IMC playoff picture beginning to solidify

Depending on the outcome of Friday’s Pendleton/Hood River Valley showdown, the Eagles’ road to the playoffs could be cut and dry.

With their two remaining games against Crook County (1-3) and low-scoring Mountain View (2-2), the Eagles (3-1) could already be thinking about the Intermountain Conference’s No. 2 seed.

But if the preseason league-favorite Buckaroos (3-1) were able to scrap out a road win Friday night, and Mountain View held form to defeat last-place Summit (0-4), the entire playoff picture begins to get blurry.

“If Pendleton beats HRV and then loses to Hermiston in two weeks, we could be looking at a three-way tie for second place,” KIHR Sports Director Mark Bailey said before Friday’s game. “HRV would really help its cause with a win. But if they lose, it could come down to a coin toss.”

Hermiston is all but assured the IMC’s top playoff seed if they take care of business against Crook County (Friday), Summit and Pendleton.

Even if the Bulldogs were to stumble against the Buckaroos at home, they would still hold a tie-breaker over HRV because of their 50-49 head-to-head win on Sept. 27.

“The whole picture should come into focus after Friday’s games,” Bailey said, referring to the Oct. 18 slate. “For the most part, everything is going as expected in the preseason. But Mountain View appears to be a bit of a wild card.”

The Cougars, who boast the IMC’s No. 2-ranked defense, but are last in offense with 29 points scored in six games, played at Summit on Friday and then host Bend on Oct. 25 and travel to HRV on Nov. 1.

If Mountain View manages to stop Bend and/or HRV, they could sneak into the fourth playoff seed and leave one of the three playoff shoo-ins (HRV, Bend, Pendleton) on the outside looking in.

Because there are so many “what-ifs” — many of them related to Friday’s action — no one can be exactly sure how the final standings will unfold. The No. 1 seed (likely Hermiston) will host the Mt. Hood Conference’s No. 3 team, while the No. 2 (likely HRV or Pendleton) will host the Three Rivers Conference No. 3.

The No. 3 seed will travel to face the Portland Interscholastic League No. 1, and the No. 4 seed will square off with Valley No. 1 — a veritable date with death against defending state champion McNary.

“If Pendleton loses tonight (Friday), they’re staring right at it,” Bailey said of the Buckaroos, who still must face a tough Redmond squad at home and Hermiston on the road.

“If HRV loses, it definitely throws a wrench into things. But from what we’ve seen and heard, HRV and Hermiston are a step above the rest,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean the Eagles will have an easy road the final two games. Crook County has the IMC’s second-leading passer, Chad Swindle, while Mountain View has allowed the fewest points of any team in the IMC.

“We aren’t looking past anyone,” HRV coach Mitch Sanders said. “We’re just going one game at a time. Our goal is to win each week and to finish 8-1. If we get there, we may stop to enjoy it then.

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