CIF Playoff Preview – Division Championships
With one week to go until the Champions Bowl, the six squads who earned a spot in the playoffs is now whittled down to four. This week, and speaking as a devil’s advocate, there are no favorites in both of these contests.
Now, there are three different, and very possible scenarios. There are three probable hosts for the 2016 Champions Bowl: the Texas Revolution, the Wichita Force and the Amarillo Venom.
First, all the “Red Hot Revs” need to do is win out to host the second edition of the Champions Bowl inside of the Allen Event Center. No matter if Bloomington or Wichita takes the Northern Division crown, Texas has earned the right to be the home team. This is due to the Revs winning the head-to-head matchup on April 9.
In the situation where Texas bows out to Amarillo and Wichita prevails, the Champions Bowl goes to the INTRUST Bank Arena. It would be the first time that the Venom would make the trip to “Doo-Dah.” Force Faithful, is that still the city’s nickname, or should we stick with the “Air Capital of the World?” Nonetheless, the Force will be rooting for the Venom in the Metroplex.
Finally, there’s the scenario where the CIF turns upside down, seeing both Amarillo and Bloomington win on the road. If the Venom and the Edge are victorious, Bloomington pays a visit to the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum. For an extra home date and one of the loudest crowds in the CIF, the Venom are definitely pulling for Bloomington if they take care of business.
CIF Northern Division Championship
Bloomington Edge vs. Wichita Force – 7 p.m. Saturday at INTRUST Bank Arena, Wichita.
In the third meeting of the season between the two squads, Wichita has owned the series despite each game being a closely-contested battle. On April 1, the Force earned a hard fought 51-48 home victory while taking a 32-27 win in Bloomington just two weeks later.
Well rested following their 56-50 regular season finale victory over the Omaha Beef, Wichita have a knack of taking advantage of clutch situations…along with possessing a little bit of luck. Quarterback David Olson has filled in nicely since the departure of Steve Panasuk, tossing for an average of 129 yards and 10 trips to the endzone in his five games behind center. Linebacker Jason Catchings has been dominant as well, putting up 85 tackles and four interceptions for the Force.
As for Bloomington, there’s no doubt that they had this date circled on their calendars. Entering the postseason on a five-game winning streak, the Edge has outscored opponents by a combined score of 272-151.
Against Sioux City last Saturday, quarterback Caleb Holbrook put up another stellar effort as the rookie completed all but nine of his 26 passing attempts for 155 yards and four TDs. Wide receiver Orlandus Harris led the Edge receiver corps with 97 yards and two trips to paydirt on seven receptions.
As far as defense is concerned, Bloomington boasts on the best units in Champions Indoor Football in scoring defense. The Edge have allowed just 37 points per game, and is the best of the four teams left in allowing 215 yards per game.
Bloomington’s Road to the Champions Bowl: To reach their first title game since the 2008 United Bowl, Bloomington will need to continue to rely on tough defense provided by rookie defensive lineman Antonio Ficklin and defensive back Dominic McDuffie. While McDuffie is second in the league with six INTs, Ficklin is currently seventh in the CIF with seven sacks.
The steady hand Holbrook is also vital toward keeping the Edge on track toward their second championship appearance. The key to victory for Bloomington is making sure Holbrook and Harris are in sync despite a hostile environment and harassing Wichita’s offense into submission early in the ball game. If the Edge execute, luck will simply run out for the Force.
Wichita’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Contrasting their ability to pull out of games, Wichita has a championship-caliber team with the likes of wide receivers Clarence Anderson and Brett Soft. While Anderson is currently fourth in the CIF in all-purpose yardage with 1,844 yards, Soft is the perfect complimentary receiver with 42 grabs for 453 and 13 touchdowns in 2016.
For the Force to realize their “One Team, One Dream” mantra, Wichita has to remain in the game should they continue the trend of strong second half performances. Another part of that gameplan is keep Olson upright and composed while the defense, led by the fearsome Jason Catchings, remains opportunistic. If that happens, Wichita is punching their ticket to the second edition of the Champions Bowl.
Tyler’s Predicted Score: Bloomington 48, Wichita 45.
