By Tommy Keeler Jr.
With only two weeks left in the regular season, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. The next two weeks will go a long way in deciding the seeding for the playoffs, as well as who gets in and who turns in their uniforms.
All the games are so important that it feels like the playoffs are already here.
This week is certainly important, but it appears the area is going to have two huge showdowns next week involving fierce rivalries. Strasburg plays at Central, while Skyline plays at Warren County. Those two games will have a great impact on the seedings, but all four teams are already locked in to a playoff spot. Sherando also appears to have a playoff spot locked up, while Stonewall Jackson is just barely on the outside looking in.
I'll start by taking a closer look at the Group AA teams. In Region II, Division 3, Skyline is in second in the VHSL playoff power ratings at 25.3, while Warren County is right behind them at 24.5. The Hawks have a big game today at Sherando, while the Wildcats host Kettle Run. Both of those games are huge. If Skyline and Warren County each win they will be district champions, and then that sets up the showdown with each other the following week.
It's almost like the playoffs are starting this weekend. Things are very close in the power ratings -- Skyline and Warren County still have an outside shot at catching Western Albemarle for the top seed, but they would have to have a lot of help. However, they could also easily fall a ways if they suffer a couple losses to end the season. Fauquier, Monticello and Kettle Run aren't far behind them in the power ratings. That makes the next two weeks that much bigger for both the Front Royal schools. Warren County is also trying for an undefeated regular season.
In Region II, Division 4, Sherando is currently in fourth, but could still drop as low as eighth if they were to lose the final two regular-season games. The Warriors are still playing for a district title. They host Skyline today and then play at Millbrook next week. If they win both those games, they would be district champs. Just as importantly, they could move up a spot in the all-important playoff seedings.
In Group A, Division 2, Eastern section, Strasburg is currently in second, while Central is sixth, and Stonewall Jackson is 17th. The top 16 teams in each section make the playoffs.
The Rams are off this week, as they get ready for their showdown with Central next week. It is very close between the second, third-, fourth- and fifth-seeded teams, so the Rams may drop some after this week. However, a win over Central next week could move the Rams back into one of the top spots at the end. Of course, the Rams are trying to win the district title and complete a perfect regular season.
Essex is in first in the playoff seedings with a 23.0 rating, while Strasburg has 21.1, and the Trojans basically have the top seed locked down. Goochland is currently in third at 20.9, followed by King William at 20.8 and Buckingham at 20.1. Central is next at 19.1.
The Falcons could basically lock up a first-round home game with a win over Madison County today. A win over the Mountaineers would set up the game with Strasburg. The Falcons can still win a share of the district title, potentially a three-way tie with Manassas Park. Central can also climb as high as third in the playoff seedings if they win out and have some help.
The Generals need to help themselves. Stonewall Jackson has a power rating of 11.9, while Luray has a 12.0 just ahead of them. If the Generals can win one of their final two games, they have a shot at making the playoffs with a little help. If they win their final two games they would most likely be in. Earning a spot will be very difficult as they host Stuarts Draft and then play at Wilson Memorial.
A lot can still happen, and it surely will, over the next two weeks. One thing is for sure, almost any game you choose to attend is going to be a meaningful one. That's what this time of the year is all about, and that's just the way it should be.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org