Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Breaking down high school football's craziest tiebreakers
Game tied in overtime, fourth-and-goal at the 5-yard line and a field goal will win it. Sending the kicker onto the field is usually a no-brainer.
But not Friday, when Flower Mound was in position to end the Mound Showdown after three overtimes. Flower Mound could beat Flower Mound Marcus, 30-27, but the three-point margin wouldn’t be enough to win a potential points-differential tiebreaker with Marcus and Lewisville. Flower Mound needed a touchdown.
So do you kick the field goal and beat your crosstown rival? Or do you risk a chance for victory in hopes of a playoff berth?
It was an easy decision for Flower Mound coach Dane Johnson, whose team took the field goal route.
“We knew the tiebreaker going in, and we talked to the kids about it,” he said. “The most important thing for us was just to get a win.”
Certainly understandable, given that Flower Mound (2-7, 1-3 in District 5-5A) had lost seven straight games. Flower Mound can also earn a playoff spot Friday by beating Denton Ryan (6-2, 2-2), and it only needs to win by the traditional one point.
Other coaching decisions during this final week of the regular season could be untraditional, however, because of playoff tiebreakers.
If Carrollton Ranchview takes the lead in the final minute against Aubrey on Friday, you can expect an onside kick. Ranchview (4-5, 0-3 in 10-5A) needs to beat Aubrey (2-7, 1-2) by at least nine points to make the playoffs.
“We’ve talked to our kids about how the score is 9-0 to start,” Ranchview coach Terry Smith said.
Lancaster (4-5, 3-3 in District 15-4A), a 4A Division II finalist a year ago, could face a similar predicament on Friday. I say could because, as of Wednesday evening, there wasn’t a consensus among the 15-4A coaches on how the tiebreakers would work.
That, in itself, shows how convoluted tiebreaker rules can be.
Early Wednesday, Lancaster coach Chris Gilbert thought his team needed to beat Mansfield Summit (4-5, 4-2) by four or more points to earn a playoff spot. Summit coach Travis Pride thought it was nine points. It would be discussed on Thursday, Gilbert said.
Lancaster’s required margin of victory, from one point to nine, could also vary depending on the winners of the Mansfield Legacy-Mansfield Lake Ridge and Arlington Seguin-Red Oak games. Those games will also be played Friday night, so Lancaster plans to have coaches relaying scoring updates to the sideline.
Here’s an intriguing scenario:
Lancaster is tied and driving toward the end zone in the final minute, but the other games that affect its playoff fate are in doubt. As Lancaster wonders how many points it needs for a tiebreaker, do the Tigers stall for time? Do they call a timeout or two, ask for an explanation from an official, have a player lie on the field with a “cramp”?
Gilbert hopes that it won’t come down to the final minute. And he knows that a few points, maybe just one point, could be the difference between a season that ends this week and one that stretches deep in the playoffs.
“I don’t think many people know how little difference there is between the teams in this district,” Gilbert said. “With this district here, if you can just get out, you’ve really got a chance.”
And once you’re in the playoffs, everything starts at 0-0. And thankfully, the only tiebreaker is overtime.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon.