(Oakland) -- Riverside football's playoff chances ride on the outcome of this week's regular-season finale against Earlham.
Coach Darrell Frain's team could have punched a playoff ticket last week but instead suffered a heartbreaking 15-12 loss to Southwest Valley. The Bulldogs had two late chances for a go-ahead score but couldn't convert.
"It was two pretty even teams," Frain said. "We just had a few too many mistakes early on and couldn't overcome them. We just came up a little short. It put us behind the eight-ball and made things tougher for us, but that's high school sports."
Quarterback Austin Kremkoski made plays with both his arm and legs on Friday, tossing for 174 yards, rushing for 126 and accounting for two total scores. On the season, Kremkoski -- the reigning KMA A/1A/2A Offensive Player of the Year -- has 1,321 passing yards, 867 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns (13 passing, 9 rushing).
"He's just hard to tackle," Frain said. "People don't tackle him by themselves, and he's a little faster than people anticipate. The fact that he can throw the ball well also makes him really dangerous."
Frain hopes his team can learn from Friday's shortcomings.
"We just keep preaching the same things we have all year," he said. "We have to make sure we move on and do the best we can."
The playoff scenarios for Riverside are simple: a win or AHSTW loss clinches their berth, while a loss & an AHSTW win over St. Albert means the Bulldogs -- who were considered by many to be the favorite in Class A District 9 -- miss the postseason.
"We are in the playoffs right now," Frain said. "We play until we lose. We have to move on quickly and find a way to stop Earlham. We can't dwell on the past. We gotta get better."
Earlham, meanwhile, enters Friday's contest with their playoff berth clinched. They can earn the three seed with a win, but fall to the four seed with a loss.
The Cardinals suffered a 31-6 loss to Mount Ayr last week without starting quarterback Darrell Matchem. Matchem is one of five Earlham athletes with at least 200 rushing yards, and the Cardinals average 6.6 yards per carry as a team.
"They do what they do and do it over and over," Frain said. "We have to overcome it. They dare you to stop them. Hopefully, we have a chance to do them."
It might look a little different, but Earham's style is similar to Southwest Valley's. So Frain hopes his team can use their successes from last week and build on those.
"I feel like we held up against Southwest Valley," he said. "We are going to have to carry that over. Hopefully, our front line will give us a chance."
Offensively, Frain wants his team to display the balance they've shown all season.
"Austin is going to have to do a little bit of both," he said. "We are going to have to spread it out, make them guess what we are doing and maybe get some plays along the way. If we do that, we have a chance."
Frain adds that shaking off the nerves of a de facto playoff game is also important.
"If we put too much pressure on ourselves, we are going to do things we don't want to do," he said. "We have to be loose. This year's team is quiet, so they are tough to read, but if they come in confident and loose, I think we have a chance."
Todd Jacobson will be in Earlham on Friday with reports on the Red Oak Chrysler Football Connection Show. Check out all of the week nine coverage on KMA 960 and KMA-FM 99.1 from 6:20 until midnight.