assuredly get in even with an unlikely slip that costs it the title. For the South, Lake’s strength of schedule could help it get in with seven wins in the event the Spartans don’t take the division. IR could have an outside at-large chance at 6-4 with its schedule strength, but Woodbridge and Milford seemingly would have to win the division to get in.

None of that is official, mind you, just speculation.

Let’s look at this weekend’s games.

Woodbridge at Milford: Even just a few weeks ago not many would have envisioned the implications this game will have on the Henlopen South. But, here we are.

Host Milford enters the game 5-2 overall, 2-1 South and just off a rout of Laurel. In the second half of that game the Buccaneers showed how great they are on the ground – junior Dominyc Hovington, sophomore DJ Bowman and freshman Rahshawn Price each had two rushing touchdowns – and moved the ball through the air with quarterbacks William Kimmel and Marcus Correa trading series.

The Blue Raiders are 4-3, 2-1 and their three losses are all by six points or less. Last weekend they rolled over IR and have won their most recent two games by a combined score of 91-0.

All of this is to say that this is the game of the week in the Henlopen Conference and one tough bout to predict. Let’s guess hometown Milford has the ball last and does just enough to win 27-20 and keep its South hopes strong.

Delmar at Indian River: After playing a daunting nonconference schedule and going winless in its first three games of the season, Indian River picked itself off the mat and won its next three before last week’s loss to Woodbridge.

Now the Indians will have to do it again against a struggling Delmar team that is likely better than its 1-6 overall record and undoubtedly looking to play the role of spoiler.

If IR lets the Wildcats hang around too long in this one or falls behind early, the Wildcats could very well win. But we’ll guess the Indians take care of business here with a 28-14 victory and stay alive in the conference race for one more week.

Dover at Sussex Tech: Dover is a hard team to figure. One week the Senators are getting wrecked by Cape Henlopen and another they give powerhouse Salesianum all it can handle.

Sussex Tech, meanwhile, is just about what everyone thought it would be at this point – 6-1 with a loss to Smyrna.

This game is more intriguing now than it was even just seven days ago and feels like it will be very close. Feelings can be deceiving, but let’s go with them anyway this week. The Ravens, at home, win 28-27.

Polytech at Sussex Central: Polytech has struggled in just about every game this season. Sussex Central hasn’t lived up to some people’s expectations but isn’t a bad team.

Those two things add up to a lopsided Golden Knights’ win Friday night. Central 47, Polytech 6.

Lake Forest at Seaford: On paper this game is a mismatch. It will be on the field as well. Lake Forest 54, Seaford 0.

Predictions for remaining games involving Henlopen teams are: Smyrna 46, Caesar Rodney 13; Delaware Military Academy 35, Laurel 18.

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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