Saturday provided an ugly end to the high school football season in Southern Illinois.
The region went into Saturday with seven teams, and emerged with none.
And, none of the games were close.
Fairfield entered its game with Williamsville with a perfect 10-0 record and fell, 42-16. The Mules' 26-point loss represented the smallest margin of defeat. Southern Illinois teams lost by an average of nearly 34 points — that's five touchdowns.
This wasn’t an unexpected development.
When filling out my Pigskin Picks last week, I predicted all seven teams would fall. I thought some teams would be soundly defeated, but the across-the-board carnage was somewhat surprising. The previous week had provided a glimmer of hope.
As is typically the case, 13 teams from The Southern Illinoisan’s coverage area qualified for the playoffs. Last season, 10 of the 13 teams lost in the first round. This year, seven survived to play another day. It seemed a hopeful sign.
However, there was an elephant in the room. The seven survivors were facing a murderer’s row, a veritable Who’s Who of Illinois prep football. Edwards County faced Moweaqua A&M, Chester was up against Maroa-Forsyth, Anna-Jonesboro played Monticello, Murphysboro had Bishop McNamara and Marion played Joliet Catholic.
That’s football royalty in Illinois.
To be perfectly blunt, seedings aside, any win by a Southern Illinois team Saturday would have been an upset.
It didn’t happen, and I don’t know why.
The math from Saturday’s games is convincing. Southern Illinois teams yielded an average of nearly 43 points while scoring nine points per game. I’ve posed the question before and have never gotten what I consider a legitimate answer.
Why can’t Southern Illinois teams compete? The southernmost team still alive in the playoffs is Cahokia, a 33-0 winner over Carbondale on Saturday.
I heard some rumblings this week about private schools. It’s a convenient excuse. I heard the typical “they can recruit” refrain. The fact of the matter is this: They can’t. Private schools are subject to the same recruiting rules as public schools.
Of the seven losses Saturday, Southern Illinois schools lost to five public schools and two Catholic schools. Southern Illinois schools lost to public schools by an average of nearly 32 points. The two losses to private schools were by 38.5 points.
School size is irrelevant — there are eight classes — you can’t slice it much thinner than that.
It’s hard to blame facilities. Most of the local teams that qualified for the playoffs this year have outstanding playing fields and workout facilities.
Some folks floated a theory a couple years ago that Southern Illinois teams were running out-of-date offenses. I didn’t buy it then, and since that time, many more local teams have incorporated pass-first offenses. That has served to lengthen game times, but not seasons.
Is it cyclical?
That’s something I might buy. If so, the down part of the cycle appears to be long term. The Deep South hasn’t had a state champion since Harrisburg’s dominant run in 2000.
I’m as a loss. What’s your theory?