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Playoff Scenarios: How unbeaten Paradise can miss the playoffs

Paradise High's football team, pictured earlier this year against Gridley, finished the regular season 10-0 and still has a chance of missing the playoffs despite all the players, coaches and citizens went through from last year's Camp Fire. (Contributed photo -- Eddie Saltzman)

Every playoff system has its flaws. But the Northern Section is facing a possibility where one if its two “perfect teams” might be sitting home this postseason.

One year ago this week, Paradise High’s football team was preparing to play Red Bluff in the opening round of the Northern Section Division II playoffs.

Then the unimaginable happened to the people on The Ridge.

The Camp Fire broke out Nov. 8 and ended up burning more than 150,000 acres and 85 people died. With the town scattered across Northern California, including the football players, longtime Bobcat football coach Rick Prinz decided to forfeit their quarterfinal playoff game, a contest they were heavily favored to win as an 8-2 team pitted against 2-8 Red Bluff.

Fast forward to today and Paradise is approaching the one-year anniversary at 10-0 with the final week of the Northern Section regular season wrapping up Friday. The personal tragedy, adversity and resilience the Bobcats have encountered has been well documented through both local and national media attention.

Paradise has done everything it could to put itself in the best position for a postseason run. And it still might not be enough.

The Northern Section released its second and final playoff points on Monday, showing the Bobcats ranked ninth in Division III. But the top eight teams make the postseason based on a point formula for the playoff bracket. The formula has three parts: overall record, league record and standing, and strength of schedule. Once teams are awarded their points, they are ordered in numerical value highest to lowest and the top eight teams are picked for the playoffs. This takes out all human element.

Paradise is ninth. It is one of only two (the other being West Valley at 10-0 and likely the No. 1 seed) undefeated in Division III, which includes schools with 2018-19 enrollment at 500 to 999 students based on the 2018-19 CBEDs. The Bobcats are likely going to get in the playoffs, but there’s a chance they won’t play another game.

HOW PARADISE CAN BE LEFT OUT

Following the Camp Fire, Paradise requested to be removed from the Eastern Athletic League with Chico, Pleasant Valley, Red Bluff and Redding area schools Shasta, Enterprise and Foothill, said Northern Section Football Committee Chair Orlyn Culp. The Bobcats were unattached to a league for the 2019 season and went independent as a “Freelance” schedule, allowing to reset their schedule and pick up lower division schools, Culp said.

By doing that, Paradise doesn’t receive league points like the rest of the teams in Division III. Instead, the Bobcats have to make it inside the top eight teams based on total playoff points with only overall record and strength of schedule. Paradise kept four teams on its 2018 schedule — Enterprise (0-9), Red Bluff (0-9), Oroville (3-6) and Gridley (4-5), which are a combined 7-29 heading into Week 10.

If Paradise makes it into the top eight then the football committee will remove all league standing points from the eight teams and order the teams based on points, Culp said.

But Paradise has to reach the top eight, first.

“The section made the accommodations (Paradise) wanted because everyone wanted to do what’s right for the (Paradise) community and for the kids,” Culp said. “The irony is they’re as good as any other team in the section.”

The only scenario to keep Paradise out of the playoffs, Culp said, is if Orland (5-4) beats Sutter (8-1) Friday. If that happens, Paradise likely won’t be in the top eight in total points and can’t flip into the playoffs. Cal Preps is predicting Sutter to win 28-6, which would put to rest any angst of the Bobcats being slighted. Sutter has outscored Orland by 37 points per game in the past five meetings between the two schools — all Sutter victories.

But there’s still a chance.

“(Paradise) put themselves in the best spot they could,” Culp said. “I’m just telling everyone right now to wait and let it all play out. That’s all they can do.”

SEEDING MEETING

Saturday’s Northern Section seeing meeting is at Red Bluff High School at 9 a.m. and it is a public meeting, meaning there is a public comment section where people can voice their concerns, state their cases, etc. But there will be no action taken during that time and everything for the seeding meeting is based on the formula with no human element involved, Culp said.

