Short game may decide Rams’ fate
CARBONDALE – Whether lucky number 13 comes into play, or maybe unlucky 7, a spooky numbers game has the Roaring Fork football team looking at a possible Halloween tie-breaker to decide the Class 2A Western Slope League title, with a post-season playoff berth hanging in the balance.First of all, Roaring Fork (5-1 WSL, 7-1 overall) needs to take care of business on the road at Cedaredge Friday, or the Rams’ postseason chances could be hampered.A Roaring Fork win by at least 13 points over the Bruins (1-5, 1-7) sets up a potential pigtail tie-breaker playoff on Tuesday (Halloween), depending on the outcome of the Olathe-Gunnison game Friday at Olathe.”We’re preparing as if we’re playing the best team in the state,” head coach Mike Brinson said of the Cedaredge game. “We’re just trying to be a better team than we were last week. We don’t care who’s on the other side of the ball from us, we’ll be playing like it’s the best team in the state.”If undefeated Olathe – a 14-7 winner over Roaring Fork on Sept. 15 – beats Gunnison, Olathe wins the WSL outright, while Roaring Fork secures the league’s second playoff spot.Gunnison, also 5-1 in league play (6-2 overall), with its only league loss a 7-0 decision at Roaring Fork on Oct. 7, would finish third in that scenario.However, if Roaring Fork wins by 13, and Gunnison beats Olathe, a new tie-breaker system decided on by league officials after last season kicks in.If Gunnison beats Olathe by exactly seven points, Roaring Fork, Gunnison and Olathe finish in a three-way tie to be broken on the playing field Tuesday afternoon at a neutral site to be determined.A coin flip decides which two teams play first in a shortened, 30-minute game. The loser finishes third, and the winner plays the other team for 30 minutes to decide first and second place.If Gunnison beats Olathe by less than seven points on Friday, Gunnison still finishes third and Roaring Fork plays Olathe for first place in Tuesday’s half-game tie-breaker.Or, if Gunnison beats Olathe by more than seven points, Gunnison wins the league and Roaring Fork plays Olathe for second place in the pigtail game.In any case, the top two teams automatically advance to next week’s 2A playoffs, while the third-place team still has a chance at a wild card berth.The tie-breaker system was decided on by league officials after Gunnison’s 2005 post-season ended on a technicality.Each league has its own system that’s agreed upon by the coaches and athletic directors, explained Roaring Fork High School Athletic Director Larry Black.Toward the end of last season, though, after Roaring Fork had secured the league championship, the teams still vying for second place got together and decided to change the rules, he said.”What it did was change who was supposed to be in the playoffs,” Black said.The rules that were officially on the books would have put Hotchkiss in the playoffs. But the backroom deal instead had Gunnison in the playoffs.That was until the Colorado High School Activities Association found out and put Hotchkiss in the playoffs, sending Gunnison home for the season.After that, league officials got together and revised the rules, resulting in the pigtail playoff. Still, Black said it’s better to decide who goes to the playoffs on the field, rather than by a coin flip or some technicality.”The pigtail game is not a favorite of coaches, because it means an extra game at the end of the season,” he said. “But it is more fair than tossing a coin.” A second-place finish or a wildcard berth would send the Rams on the road against a higher-seeded team for the first playoff round.
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