Well, we’ve reached that stage in the program where it’s time to unfurl my playoff projections for the Class 6A playoffs.
1) Being the overall No. 1 seed is relatively insignificant. As I noted in the preseason, only once in the past five years – Cleveland in 2011 – has the No. 1 seed gone on to win the big-school classification.
Being a top-four seed, and receiving that first weekend off, is important.
2) As a reminder, it is now permissible for district opponents to meet in the first round of state.
And with that, off we go.
Let’s begin with that aforementioned top four. Five teams – Rio Rancho, Cleveland, La Cueva, Eldorado and Mayfield – are solidly in the mix for a first-round bye.
Who’s the odd team out? At the moment, Cleveland.
Rio Rancho (9-0) is the obvious No. 1 as we head into the final week. The Rams remind me a little of that undefeated Cleveland team from 2011: stellar offense (although the Storm was a better running team), and a defense that is more accomplished than Cleveland was three years ago.
Mayfield (8-1), La Cueva (6-2) and Eldorado (9-1) are in line to receive byes, too. Eldorado gets one because of that eyeball-popping 57-56 win over the Storm earlier this season. But if they do, the Eagles are staring at an uncomfortably long three-week layoff between games.
But a couple of scenarios to consider:
What if Cleveland beats Rio Rancho next week?
What if Las Cruces upsets Mayfield and creates a three-way tie that includes 7-3 Oñate?
That district, 3-6A, has much to resolve. If Las Cruces (5-4) beats the Trojans by at least nine points, the Bulldawgs win the district tiebreaker, with Mayfield second and Oñate third. In that scenario, would a 6-4 Las Cruces team get a first-round bye? Doubtful. Cleveland would actually stand to benefit most in that scenario, even if it loses to Rio Rancho, and would inch into the top four.
A Las Cruces win by 1 to 8 points would leave Mayfield first, Las Cruces second and Oñate third. A Mayfield win would give second place to Oñate, with Las Cruces third.
The only team in 6A that’s going to get a first-round bye for sure is Rio Rancho, win or lose against Cleveland. Those wanting to argue with me, be prepared to bring your lunch. And dinner. You won’t win.
Cleveland is a solid No. 5 choice. Wherever the Storm goes – it would surely hop into the top four if it upsets Rio Rancho – this will be a dangerous bunch.
Oñate’s 25-20 win over Las Cruces forced me to do some juggling in seeds 5-8.
I bumped Sandia – which will finish 6-4 after it beats 0-9 Highland – up to No. 6, followed by Atrisco Heritage at No. 7. The Matadors pounded Atrisco 28-12, so the placements here are appropriate.
Here, we reach the tricky 8-9 matchup. Oñate deserves the No. 8 ahead of the District 4 leader, Clovis (4-5). Frankly, it could go either way.
The Wildcats can clinch their district this week with a home victory over Hobbs. There is a possibility of a three-way tie in this league – Carlsbad being the third team – but only Clovis and Hobbs are mathematically eligible to win the district.
Hobbs (4-5) can snatch the district away from Clovis in two ways. First, if the Eagles win by at least 12 points and Carlsbad beats Alamogordo. Second, if they beat Clovis by any number, and Alamogordo beats Carlsbad.
Hobbs is in must-win territory, regardless. The Eagles are the only team to beat Artesia, and that could be wonderful currency with the selection committee. But Hobbs cannot lose and get to the playoffs.
Las Cruces falls, I think, to No. 10. The Bulldawgs without starting quarterback Kameron Miller are going to struggle in the postseason.
Manzano (4-4 against 6A’s most demanding schedule) is No. 11, with my alma mater Cibola (4-4) hanging on by a thread at No. 12. The Cougars will be rooting hard for Clovis to beat Hobbs next week.
Artesia (8-1), Belen (8-1), Centennial (8-1) and Miyamura (9-0) are my top four. Sorry, Patriots fans, but the other three have done more than you have to this point.
That quartet is followed by Goddard (7-2), Aztec (6-2), St. Pius (7-2), Piedra Vista (6-4), Valencia (5-4), Farmington (4-5), Los Lunas (4-5) and Del Norte (4-5). That gives us the following first-round games:
- No. 12 Del Norte at No. 5 Goddard (winner to face No. 4 Miyamura)
- No. 11 Los Lunas at No. 6 Aztec (winner to face No. 3 Centennial)
- No. 10 Farmington at No. 7 St. Pius (winner to face No. 2 Belen)
- No. 9 Valencia at No. 8 Piedra Vista (winner to face No. 1 Artesia)