Skip the movies tonight and Saturday. Go to the DIAA football playoffs instead.
Nothing against Hollywood, but sports are so popular because they can’t be scripted. In a movie, LeBron James will make that last shot every time. Peyton Manning’s final pass will always go for a touchdown. Tiger Woods will never miss a putt on the 18th hole (come to think of it, that used to be true in real life).
In the real world, we never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes LeBron makes it, sometimes he misses. And every so often something too good to be true happens, like Kirk Gibson limping around the bases after hitting the winning home in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
That’s why “You couldn’t have scripted it any better” has become broadcasters’ favorite cliché to describe an unbelievable finish.
If the regular season was any indication, we are in for some fantastic finishes in the DIAA playoffs. The writers from Caesar Rodney and Salesianum already threw a couple of plot twists into the last week of the regular season with unexpected wins over Dover and Middletown, respectively.
All of a sudden, the Division I playoffs are wide open. Middletown was riding a 23-game winning streak and appeared to be unbeatable in the final year of the Darius Wade-Chris Godwin Era – until last week. Now it could be the Troy Reeder-Brian O’Neill Era. Or maybe not.
Caesar Rodney unleashed its best game of the season against Dover, a 42-18 victory that signaled the Riders are peaking at the perfect time. CR hosts to William Penn on Saturday night, another notch in the state’s toughest schedule. The Riders have played all five of the other Division I playoff teams, plus perennial Division II title contender Hodgson.
St. Mark’s travels to Dover for a 7:30 kickoff tonight, a clash of styles that almost always produces a good game. The Spartans may have the state’s best defense. The Senators may have the state’s most explosive offense.
The Division II playoffs may be even better than D-I. The small schools have played some big-time football, including a thrilling round-robin between Hodgson, St. Georges and Caravel. The teams finished 1-2-3 in the final News Journal rankings, and all went 1-1 against each other.
Caravel beat Hodgson. Hodgson beat St. Georges. St. Georges beat Caravel. In all three games, the winning team trailed before rallying. So if we have a rematch in any direction, how can you predict a winner with any confidence?
The most interesting D-II matchup of the first round is Woodbridge at Tower Hill, kicking off at 7:30 tonight. The Blue Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs since 2000. The Hillers are undefeated for the first time since 1959, so it will be a historical drama. And since they play each other, one is guaranteed to reach the semifinals.
Honestly, everyone has questions about Tower Hill. The Hillers played only one team with a winning record, and their opponents went a combined 30-63. But all you can do is beat the team across from you, and Tower Hill has done that with remarkable efficiency. The Hillers have won every game by at least 14 points, but Woodbridge will certainly be their toughest foe.
Indian River won the D-II title in 2011 and lost a 43-42 semifinal thriller to Caravel last year, so top-seeded St. Georges won’t be looking past the Indians in tonight’s 7:30 kickoff at Appoquinimink. Especially after the Hawks lost to Archmere as the No. 1 seed in D-II last year.
Then we have Caravel at Delmar, two of the longstanding heavyweights of Division II. The last time they met, in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs, Caravel scored 11 points in the final 30 seconds to win. Pretty sure Delmar – and its legendary fans – haven’t forgotten that.
Hodgson over Howard appears to be the only easy call of the opening weekend, but they will kick it off anyway at 11 a.m. Saturday just to make sure. Because this is real life, not a movie.
Middletown and Salesianum will get a bucket of popcorn and enjoy the Division I games, waiting to see who will star beside them in next week’s productions. Everyone who isn’t playing should join them in the bleachers and watch some playoff football. Because as legendary actor Barney Rubble once said, you can’t win an Oscar in the first round, but you can certainly lose one.