Bucks Playoff Primer

Posted 6/06/18 (Wed)

                You know in the NFL when Week 17 is irrelevant? The playoff teams are set, and everyone is pulling their starters? The league has done what it can to minimize this in recent years, but it still happens. Not so much in Champions Indoor Football. We enter the final week of play with nearly everything still in play. One thing we do know for sure: the Bismarck Bucks are playoff bound.

Overtime in Omaha

                The Bucks games against the Omaha Beef this year have been unreal. Last year, the two squads only met once and it was a Bucks runaway late. This time, each game has come down to the final moments. It serves as a mini-version of the Bucks season really, as coming into the weekend they had both won and lost against the Beef at the buzzer. This Bucks team has been in a remarkable number of close games, coming out on the wrong end more often than they would like.

                This one didn’t seem to be going that way. Another sluggish road start for the Bucks allowed Omaha to open up a 38-13 lead in the first half. All the while, the defense played well. Those Omaha scores came on special teams, defense, and short fields. At the half though, things changed. Give a lot of credit to coach Paco Martinez and QB Aaron Aiken. It would’ve been easy to go into comeback-freakout mode and try and do too much. But they took what the defense gave them and started moving the ball with ease. All the while, the defense continued to play well and a few Omaha miscues created ample opportunity for this talented D to shine. The Bucks came all the way back, and fittingly an INT by Antwan Smith on the first OT drive and the leg of Mario Esparza won the game. Now, on to the question everyone is asking:

What’s Next?

                Well, first off the Bucks travel to the Tyson Event Center in Sioux City, IA. It is one of the toughest places to play in all of indoor football, and Bismarck has been unable to weather the Bandits home onslaught. It is where last season came to an end in the opening round of the playoffs. Bismarck was there three times last year, but this year the opening salvo in Sioux City will also be the final game of the regular season.

                Bismarck controls how they head into the playoffs, whether they use the Omaha win to garner momentum headed into the postseason, but not necessarily where they go. By virtue of the win in Nebraska, the Bucks are locked in to the first wildcard spot (the #7 seed). The win saved them from losing control of their playoff destiny, ensuring they avoid the #9 spot (a missed playoff) or the #8 spot (a guaranteed trip to Albuquerque, NM to take on the top seeded Duke City Gladiators.) So it was a big time win-and-you’re-in spot. No scoreboard watching, no hoping other teams lose to keep your season alive. Bismarck is in.

                But where their first round matchup will be is, at least for now, out of their hands. The Bucks will take on the #2 seed, which will be the CIF North Champ. That title, as of now, runs through Salina, KS. If the Liberty win this weekend against the Kansas City Phantoms (a team that, at present, has the worst record in the league), Salina will win the North title and will host the Bucks next weekend. However, if Salina falls that opens the title window for both Sioux City and Quad City. That’s where the Bucks, once again, take destiny into their own hands.

               Independent of that, this is a big one for Bismarck. After a middle chunk of the season that saw the Bucks drop heartbreaker after heartbreaker, a chance to go into the second season off a win in the heart of enemy territory would be massive. It won’t be easy. Sioux City is playing well right now, winning three in a row and all by fairly wide margins. They’ve only lost at home once all year, and it was by two points to division leading Salina. RB Darrian Miller has more touchdowns than anyone else in the CIF. The Bucks D, which has been phenomenal lately, will be called upon again. And the offense must break the year-long road trend of a slow start. Sioux City is too well coached and too disciplined to fall behind 25 on. They will not let you back in.

              So join us at seven on Saturday as the Bucks try and slay a personal demon: winning in Sioux City. Will Bismarck go into the postseason off a massive win? In the NFL, funny things happen when a wildcard team comes in on a hot streak…