Playoffs looking bright

Outlook sunny for Hayden, Steamboat football teams

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— The playoff races in Class 1A and 3A football are proving to be both confusing and intriguing.

As the 2006 season enters its final weeks, the only certainty - at least within the borders of Routt County - is that the Steamboat Springs Sailors have clinched a playoff berth in Class 3A.

The Sailors are guaranteed to finish no worse than third in the Western Slope League, meaning they'll get one of the four guaranteed playoff spots. What remains to be seen is how the Sailors will be seeded in the playoffs.

Steamboat (7-1, 5-1 in league play) plays Friday at league-leading Rifle (6-2, 6-0), a game that should decide the top spot in the Western Slope League. The league's top finisher would be the No. 1 seed in the bottom bracket of the state playoffs, meaning they'd play at home up until the state finals. The No. 1 seed from the Western Slope League would play the No. 4 seed from the Tri-Valley League, either Frederick (6-2) or Fort Lupton (5-3).

If Steamboat were to get the No. 2 seed, it would play at home against the North Metro third seed, Centaurus (4-4). Finishing as the No. 3 seed in the Western Slope League, Steamboat would play a road game against the North Metro No. 2 seed, either Evergreen (6-2) or Englewood (6-2).

The playoff picture in Class 1A is a bit more confusing. In past years, Class 1A would dole out all of the playoff positions to the different leagues. This year, four playoff bids will be determined by a selection/seeding committee made up of one administrator from each league. The committee will determine the seeding based on strength of schedule, strength of conference and a team's record in the past five games.

Hayden could clinch an automatic berth into the 1A playoffs with a win at Meeker on Friday. Grand Valley, the top team in the Class 1A Western Slope League, already clinched a playoff berth.

A Hayden loss would send the Tigers back into a group of teams battling for one of those four remaining spots.

Of those four spots, the North and South Central leagues most likely will get one berth each because they generally are considered the toughest leagues in 1A.

With some combination of Calhan (4-2), Denver Lutheran (3-3) and Holyoke (3-3) expected to get two of the berths, that leaves Sanford (3-2), Dolores (2-3), Hayden (if it loses Friday) and Paonia, among others, to battle for the final two spots.

Hayden has wins against Dolores and Paonia and would be in prime position to obtain one of the last playoff spots.

Steamboat has two games left on its schedule, and Hayden has one.

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