Just as the race for the final playoff spot between Harker Heights and Ellison is heating up, the playoff race in District 8-5A will be put on ice for a week due to spring break.
But the fourth-place Knights and the fifth-place Eagles, both coming off big wins Friday, aren’t losing any sleep over having to wait an extra week to close out the regular season.
“It’s not ideal, but we’ve known about it the entire year,” Heights head coach Ryan Flanigan said matter-of-factly, “so we’re not thrown off by it at all.”
“Being in the playoff picture, we’re just approaching it, preparing for the game, we just have longer to prepare,” Ellison head coach Niles Dunnells said.
Both teams certainly have reason to be anxious.
Heights, which defeated Shoemaker 5-0 on Saturday, can now clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in 8-5A with a victory in either of its final two games at Temple or at home against Waco Midway.
Flanigan said his team is “definitely starting to peak at the right time,” but added that it doesn’t change the Knights’ mentality as the regular season comes to a close.
“We’ve been (saying) for this entire half of district we’ve been in this situation of getting a result in every game and we’ve done that,” Flanigan said. “We’re still undefeated in the second half of district and now we’ve got two games to go out and get two more results.”
Ellison, meanwhile, needs considerable help if it is to return to the postseason after a playoff berth last year.
Heights is four points ahead in the standings and Ellison, at most, can only gain six points with two wins.
The Eagles can beat Heights outright for fourth place with two wins and two Knights losses, but as Dunnells said after Heights defeated Ellison last week, the Eagles aren’t focusing on whether the Knights win or lose.
“We can only take care of what we can take care of at this point,” Dunnells said. “So our next game being against Copperas Cove, we’ll just approach that game, play to win that game and just hope for the best on the other part.”
Coming off of a 2-0 win against Temple, a team also in playoff contention, the Eagles feel good about the way they’re playing.
And even with a week off before the final two games of the regular season, Ellison is simply hoping it takes two games, not one, to decide the final playoff spot in the district.