CIF Playoff Preview – Divisional Round
This week, we’re going to go in a different direction. So if you’re looking for where your team stands after the conclusion of the regular season, I have provided a set of “Quick” Power Rankings at the bottom. After this, there won’t be too much movement until the final Power Rankings, which will be put up after Champions Bowl II.
Champions Indoor Football fans and followers, it’s finally playoff time. Starting up with #RematchWeek, it’s best to give a thorough preview of each game. While Amarillo, Dodge City, Bloomington and Sioux City battle it out to see who moves on and who goes home, waiting in the wings will be the Texas Revolution and the Wichita Force.
Sure, that’s quite obvious, but let’s take a look at who is likely to move on to face the Force and the Revs next weekend for the right to play for the Champions Cup. While I’m no Nostradamus, it’s fair to give each game of #RematchWeek a fair shake.
CIF Northern Division – Divisional Round
Sioux City Bandits vs. Bloomington Edge – 7 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Cellular Coliseum, Bloomington.
Let’s be clear with this one, this is the fourth time that the Edge and the Bandits have faced off this season. Bloomington, as of right now, holds a 2-1 season series advantage over the defending champions after the 48-38 victory. Of course, there’s going to be a lot of familiarity between the two teams.
Returning to the red turf will be Sioux City, who fell short despite putting up 22 fourth quarter points. Quarterback Anthony Graham was able to provide a spark for the Bandit offense, going 10-of-13 for 96 yards and two trips to paydirt. But the Bandits will need to punch into the endzone early and often to score a road victory.
Expect Bandits coach Erv Strohbeen to implement tailback Drew Prohaska like adding more cowbell to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” Prohaska has a history of swinging a game’s momentum into Sioux City’s favor in critical moments.
Meanwhile, Caleb Holbrook and his offense did quite well against the Bandits. Holbrook went 17-of-25 for 200 yards and three TDs, while running back Darrlynn Dunn and wide receiver Orlandus Harris contributed on the ground and through the air. The Edge defense, led by Dontae McCoy and Dominic McDuffie, will continue to look to cause turnovers and keep Bloomington alive and well in the postseason.
Bloomington’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Bloomington could be considered one of the hottest teams to enter the CIF playoffs right now, winning four straight since posting a 3-5 record after a 61-33 loss at Sioux City. While the Edge has seen an elevated play from quarterback Caleb Holbrook, it’s been their defensive unit who has brought them to the show. The Edge have been show stoppers, allowing no more than 210 yards per game.
Most experts do agree that while offense wins games, defense wins championships. However, for the Edge to take the Champions Cup back to the heart of Illinois, they need to take care of business at home before heading south to put a stop to more explosive offenses.
Sioux City’s Road to the Champions Bowl: The Bandits will need to become proverbial road warriors to return to the Champions Bowl, channeling their inner Mad Max to do so. The Bandits have skidded into the playoffs after winning five straight. Granted, two of those three final regular season losses came at the hands of the Wichita Force.
However, Sioux City plays best when their backs are against the wall, as seen from winning five consecutive games after dropping two straight. It’s not impossible for the Bandits to hoist the Champions Cup, but it will just have to be on their opponents’ home turf.
Tyler’s Predicted Score: Bloomington 41, Sioux City 38.
Again, the Edge will jump out to an early lead before Sioux City keeps it interesting with a switch-up at quarterback or a big game from Prohaska. Despite another frantic Bandit rally, it’s easy to see Bloomington hold on to bounce the defending champions via another stellar game by Holbrook on the offensive side and McDuffie’s defensive play.
CIF Southern Division – Divisional Round
Dodge City Law vs. Amarillo Venom – 7 p.m. Saturday at Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum, Amarillo.
Last week, the Amarillo Venom kept their season series with the Dodge City Law in Amarillo with a 52-35 victory. In all three meetings in the 2016 season, all of the meetings between the Law and the Venom have been the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Cal Farley Coliseum, which hasn’t been for the best for Dodge City.
While the Venom scored 31 unanswered points to defeat the Law, Dodge City could argue that the zebras weren’t exactly the greatest field crew on the carpet. Altogether, the Law had committed 16 penalties for 108 yards, which didn’t sit well with Dodge City fans and head coach Sean Ponder.
Dodge City, who lead the league in rushing offense and yards per rush with 143 yards and 5.6 yards per game respectively, will continue to look for quarterback Derrick Bernard and running back Dominique Carson to produce. Together, the two former Sul Ross State Lobos combined for nearly 160 yards and four TDs against the Venom.
Even though the Venom defense gave up that many yards, they still boast the best defenses against the rush in the CIF, allowing just 60 yards per game. It’s also worth noting that the Venom possess the best kicker in the league in Jacob Felton, who earned the CIF Special Teams Player of the Week honors by converting two of three onside kicks, along with a balanced and talented offense run by veteran quarterback Nate Davis.
VENOM graphic - color
Amarillo’s Road to the Champions Bowl: Consistency and mistake-free football are the keys to this castle. Should the Venom curb their miscues and play hard all four quarters, Amarillo coach Julian Reese and his staff are working with a championship-caliber team. It helps that the Venom, most notably their defense, has continued to improve from week to week, winning four of their last five games to return to the postseason.
With so much talent all around, Amarillo is the dark horse in the race to bring back a Champions Cup. There’s no question about that. Should the Venom take care of their own destiny and win out, all while Bloomington or Sioux City take the Northern Division, there could be a chance where Venom Nation sees their first championship game since 2013.
Dodge City Law
Dodge City’s Road to the Champions Bowl: The Law have a nice chance of forging their own path to the Champions Bowl as well, as long as they can keep the legs of Bernard and Carson churning. However, Dodge City does have wide receiver Daniel McKinney, who was uncharacteristically in last week’s game against the Venom. The Law also need to capitalize on turnovers generated by their defense to keep their season alive.
Much like their #RematchWeek counterparts, the Law could lure the Champions Bowl onto their home turf at the United Wireless Arena. This could be done by winning out, upsetting Texas and rooting hard for Bloomington or Sioux City. Lastly, Dodge City can boast that they are capable of hosting the Champions Bowl, as they have bested the Revs 89-71 at home and only falling to Texas in the final moments of their 72-64 road loss.
Tyler’s Predicted Score: Amarillo 55, Dodge City 52.
Mirroring the first game rather than the second game, the Venom and the Law will endure a see-saw battle. This game will have it all, from kickoff returns for touchdowns to a clash between Amarillo taking to the air while Dodge City counters with their speedy rushing attack. However, it will be the Venom defense who forces Bernard to make a mistake, while a sell-out crowd watches (hometown hero) Felton kick the game-winner through the uprights.
Quick Power Rankings
Texas Revolution (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 1 (None)
Wichita Force (10-2) – Last Week’s Ranking: 2 (None)
Amarillo Venom (8-4) – Last Week’s Ranking: 6 (+3)
Dodge City Law (8-4) – Last Week’s Ranking: 3 (-1)
Bloomington Edge (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 7 (+2)
Sioux City Bandits (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 4 (-2)
Omaha Beef (7-5) – Last Week’s Ranking: 5 (-2)
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 (+2)
San Angelo Bandits (2-10) – Last Week’s Ranking: 10 (-1)
Salina Liberty (2-10) Last Week’s Ranking: 11 (-1)