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Thursday, August 28th, 2008

WBL hopes improved first week is enough

By Daily Standard Staff
Standard Correspondents
For one area conference, the non-conference season is already over. For another, it extends another week with a conference-wide scheduling gamble.
With its nine-game conference schedule starting this week, the Western Buckeye League has completed non-conference play. The WBL went 0-10 last year and only earned two playoff spots. This year they still had a losing record, but St. Marys, Defiance and Lima Bath came through with wins to bring the WBL's non-conference mark up to 3-7.
Will these extra three wins be enough for the conference to earn at least three playoff spots? Looking at the historical data, it appears the answer is … possibly, but not definitely.
We can use St. Marys' plight from a year ago as an example of how much of an impact the WBL's 0-10 start had on one particular team. The Roughriders finished the 2007 season at 7-3, but more importantly, they ended up ninth in Division III's region 10, one spot out of the playoffs.
The margin between St. Marys and the eighth-place team (Indian Lake) was a razor thin 0.10 on average, meaning a measly one point made the difference between the two teams.
Interestingly (or frustratingly for St. Marys fans), four of the WBL teams the Roughriders beat, lost their week one games by a combined total of just 16 points. Had just one of those WBL teams (Bath, Celina, Ottawa-Glandorf, or Van Wert) pulled out a victory in its opening game, St. Marys not only would have made the playoffs, but would have had enough points to take the seventh spot.
In 2007, the teams in the Midwest Athletic Conference went 6-4, its worst non-conference mark in many years. This slide resulted in the conference earning only two playoff spots, its lowest total since the playoffs expanded to eight teams per region in 1999.
This year the MAC improved to 9-1, with the only loss being Versailles' 42-21 defeat at the hands of Dayton Oakwood.
Since we used St. Marys as a case in point for the WBL, we'll have to pick on Parkway as an example of the importance of every last point for MAC teams.
As any Panther fan will remember, the Black and Gold finished in ninth place last year in Division V's region 20 despite going 8-2 with both losses coming to eventual state champions Marion Local and Coldwater.
The gap between eighth and ninth was a little larger for Parkway last year than it was for St. Marys, as the Panthers finished 0.45 on average from eighth-place Fairbanks, but that means only 4.5 points separated the Panthers from the playoffs.
Had MAC teams been as successful in week one last year as they were this year, Parkway would have gained an additional 11 points, which would have put them solidly in the playoffs at the number-six spot in the region.
Due to the MAC's change to an eight-game conference schedule, it still has one more week of non-conference games remaining. If they were all playing conference foes, MAC teams would obviously go 5-5 this next week. A record better than that should help the overall computer points available within the conference, while a record under 5-5 means they would have been better off keeping the old schedule.
By the end of the weekend we will know if the gamble has paid off.
As long as the MAC teams don't suffer a serious stumble this week, last week's 9-1 record should give the conference enough points to grab at least three playoff spots this year. If things go well this coming weekend, it's a very good possibility that the MAC could place four (and at the top end, maybe even five) teams into the postseason.
That would be a tremendous improvement over a year ago, and a good reason to pat the MAC athletic directors on the back for a successful gamble.
The following is a listing of how all the MAC and WBL teams stand in the computer rankings after the first week. As always, the computer points for the five regions involving most WBL and MAC teams can be found at

Team - Ranking (Computer Points)
Region 6:
Celina - 18th (0.00)
Wapakoneta - 18th (0.00)
Celina came oh so close, but fell to Lima Senior once again and 17 out the 29 teams in this region won their first game, so the Bulldogs and the Redskins already have to play catch-up.

Region 10:
St. Marys - 3rd (5.50)
Defiance - 6th (5.00)
Elida - 17th (0.00)
Kenton - 17th (0.00)
Lima Shawnee - 17th (0.00)
Van Wert - 17th (0.00)
St. Marys earned a potentially huge computer-point win over Piqua, and Defiance may also gain a load of points from Napoleon, making these two teams early favorites for playoff spots if they can take care of business in the WBL (always a difficult enough challenge on its own).

Region 14:
Lima Bath - 13th (3.50)
Ottawa-Glandorf - 17th (0.00)
There were 16 winners and 14 losers in this region, and Lima Bath ended up on the positive side of the split.

Region 16:
Coldwater - 5th (5.00)
Exactly half of the 30 teams in this region took home a week-one victory. Coldwater's win over Division III representative Kenton has the Cavaliers in fourth place in the standings at the moment with familiar challenger Kettering Alter at the top of this region.

Region 20:
Marion Local - 1st (5.00)
St. Henry - 3rd (4.50)
Parkway - 11th (3.50)
Anna - 11th (3.50)
Versailles - 15th (0.00)
This is usually one of the toughest regions to earn a playoff berth (if not the toughest). But it got off to a slow start, with only 14 of the 31 teams winning in week one. The MAC managed to get four teams in the winning column with only Versailles suffering a loss. St. Henry earned a nice computer-points win as Marion Pleasant is once again expected to win all nine of its remaining games to bring in another 35-40 points for the Redskins. Anna should also do well from its win over highly-regarded Sidney Lehman, as seven to eight victories for Lehman would bring in another 25-30 points for the Rockets. Parkway fans should be hopeful of getting some points out of Convoy Crestview, but Marion Local fans should consider any future win by Elida as an unexpected bonus.

Region 22:
Delphos St. John's - 3rd (4.00)
Fortunately for Delphos St. Johns, only 12 teams survived week one with a victory in this region. Lima Central Catholic is expected to bring in a large number of computer points for the Blue Jays, as they have gone 9-1 each of the last two years.

Region 24:
Fort Recovery - 9th (3.50)
Minster - 9th (3.50)
New Bremen - 9th (3.50)
This is usually expected to be a weak region, at least computer points-wise, but 20 of the 32 the teams took home victories last week. Several of the usual playoff suspects have started 0-1 in this region, so it is looking like a region that will be contested by a lot of teams early on. Fort Recovery will be hoping Ansonia repeats last year's six Cross County Conference wins. Minster also has high hopes, as last year Fort Loramie won seven of its remaining nine games. But New Bremen seems likely to reap the largest computer-point reward, as Covington had not lost a regular-season game since losing to Anna in 2005.
Additional online stories on this date
The extremely dry summer has left stagnant water in some areas and created the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus. [More]
A Celina woman tearfully pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in Mercer County Common Pleas Court to charges stemming from the drug-related death of a friend. [More]
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