Regular-season-ending opponents almost certain to open district playoffs against each other next week, too. district fortunes for several area prep teams still very fluid

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
As the 2018 regular season of Missouri high school football concludes this weekend, there is intrigue – whether directly or indirectly and to greater or lesser degrees – for six of the nine (including Chillicothe) C-T area squads, relative to this Friday’s outcomes. The other third already know everything they need to know about the forthcoming district playoffs.
For Chillicothe, barring a hugely-unexpected development in the Kansas City game between heavily-favored Hogan Prep and Central Academy, the only uncertainty arising from tomorrow night’s game at St. Joseph: Benton is which team will win.
By fending off Bishop LeBlond 40-33 last Friday while Benton was dispatching Cameron 28-7, Chillicothe assured what will be at stake in its regular-season finale with Benton.
Cameron’s losses to both the Hornets and Benton almost surely has cemented it being seeded sixth – behind both of them – in the Class 3 District 8 playoffs bracket, no matter whether the Dragons win or lose to Bishop LeBlond Friday.
If Chillicothe wins at Benton, even if Cameron passes Benton for fifth in the regular-season ratings, the Cardinals’ head-to-hea triumph last Friday automatically would elevate it back past the Dragons and route the Cardinals to Chillicothe to open the playoffs.
Similarly, if Chillicothe loses, even if it drops to sixth behind Cameron in the pure ratings, the Hornets’ week four win over the Dragons – by Missouri State High School Activities Association playoffs-system rule – would slide the Hornets up to the No. 5 spot and send it back to Benton a second-straight time.
Although Benton leap-frogged the Hornets into fourth place in the Class 3 District 8 standings, which gets to host their near-certain first-round contest will be settled by which wins this week’s game.
Analysis of the current district standings suggests the only thing that could derail a Chillicothe-Benton replay Oct. 26 would be an improbable upset of Hogan Prep (5-2) by Central (1-7) this weekend. That development could push Central up the District 8 ladder from its current seventh spot to possibly fifth and make it the opponent for the Chillicothe-Benton victor.
Elsewhere among area pigskin packs’ playoffs profiles, 8-man teams Southwest Livingston/Hale/Tina-Avalon and Braymer/Breckenridge and Class 1 District 7 11-man Polo essentially are locked into the postseason-debut scenarios, regardless of tomorrow night’s results.
Southwest Livingston (7-1) currently is second to powerful Pattonsburg/Gilman City/North Harrison in District 3 by a couple of ratings points. Even a Pattonsburg loss and Wildcats win might not be enough to bridge that gap, but, given that both Southwest Livingston and Pattonsburg are likely to prevail this week, the Ludlow-based team should take second spot.
Whether first or second, SLHS will have a first-round bye in its 6-teams district’s playoffs. In all likelihood, it will host King City/Union Star in a couple of weeks.
Braymer/Breckenridge has no such uncertainty to its status in that same district, but will be waiting to see where it goes next week. King City/Union Star currently projects as the Bobcats’ Oct. 26 host, but North Shelby still has a mathematical chance to pass the KC/US Wildkats.
Polo has absolutely no mystery ahead of it. Cemented into the eightb slot on the Class 1 District 7 bracket, the Panthers know they’ll swing west to visit leader East Buchanan next week, even if “East Buck” loses, as expected, its KCI Conference title duel with undefeated Lathrop tomorrow night.
In Class 1 District 8, Marceline is firm in its own positioning – it will be second to Milan, but has to wait until tomorrow night to see if its Maysville/Winston or Putnam County that comes calling next week. Entering this week’s game, Putnam County is only .07 of a ratings point back of the Wolverines, but the Midgets have to face 6-2 Gallatin tomorrow, while Maysville/Winstn will be at 2-6 Trenton.
In that same district, Hamilton could gain a top-4 seeding – perhaps as high as No. 3 – and unexpectedly open the playoffs at home with a not-unlikely combination of results for it and South Harrison.
If the Hornets defeat North Platte on the road Friday, as anticipated, and South Harrison drops its clash of 5-3 teams with Princeton/Mercer, Hamilton would jump from fifth currently to third, passing SHHS in the ratings and then swapping seedings with numerically No. 3 Gallatin by virtue of the Hornets’ week two triumph over GHS.
Should the Hornets slip up at North Platte, they could tumble to sixth, in which their opening playoff opponent would be – wait for it – Gallatin.
The Class 2 District 8 picture is just as fluid as Class 1’s District 8.
Lathrop is a lock for No. 1, but, in theory, Lawson could pass Lexington for No. 2. However, with Lexington squaring off with winless Richmond this week, that’s very unlikely.
On the other hand, a surprise loss by Lawson could give current No. 4 Macon a chance to edge upward into third by beating Centralia.
In the bottom half of that district, Carrollton (24.8) currently has an edge on Brookfield (23.2) and No. 7 Trenton (22.05). Trenton, though, has the most-winnable week nine assignment, hosting 2-6 Maysville/Winston while Brookfield travels far to 6-2 Clark County and Carrollton hosts 4-4 Higginsville. While they know they’ll be on road to start – and likely throughout – the postseason, depending on their Friday results, those three could occupy the Nos. 5-7 spots in the district seedings in any order, thus affecting where each goes next week.
As for Midland Empire Conference squads besides Chillicothe, Benton, and Cameron, this week’s Kansas City: St. Pius X visit to Savannah will settle which takes finishes second in the ratings to runaway leader Maryville, which knows it will be at home throughout district play, starting with a game against Kansas City: Northeast.
Despite being winless to date, St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond is assured of hosting a first-round Class 1 District 7 playoffs game as the No. 4 seed. It waits to find out if the opponent will be Plattsburg, West Platte, or North Platte, who currently are fifth through seventh, respectively.
While Plattsburg and West Platte are ahead of North Platte by fairly narrow margins, since they face each other, one is assured of falling. If North Platte, which beat both of the others, can pass one of them by either defeating or losing close to Hamilton, its head-to-head advantage would elevate it all the way to fifth and make it Bishop LeBlond’s first-round foe. Otherwise, it will be the West Platte-Plattsburg winner.
The MEC’s lone remaining Class 4 school – St. Joseph: Lafayette – is fifth in District 8 at the moment, despite its sterling 7-1 record. It is within range of passing No. 4 Excelsior Springs, but, with the challenge of defeating Maryville at home on its plate tomorrow night, Lafayette looks to be a strong bet to have to visit Chillicothe High alumnus Mark Faubion’s ESHS Tigers for its playoffs opener next week