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Pekin to Battle for Playoff Berth

By Jason Van Arkel, October 09, 2017

It’s one of the oldest cliches in sports: one game to play, with everything on line. For the Pekin football team, that cliche will become a reality Friday night.

Both Pekin and New London enter Friday night’s game at Tom Stone Field with one district loss, having both fallen to unbeaten Lynnville-Sully. With the district title basically out of reach, the Panthers and Tigers will battle for second place in Class A, District 6. The difference between second and third place is stark: second place earns an automatic playoff berth, while the third-place team is left to hope they’ve done enough to earn one of just two wild-card berths in Class A.

There’s not much separating the two teams. Both only have the one loss. Pekin (7-1) has played two more games, having started in Week Zero and gone through eight straight weeks without a bye. New London (5-1) already had its bye from the Danville cancellation, while Pekin will take a bye next week on the final Friday of the regular season.

If final scores matter, Pekin might be at a disadvantage. The Panthers fell 35-7 to Lynnville-Sully, while New London only lost 20-14. On the other hand, Pekin shut out Montezuma earlier in the season, while New London gave up 20 to the Braves despite earning the win.

Last season, Pekin won 23-14 at New London, essentially knocking the Tigers out of playoff contention. The Panthers get the game at home this season; they’re 4-0 at home this season, with an average margin of victory of more than 42 points.

While a loss doesn’t eliminate Pekin from the playoffs (or New London, for that matter), falling short Friday night could make for a very stressful week to follow. Since they have no game next week, the Panthers would find themselves practicing all week for a game that may or may not come the following week. They’d also be forced to do a lot of scoreboard watching on the 20th, with games from as many as six other districts potentially having an impact on Pekin’s fate.

In addition, the Pekin-New London loser may still be waiting for additional clarification from the Iowa High School Athletic Association on exactly where they stand. Because every District 6 team plays one less game this season due to the Danville cancellation, the IHSAA will use a formula to compensate the teams for what they lose in the point differential equation. Point differential in district games is used to break ties in district standings, and also to determine the wild-card teams.

According to IHSAA Assistant Director Todd Tharp, “Every team in that district will receive a set number of points determined by all district games played in Class A from Week 3 through Week 7.  It will not be 17 points, but will not be 0. We are taking the point differential of all Class A district games played between weeks 3 and 7, with a maximum point differential of 17 to determine what number that will be.”

The average point differential in the 15 district games played between Weeks 3 and 7 was 15.6 points, but it’s not yet known if that’s the exact figure the IHSAA will use. Regardless, the loser of the Pekin-New London game will not only be scoreboard watching, but also crunching numbers to see if their point differential will be high enough to claim a wild-card spot.

Of course, if Pekin wants to make all of that a moot point, beating New London on Friday puts them in the playoffs no matter what.