Plenty of scenarios in play as Region 2-6A playoff race reaches climax

Published 9:54 am Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How strong and volatile is Region 2-6A this season?

So strong that Northwest Rankin, which was ranked No. 5 in Class 6A in last week’s Associated Press poll, needs a win and at least two favorable results on the final night of the season just to make the playoffs.

So volatile that Starkville’s 35-28 win over Warren Central knocked the Vikings from first place to third, and moved the Yellowjackets from the brink of elimination to having an opportunity to finish second and host a first-round playoff game.

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It’s a chaotic world to live in, where a single loss is punished with the threat of being home when the Class 6A playoffs begin next week — and the craziness is just getting started.

Heading into the final night of the regular season this Friday, only Madison Central (7-3-1, 5-1 Region 2-6A) and Clinton (9-1, 5-1) have clinched playoff spots. Warren Central, Starkville and Northwest Rankin can all still play their way in — or out — with varying degrees of assistance, and either shoot up or down the standings.

It should make for a wild Friday night where following scores on Twitter will be as fascinating as watching the action on the field.

“There’s going to be one, possibly two playoff-type teams left out,” said Warren Central coach Josh Morgan, whose Vikings finish the regular season by hosting a seven-win Callaway team that was eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago.

The Region 2-6A lineup this week is Madison Central at Greenville; Starkville at Clinton; Callaway at Warren Central; and Murrah at Northwest Rankin. The outcomes of each game will affect every team in some way. Here is a breakdown of how:

• Madison Central can lock up at least the No. 2 seed with a win over Greenville (3-8, 1-5), which has lost five straight games after a promising start. Greenville has never beaten Madison Central in 20 meetings all-time.

Madison Central can win the region championship with a win and a Clinton loss to Starkville.

• Northwest Rankin (7-4, 3-3) can’t get into the playoffs just by beating Murrah (2-9, 0-6), but can sneak in with some help. A Northwest Rankin victory, combined with wins by Clinton and Warren Central, would give Northwest the No. 4 seed via a head-to-head tiebreaker over Starkville.

Wins by Northwest Rankin, Callaway and Clinton would also put the Cougars in the playoffs by creating a three-way tie that they would win on point differential. In that scenario, Warren Central would be the odd man out.

Northwest Rankin will be eliminated from contention, regardless of what else happens, if it loses to Murrah.

• Starkville (7-3, 4-2) at Clinton is the most pivotal game on the schedule this week.

If Clinton wins, it will claim the region championship. If it loses, the other results around the region will create a domino effect that could lead to a number of tiebreakers and hurt feelings.

Wins by Starkville and Warren Central would create a three-way tie for second place. In that scenario, Madison Central wins the region title; Starkville earns the No. 2 seed by virtue of its wins over both WC and Clinton; Warren Central is third because of its win over Clinton; and Clinton — the team that was ranked No. 1 for most of the season — finishes fourth and goes on the road in round one to play top-ranked and undefeated Tupelo.

A win by Starkville, coupled with a Callaway upset of Warren Central, would also give the Yellowjackets the No. 2 seed. Clinton would fall to third, and Warren Central would be fourth.

• Warren Central (8-2, 4-2) was in the driver’s seat for the region championship before last week’s loss to Starkville, but now must beat Callaway just to ensure itself of a playoff berth. A victory would give the Vikings the No. 3 seed regardless of what else happens in the region.

If the Vikings lose, it opens the door for all sorts of chaos. A Warren Central loss would give Northwest Rankin and Starkville both an opportunity to play their way in, and expose the Vikings to a three-way tiebreaker it would lose out on entirely.

Warren Central owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Northwest Rankin, and would still finish fourth with a loss and a Starkville victory over Clinton.

A Warren Central loss and a Clinton victory would create a three-way tie between WC, Starkville and Northwest Rankin for the final two spots. In that scenario, Northwest Rankin would get the No. 3 seed because of a point differential tiebreaker. The tiebreaker process then goes to head-to-head results between the remaining teams, and Starkville’s win over Warren Central last week would give the Yellowjackets the No. 4 seed.

The bottom line, Morgan said, is that the Vikings need to take care of business, win, and not worry about the rest.

If Warren Central finishes third, it will go on the road to play South Panola in round one.

“After all the reflection and all of that, we’re still sitting in a good spot. Still controlling your own destiny in this district, there’s something to be said for that,” Morgan said. “We better not overlook Callaway. We’re fighting for our lives and to make the playoffs and keep playing. We have our hands full in a pressure situation, and we need everybody — coaches, players and fans — to be behind us.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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