A couple of years ago in this very forum I called upon the WIAA to reduce the number of teams that make the High School Football Playoffs. I argued that 224 is too many, and waters down the "achievement" of making the post-season. I pointed out that a number of teams were making the playoffs with overall losing records--and .500 conference records at best. And then once those teams got in, they were almost always blown out by undefeated, conference champions--leading one to wonder if that was really a "reward" for a "successful" season. By it's physical nature, football is not set up to allow for a "Cinderella" team to put on a miracle run in the playoffs because the superior team can always pound away and wear down a weaker team. It's not like basketball where you can play a grind-it-out style to limit possessions and just keep the game close until the end.
In the years since that My Two Cents, the pattern continued. Bad teams getting rewarded with post-season berths only to get hammered. And it looked like the same thing was going to happen this year--as the WIAA had to select six "wild card" teams with losing conference records just to fill out the field of 224. But this time Cinderella decided to show up. And as fate would have it, she is coming from our own backyard in Winneconne.
The Wolves entered the playoffs with a less-than-stellar 4-5 record--but they qualified based on their 4-4 Eastern Valley Conference record (which they got only by winning their last two regular season games). They were a six seed in their regional and were expected to bow out in either the first round against either River Valley or Wautoma. But the Wolves surprised everyone by winning both of those games rather easily. And after an upset win over number one seed Nekoosa in Level Three, they were suddenly in the State Semifinals against defending Division Four Champions Somerset. A thrilling two point victory last Friday means Cinderella takes the coach down to Madison to play for the Glass Slipper--I mean the Gold Ball.
And who is there waiting for Winneconne? A Platteville Hillmen team that finished the regular season with a 5-4 record. Together, the two teams will combine for the most losses ever in a State Championship game. And that has made this game the talk of the tournament--as it appears Cinderella will be battling Cinderella for the title. (The second-biggest topic of discussion is how two teams from the same conference, Oshkosh North and Kimberly, are meeting in Madison and not in one of the regionals?)
So congratulation to Winneconne on this historic run and for showing that sometimes, Cinderella really can wear cleats.