PREDICTING BRACKETS

A couple of things to keep in mind when seeding teams:

  • Teams can’t be seeded outside of league finish (ex: the 3rd team in the NAL can’t be ahead of the 2nd team in the NAL)
  • The first place league finisher is awarded a home playoff game in the first round unless the team is in a league where 50 percent or more of the teams are in a lower division. (Guidelines IV-C.). Both Live Oak and U-Prep play in a league with 50 percent or more of teams in a lower division so they are not guaranteed a home playoff game if they win their league.
  • Once teams are ordered based on league points and league standing, then teams can switch with only the one above it based on head-to-head.

Here’s how the Shasta County Sports staff predicts each bracket based on projections from Cal Preps, which is a site predicting 85.2 percent correctly in California games during the 2019 season and 83.9 percent across the nation.

DIVISION III

[8] Wheatland at [1] West Valley (10-0)
[5] Live Oak (8-2) at [4] Paradise (10-0)
————————–
[7] U-Prep (8-2) at [2] Sutter (9-1)
[6] Corning (7-3) at [3] Lassen (8-2)

Rationale: West Valley and Sutter are likely the top two, respectively. A Lassen win over Shasta would almost certainly lock up the three-seed for the Grizzlies while Paradise jumps up to fourth with having more points than Live Oak. Even if Shasta beats Lassen, the SCS staff isn’t predicting it dropping Lassen out of the No. 3 spot. U-Prep is one spot behind Live Oak and Live Oak has the head-to-head tiebreaker (U-Prep’s only loss so far this year). Even if U-Prep beats East Nic this week, the Panthers are likely not going to have enough points to jump ahead of Live Oak and Paradise to not have to worry about the H2H with LO. Corning’s season is finished but it can still pick up SOS points and will benefit once league standing points are removed. Orland looks to be left out of the playoffs unless it beats Sutter. Anderson will not be able to catch Paradise in points, even with a win over Yreka and looks to be out of the playoffs.

DIVISION II

[5] Enterprise (1-9) at [4] Foothill (5-5) — Winner at [1] Chico (9-1)
[6] Red Bluff (0-10) at [3] Pleasant Valley (5-5) — Winner at [2] Shasta (5-5)

Rationale: The top four seeds are locked up. The winner of Enterprise-Red Bluff gets the No. 5 seed. The only way Las Plumas will get in over the Enterprise-Red Bluff loser is if LP beats Oroville.

*Based on Cal Preps predictions

DIVISION IV

[8] Modoc (5-5) at [1] East Nicolaus (9-1)
[5] Williams (5-5) at [4] Mount Shasta (5-5)
————————–
[7] Willows (3-7) at [2] Pierce (7-3)
[6] Colusa (5-5) at [3] Winters (4-6)

Rationale: Colusa is ranked third but the RedHawks are predicted by Cal Preps to lose to Live Oak 21-20. Should this happen, Colusa could drop behind Winters, Mount Shasta and Williams by points. Mount Shasta has the head-to-head with a win over Williams already and Winters can’t catch Pierce or East Nic.

*Based on Cal Preps predictions

DIVISION V

Option 1:

[5] Etna (6-4) at [4] Portola — Winner at [1] Biggs
[6] Maxwell at [3] Fall River — Winner at [2] Los Molinos

Rationale: Los Molinos is predicted to beat Fall River 22-21.

*Based on Cal Preps predictions

Option 2:

[5] Etna (6-4) at [4] Portola — Winner at [1] Fall River
[6] Maxwell at [3] Los Molinos — Winner at [2] Biggs

Rationale: If Fall River beats Los Molinos then the Bulldogs grab the top seed and a first-round bye.

*Based on Cal Preps predictions

T.J. is a national-award winning journalist passionate about local news and telling the story no one else knows about. He’s roamed sidelines, baselines and bleachers in the North State since 2010 and is a content producer from sunup to sundown. Sports are a hobby he shares with his wife Tracy where they’ve spent many dates around a field or court of some sort.

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