The Kirtland Hornets enter the regional finals against the Manchester Panthers in a game they're projected to win by a score of 35-16. The playoffs are an interesting time of year as 7 teams fulfill their most ambitious goal in winning a state championship while the other 217 playoff teams will end their season with a loss. This matchup is no different as the winner will continue their playoff run while the loser will end its 2019 season with a loss. The Panthers, one of the top teams in Division 5, come into the game ranked 12th. The Hornets come in ranked 1st. A new game on the schedule for both teams, it should shape out as an unpredictable affair. Stylistically and schematically, past matchups are often used as a guiding tool. This week, however, each team will likely take time to adjust to an unfamiliar opponent, which should make for some added excitement.
Manchester is currently on a 6-game winning streak, which they hope to continue on Sunday. Coming off of a 21-14 win against the Garaway Pirates, they are 9-3 and their confidence continues to build as they finish up the year. The Panthers have struggled on offense, scoring only 28.38 points per game over their last 8 games. On the year, they rank 34th in Division 5, scoring an average of 30 points per game over the course of the season. Their defense hasn't been much better throughout the course of the season, ranking 19th with an average of 17 points allowed per game. In recent weeks, they have improved, giving up an average of 7 points over their last 2 games.
For Kirtland, Sunday is a chance to expand on a 12-game winning streak after their 38-7 win against the South Range Raiders brought their record to 12-0. On offense, the Hornets have been one of the best in the state this season, ranking 17th with 43 points per game. Recent weeks haven't been quite as explosive as they've averaged 38 points per game but they remain one of the most explosive offenses statewide. While their offense gets a lot of credit for their success, the defense has played at an elite level as well. Giving up just 5.4 points per game on average, their defense ranks 2nd in the state.
Prediction: Kirtland to win (99.98% chance of victory)