Yes, you read that right. After falling in the first two meetings against the Force, Bloomington finally makes the third time count and breaks through with a victory. This time, Holbrook finds Harris Jr. amid traffic in the final moments of the game as the Bloomington secondary holds off a desperation throw to the endzone by Olson, vaulting the Edge into their first championship game since 2008 as the Bloomington Extreme.
CIF Southern Division Championship
Amarillo Venom vs. Texas Revolution – 7 p.m. Saturday at Allen Event Center, Allen.
This game has been in the making since the start of the 2016 season. While the Revs has been a complete team all throughout the season, Amarillo is finally hitting their stride.
In the Venom’s 98-56 victory over the Dodge City Law this past weekend, quarterback Nate Davis went 23-of-36 for 372 yards and six touchdowns. Despite rushing for only 14 yards on six attempts, the Ball State grad took the ball into the endzone five times. This earned Davis CIF Offensive Player of the Week honors. Davis’ main target, wide receiver Raymond Johnson Jr., is the CIF leader in all-purpose yards with 2,141 and 178 yards per game.
Defensively, defensive back Jemichael Williams has been a force in the secondary, accumulating nine tackles, a half-sack and a fumble recovery. Williams, who captured the CIF Defensive Player of the Week award, also leads the Venom with five interceptions.
For Texas, everything starts with veteran quarterback Robert Kent Jr. The former Jackson State Tiger leads the CIF in average total offense, passing yards per game, passing touchdowns, pass completions and passing efficiency. Against the Mesquite Marshals on June 4, Kent Jr. tossed for 239 yards and eight touchdowns. This was despite a loss in the final moments.
On the other side of the ball, defensive back Jerico Nelson leads the Revs with 57 total tackles and four interceptions. Altogether, Texas leads Champions Indoor Football with 26 picks, despite being seventh in the league in defending the pass.
VENOM graphic - color
Amarillo’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Everything rests on continued improvement for the Amarillo Venom, especially on the defensive side of the football. Last week against the Dodge City Law, the Venom defensive unit forced five turnovers with three fumbles and two interceptions.
This is thanks to pressure up front up from defensive linemen Justin Williams and Desmond Raiford. Raiford is currently the fifth in the CIF in sacks with seven and a half, and is the top remaining sack artist. While the Venom are considered underdogs of this game, the label is deceptive.
Texas’s Road to the Champions Bowl: The Revs had a bye week to adjust and fine tune their game, following their 75-74 loss to the Mesquite Marshals in their final regular season game. For Texas, it’s all about mentality and focus, as they perfected during their 2016 campaign thus far.
To host the Champions Bowl, Texas will need to duplicate what they did in their regular season opener against the Amarillo Venom. Should the “Red Hot Revs” jump out to another large lead, their defense can apply pressure on Davis and the always potent Venom offense.
Tyler’s Predicted Score: Amarillo 63, Texas 62.
This time, and to the dismay of Revolution fans, the Venom won’t be behind by 27 points early. Instead, the two top offenses in the CIF will conduct an old fashioned Texas Shootout and it will be a clinic. This time, the Venom defense will come up with the big play toward the end, as defensive back Jevin Colbert slaps away a two-point conversion. Utility lineman Cameron Edwards captures the following onside kick to deny Texas their second straight Champions Bowl appearance and send Amarillo to their first championship since 2013.
Quick Power Rankings
Just a quick note. There won’t be much movement in the Power Rankings this week. That won’t happen until the Final Power Rankings following the Champions Bowl.
- Texas Revolution (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (None)
- Wichita Force (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (None)
- Amarillo Venom (9-4) – Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (None)
- Bloomington Edge (8-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (+1)
- Dodge City Law (8-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (-1)
- Sioux City Bandits (7-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (None)
- Omaha Beef (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (None)
- Duke City Gladiators (6-6) – Last Week’s Ranking: 8 (None)
- Chicago Eagles (3-9) – Last Week’s Ranking: 9 (None)
- Mesquite Marshals (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 12 (None)
- San Angelo Bandits (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (None)
- Salina Liberty (2-10) Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (None)