We’re all a fan when a local team
THE ISSUE: Football season is over for some, but others are just getting started.
OUR VIEW: Rival fans come together when a local team does well.
It’s an exciting time for Carlinville football fans. Every year, when the last regular season game is in the books and the first round of playoff pairings is announced, coaches, players and fans are laser focused on the goal – that 14th game. There are 10 teams in the South Central Conference and that means nine regular-season games. There are four rounds that pare down the field to the final two in the class. Those last two teams are the ones who will make it to that 14th game – the State Championship.
Making the playoffs isn’t always a sure thing. With every new season comes the knowledge the team is starting without those seasoned seniors who just graduated. No coach ever has the same team two years in a row and, in a way, no team ever has the same coach two years in a row. Every year, a coach has to adapt to the players he has. Sure, there are programs that are consistently strong – Carlinville is one of them – but history is no guarantee.
The road to the State Championship game can’t be taken for granted. Even though there are a lot of teams that make the playoffs, winning those four games is rare. It’s the time of year when everyone gets a little superstitious. No one wants to look too far ahead. It’s like looking a gift horse in the mouth when one imagines anything beyond the task at hand. No one wants to talk about favorites for fear of underestimating an opponent.
Even though the Cavaliers had an undefeated season, it doesn’t mean they’ll have an easy go through the playoffs. They’re not even the top seed in their Class 3A bracket. Monticello, also 9-0, is the top seed. In fact, Carlinville is just one of four 9-0 teams in their bracket. The others are #3 Fairfield and #4 Farmington (which will face #13 Greenville in Round 1). While it’s possible Carlinville could face Fairfield in Round 3, the Cavies could only face either Monticello or Farmington in Round 4.
If undefeated teams are any indication, Carlinville definitely has the tougher row to hoe as the other Class 3A bracket has only one undefeated team in #1 Byron, which Carlinville would only face in the championship game.
Elmhurst (IC Catholic), Carlinville’s nemesis from the 2016-17 State Championship game, also went 9-0 this season, but will play in Class 4A where they are the top seed in their bracket. OK, enough about them.
The Cavaliers aren’t the only Macoupin County team in the playoffs this year. #16 Staunton (5-4) made the cut and will begin their march in Class 2A on the road at #1 Decatur (St. Theresa).
There’s one thing about the rivalries in this area, once one of our own makes it through a playoff round or two, lots of other fans get behind them and the reason for it is these fans understand how difficult it is to play deep into the playoffs.
It’s easy to hope the team that beats your team goes down in the next round, but there’s a better way to look at it. Isn’t it more gratifying knowing if your team had to lose, it lost to the team no one else could beat? Is it really more fun to lose to the losers? We don’t think so.
Carlinville will start their playoff run at home on Friday night against the Oilers of East Alton-Wood River. With two relatively local teams facing off, the stands will probably be packed. Although, a large number of Carlinville loyalists is guaranteed, hopefully some fans of other area teams will make the trip. There’s no doubt that the players and the coaches do the heavy lifting during these games, but good fan support can make a big difference. Whether it’s making that noise to throw an opponent off their count on third down to force a punt, or to motivate the home team and shift the game’s momentum, fans are any team’s 12th man.