Central A&M's Connor Heaton runs the ball against Lena-Winslow during the Class 1A state championship game last November in DeKalb.
Central A&M's Connor Heaton runs the ball against Lena-Winslow during the Class 1A state championship game last November in DeKalb. — Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com

Despite all of the variables in the IHSA football state playoff system, it is a fairly predictable model regarding how the fields typically look from year to year.

Certainly, there are breakthroughs from year to year. Teams emerge from relative obscurity to fight their way into the playoff field, while other programs that simply seem to make playoff appearances on a year-to-year basis slide back a bit and miss the field.

But overall, the number is remarkably stable. In fact, over the past decade, the turnover rate (teams that make the playoffs year in and year out) hovers above 80% in every single year.

Using a three-year win model, you often can get an accurate representation of how the playoff field might be constructed on a year-to-year basis.

Obviously, there are quirks in the system that could cause these landscapes to change, but more often than not these brackets should look similar to the ones that are rolled out next postseason.

The Class 1A bubble resides where it almost always does right around Tuscola's enrollment number. Tuscola is almost always a bubble team between the two classifications, but I'm interested to see if my theory that 8-man defections will change this line over a relatively short period of time.

Now on to the projected Class 1A bracket, which by rule, is divided into a pair of 16-team north and south brackets.


• Lena-Winslow: Have become one of the gold standards of its respective class and claimed the state title with a dominating postseason performance. It is never going to be a breeze in the Northwest Upstate Illini, but the Panthers, like several other teams in the league, bring it to the table each and ever week.

• Tuscola: The biggest question on a year to year basis with the Warriors is which class they are going to find themselves in. If they make the Class 1A field, they are a dangerous squad to watch out for.

• Forreston: Have developed a spirited rivalry with Lena-Winslow over the past few seasons and the team that emerges from their regular-season matchup usually becomes the team that is labeled the Class 1A favorite.


• Moweaqua Central A&M: Although it was a special class that will graduate and leave the program, the Raiders laid a foundation of success that could be duplicated by those that remain.

• Fisher: The Bunnies have been up and down in recent seasons, but it appears they are on the upswing. The Heart of Illinois Conference doesn't allow for a lot of missteps though.

• Morrison: The Three Rivers Conference isn't very forgiving and the hierarchy is fairly well established. But 2019 was a year of change in the league with several new threats emerging, none more so than Morrison.


• Athens: The Warriors are heavily prepared for the postseason if they qualify. They play a schedule with very strong 2A and 3A programs on the regular. The 1A playoffs probably feel like a respite.

• Princeville: Over the past few seasons, the Princes have emerged as a strong regular season club, will they take the next step and be a dangerous postseason crew?

• Hope Academy: The only team left out of the Chicago Catholic/East Suburban Catholic League merger, the Eagles are forced into a hodgepodge schedule that includes very few schools of their enrollment size.


(Teams that appear the closest to breaking into the projection that are not currently in)

• LeRoy: The Panthers road to the postseason is never going to be a breeze in a deep Heart of the Illinois Conference, but it is a program that has a history of finding a way.

• Stark County: This is a program that tends to make the field more often than not, so it wouldn't be surprising to see it emerge with another playoff berth.

• Leo: The Catholic League realignment helped the Lions quite a bit in terms of a slate that might allow them to get to the qualifying standard.


North Bracket

• (16)Collinsat (1) Lena-Winslow

• (9) Dakota at (8) Stockton

• (13) Morrison at (4) Princeville

• (12) Fulton at (5) Hope Academy

• (15) Abingdon at (2) Forreston

• (10) Milledgeville at (7) Ottawa Marquette

• (14) Orangeville at (3) Kewanee Wethersfield

• (11) Aurora Christian at (6) Freeport Aquin

South Bracket

• (16) Brown County at (1) Tuscola

• (9) Cumberland at (8) Fisher

• (13) Salt Fork at (4) Athens

• (12) Greenfield at (5) Carrollton

• (15) Warrensburg-Latham at (2) Argenta-Oreana

• (10) Red Hill at (7) Arcola

• (14) Triopia at (3) Camp Point Central

• (11) Oakwood at (6) Moweaqua Central A&M