By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON – Every fall when talk of the Class 4A football playoffs comes along, Clinton coach Lee Camp professes ignorance. He says he doesn’t join the thousands of fans, players and coaches who check out the state web site and try to figure out playoff scenarios.
This year is different, but he still isn’t sure about his team’s chances on the eve of the regular-season finale at Bettendorf.
“Believe it or not, for the first time I looked at it,” Camp said Wednesday. “It is so confusing.”
Camp said he checked the web site because of talk that four wins might not be enough for the River Kings to advance to the postseason this fall. In most years, four wins are a lock to get in, but heading into this week’s games, 16 teams have four or more wins and another, Dubuque Senior, is 3-5 with a game against a 1-7 team remaining on its schedule.
“A 4-5 team might not make it,” Camp said. “If it comes to a tie, there’s a possibility we could be out.”
For that reason, the River Kings (4-4) aren’t treating Friday night’s game at Bettendorf as a formality, a precursor of a trip to the postseason.
“We’re approaching it as, ‘We need to win and assure we’re in,” Camp said.
Clinton likely will face a Bettendorf team that, despite having a safe 6-2 record, won’t come into the game in a good mood.
The Bulldogs are coming in off a 9-3 loss to Davenport Assumption that knocked them out of the top 10 in the 4A rankings. The Knights limited Bettendorf to 154 total yards.
That was atypical for the Bulldogs. They had scored at least 14 points in their previous seven games and had 49 or more in four of them.
“Offensively, they want to use multiple sets, but they like to run the ball,” Camp said. “They like to pull the guard and hammer at you.”
John McLaughlin is the workhorse on offense. He has run the ball 146 times for 1,049 yards this season and scored 10 touchdowns. Four other ball carriers have run for 200 or more yards on the season. Quarterback Cyle Cox also returned to the lineup. He was just 1-of-8 passing, but on the season he has completed 44 of 81 passes for 577 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Another area of concern for Camp is the size Bettendorf has on its lines, an advantage magnified with Clinton’s loss of injured offensive tackles DJ Bessellieu and Trent Hessing..
“Their defensive line gives their linebackers the ability to fly to the ball,” Camp said. “Their linebackers are not quite in (Pleasant Valley’s) class, but their defensive line is better. They occupy you up front and free up their backers.”
Clinton is coming off a 49-0 loss to second-ranked Pleasant Valley. About the only good thing to come from that, Camp said, was that “we came out of it with everybody we went into it with.”
“Not taking anything away from them (Pleasant Valley), we played an ugly game and gave them things that made it a long night,” Camp said.
So the Kings have turned the page from that one and know the importance of this Friday’s game if they want to make sure their season continues next week in the playoffs.
“We’ll play Friday night like it’s our most important game, then after it we’ll let the chips fall,” Camp said. “We need to take care of business here.”
The River Kings enter the final game ranked 16th in playoff points in the eastern part of the state. They have 290, 15 ahead of Dubuque Senior. But Senior finishes with 1-7 Cedar Rapids Jefferson, so its chances of becoming the 17th team with four or more wins looks promising. A win would give Senior 320 points, equal to Clinton’s total should it lose. But, point totals also can change based on the records of a team’s opponent. And, tiebreakers also could enter the picture.
“If you look at all those scenarios -- look at every game and go back and evaluate how may losses opponents had -- it really gets confusing,” Camp said.
And, although the muddled picture might make Camp decide to never look at the playoff standings again, it does provide motivation for Friday night.
“You still use that as, ‘Let’s take all doubt out of it, and let’s enhance your standing with a 5-4 record,” he said.
PLAYOFF PICTURE The 16 teams that qualify for the Class 4A football playoffs from the eastern side of Iowa are determined by a points system. A team receives 50 points for a win against an opponent with a winning record and 45 for a win against a team with a losing record. A loss to a team with a winning record is worth 30 points, while a loss to a team with a losing record earns 25. Here's a look at the playoff standings for teams in contention headed into the final week of the season Rank Team Record Points Friday's opponent (record) 1. Pleasant Valley 8-0 370 vs. Burlington (2-6) 2. Iowa City West 7-1 355 vs. Waterloo East (0-8) 3. Cedar Rapids Xavier 7-1 355 at Marion Linn-Mar (2-6) 4. Davenport Assumption 7-1 350 vs. Davenport North (1-7) 5. Iowa City High 7-1 350 at Cedar Rapids Kennedy (5-3) 6. Bettendorf 6-2 330 vs. Clinton (4-4) 7. Cedar Rapids Washington 5-3 320 vs. Dubuque Wahlert (2-6) 8. Cedar Falls 5-3 315 vs. Dubuque Hempstead (4-4) 9. Cedar Rapids Kennedy 5-3 315 vs. Iowa City High (7-1) 10. Cedar Rapids Prairie 4-4 305 at Waterloo West (4-4) 11. Dubuque Hempstead 4-4 300 at Cedar Falls (5-3) 12. Waterloo West 4-4 300 vs. Cedar Rapids Prairie (4-4) 13. Davenport Central 4-4 295 at North Scott (4-4) 14. Muscatine 4-4 295 at Davenport West (0-8)* 15. North Scott 4-4 295 vs. Davenport Central (4-4) 16. Clinton 4-4 290 at Bettendorf (6-2) 17. Dubuque Senior 3-5 275 vs. Cedar Rapids Jefferson (1-7) * -- Tonight