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'Weird' playoff picture has more Class 6 teams with first-round byes than games


With the number of Class 6 teams up from 30 a year ago to 42 this season and the number of Class 6 Districts up from four to eight, it’s taking time for players, coaches and fans to become familiarized with the upcoming playoff picture.

"I'm not going to lie, I still don't really know how the District is working,” Nixa safety Spencer Ward said after the Eagles closed out their regular season slate with a 51-7 win versus Ozark. 

Nixa (9-0) is the Class 6 District 5 No. 1 seed, just as the Eagles were for Class 6 District 3 a year ago. But unlike last season, coach John Perry’s team has a first-round bye.

It’s the first bye Nixa has had in the playoffs since the Eagles received a first-round pass for Class 5 District 6 in 2019. They were awarded a win by forfeit due to COVID for a Class 6 District 3 first-road game against Lee’s Summit North in 2020.

Like Ward, Nixa’s Rylan Michel wasn’t exactly sure after the Backyard Brawl how Districts are set up. The senior wide receiver initially planned to use the Eagles' upcoming idle Friday night to scout a possible District opponent.

“I’ll probably go to a game with someone in our District,” Michel said.

When told the only first-round Class 6 District 5 game will involve No. 6 seed Ozark (1-8) playing at No. 5 Waynesville (2-7), Michel wasn’t sure he would want to make that 190-mile round-trip.

The Ozark-Waynesville winner will advance to face Nixa in a semifinal.

Ozark has lost eight in a row. Waynesville's wins have been against Parkview (0-9) and Hillcrest (1-8).

On the other side of the Class 6 District 5 bracket, No. 2 seed Kickapoo (8-1) and No. 3 Joplin (6-3) also will receive a first-round bye. They will prepare for a semifinal matchup against each other at Kickapoo.

Joplin was awarded a bye after beating only one team, Carthage (5-4), with a winning record.

Altogether, 22 of the 42 Class 6 teams have been granted a first-round District bye. There will be just 10 Class 6 first-round games statewide.

“It’s weird,” Michel said of playoffs getting under way with so few games. 

By the way, the Class 6 enrollment break for football was set at 1,277. Lafayette, with an enrollment of 1,277 is the smallest Class 6 school. The next COC school to make the jump to Class 6 may be Carthage, which is at 1,232. Republic is at 1,148.

This week’s Class 5 first-round District matchups involving COC teams include Parkview-Republic, Springfield Central-Willard, Branson-Glendale, Sedalia Smith Cotton-Carthage and Neosho-Raytown South.

In Class 3 District 5, Clever (0-8) will play at Mountain Grove (6-3).

“I'll figure some game to go to,” Ward said.

Nixa will have home-field advantage throughout its District run.

The Class 6 District 5 champ will move on to the Quarterfinal round to play the winner of a Class 6 District 6 field that includes Lee’s Summit North (9-0), Rockhurst (8-1) and Lee’s Summit West (7-2).

Something to keep in mind, all Quarterfinal and Semifinal games in all classes will be played on Saturdays.

The Class 6 state championship game will be played Saturday, Dec. 2 at Mizzou’s Faurot Field.

The Eagles plan to be there.

“We’ve got five more games to play,” Michel said.