On Friday night in Enterprise, the Outlaws scored a touchdown in the final minutes of a game with Stanfield that could have feasibly tied things 35-35 with an extra point. But when Enterprise elected to go for two points and the lead, the Outlaws created one of the wildest endings in a season of Blue Mountain Conference madness.
When Stanfield’s sophomore linebacker Elvis Lockwood made the tackle to stop the play short, the Tigers clinched the 35-34 victory, the third playoff spot from the conference and also gutted the final hopes of the Weston-McEwen TigerScots.
Going into the last day of the season, five teams were within playoff range. But that’s not the wildest number. Of those five, four could still have won a conference championship.
“It was completely and totally insane,” Stanfield coach Steve Sheller said. ”You had a free for all.”
The Blue Mountain Conference has held supremacy over the Class 2A football state rankings as listed by the OSAA. Based on RPI, six Blue Mountain teams were among the top 13 in the state when the regular season ended.
Yet only four were going to make it to the postseason, a group led by league champion No. 3 Heppner and including No. 7 Grant Union, No. 11 Stanfield and No. 13 Enterprise. That left a Top-10 team in Weston-McEwen (No. 9) out along with No. 12 Pilot Rock.
It would be absurd to assume one conference could provide better than a third of the playoff teams but none of the other four 2A conferences managed to place more than two teams in the top 13 rankings. Special District 1 probably had the best showing with second-ranked Lost River and fourth-ranked Gold Beach in there.
But its next best team, Bonanza, was ranked way down in 21st place. The Antlers, by the way, still made the playoffs with a 3-6 record by placing third in their conference this year.
“To have our teams black out the top rankings in the state, to have that kind of competition is a blessing and a curse,” Sheller said. “It probably takes years off my life. We’ve been in essence in the playoffs the past four weeks when you think about it.”
Sheller may be right. After a pair of late-season losses, Stanfield needed that one-point win over Enterprise just to be among the playoff berths following a 6-0 start to the year.
But back to the rankings, a sometimes-convoluted bunch of arithmetic based on opponents and opponents’ opponents. For those of you who don’t fully understand the RPI rankings, here’s a glimpse.
Just take your team’s weighted win percentage (0.8 for home wins and 1.2 for those on the road divided by your total games played with those multipliers) then multiply that by 250. Add that number to your opponents’ winning percentage (times 500) and then to your opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (times 250).
Got it? Oh, you don’t? Well that’s because it’s super complicated.
But this is how the playoff seeding works, why Grant Union (7-2, 5-2 BMC) gets to host a first-round home game while Stanfield (7-2, 5-2 BMC) does not.
Right now those rankings are just numbers. We’ll have to wait until this weekend to see if the OSAA’s projections are true, whether BMC teams are really as fierce as their tiny rankings depict them to be. Heppner’s Greg Grant isn’t convinced yet.
“I don’t know how good our teams are or if we deserve those high rankings until we play other teams,” coach Grant said.
But having played these conference teams all year, and taking losses to three playoff-bound squads, Weston-McEwen coach Kenzie Hansell believes the BMC is the real deal.
“I think we’ll see that once the playoffs start this week,” he said.
And perhaps we will. First-round games start on Friday with Blue Mountain’s Stanfield at Portland Christian at 6 p.m. Heppner (7-3, 6-1 BMC), which hosts Oakridge, Grant Union and Enterprise all play Saturday.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.