Just call it the Golden Circle Bermuda Triangle.
You remember the Bermuda Triangle, — that mysterious area of the Caribbean where ships would disappear with no escape.
Well, it’s sort of like that for Mildred, Rice and Blooming Grove in the District 7-3A DII race, where the three Golden Circle teams are going to crash into each other. Who knows which one (or ones) will escape and survive.
We saw the first evidence of just how close this three-way rivalry could be on Friday when Rice jumped out to a 17-0 lead only to watch BG storm back and go up 25-17.
But Tanner Carlisle hit Elizhah Nezar with a 45-yard pass to the BG 1-yard-line with 30 seconds left, and Carlisle scored on a run and then threw a two-point conversion pass to Nezar with six seconds left to send the game to overtime, where Rice won 33-25.
Call that Round 1 of a three-round bout, because Mildred plays at Rice on Oct. 18 and then will host Blooming Grove on Nov. 1.
Every one of these games will be huge. Well, every play will be huge, because all three teams look good enough to make the playoffs.
Mildred is having its best season since the Nic Shimonek days and is unbeaten, and might ruin the drama by beating Rice and BG, but the Eagles haven’t beaten Rice since coach Andy Mills showed up five years ago and started leading the Bulldogs to the playoffs every year.
There’s a lot on the line every time these three teams meet, and Blooming Grove beat Mildred a year ago.
But the Eagles look like the team to beat right now as new coach Duke Dalton has his team flying with an offense that runs and runs and runs.
Bishop Harris has already rushed for 1,034 yards and 15 touchdowns in just five games and QB Creed Baker has run for 679 yards and 10 touchdowns behind an offensive line that is quickly making a name for itself (Phat Boys) for the No. 1 rushing team in all of 3A.
Rice has played the toughest schedule and could sweep BG and Mildred, especially since this year’s Mildred-Rice game is at Rice.
Rice’s defense could carry the Dawgs right into the postseason.
Two-way linemen Saul Diaz and Angel Banda lead the way along with linebacker Brian Ovalle, who leads Rice in tackles, and Nezar and Carlisle, who have come up big in the secondary.
Carlisle, and Nezar, are two of the best two-way players in the Golden Circle.
The biggest surprise in the district is Blooming Grove, where new coach Ervin Chandler didn’t just change the offense, where Carson Rucks is having a big year at quarterback and newcomer Jalen Coleman has emerged as one of the top running backs in the Golden Circle.
But what Chandler has done, is change the mindset in the Grove.
“The biggest thing is expectations,” Chandler said. “When I got here they didn’t have expectations. You have to believe you can win. I’m selling believing. I’m selling ‘You can win.’
“I’ve told them that I will never give up on them. I always believe we can win the game, and I don’t care who we are playing, I believe we will win.”
Rice coach Andy Mills saw a big difference in Chandler’s Lions last week.
“Blooming Grove is definitely better,” he said. “And he’s (Chandler) got them playing hard.”
Chandler’s motivation and belief in his players have made a difference.
The Lions were down 17-0 and came back to take a 25-17 lead on Rice before losing a heartbreaker in overtime. They were down 20-0 to Edgewood, one of the favorites to win the district title, and fought back in a 34-24 loss.
They’re not going to give up. They’re in every game.
The mentality in the Grove is that we can win, and even though the Lions will be an underdog when they play Mildred, they will be in that game and it could go either way.
That’s the beauty of the potential three-way logjam in the race to get to the playoffs. There could be a three-way split if Mildred knocks off Rice and Blooming Grove beats Mildred.
Of course, Rice and Mildred believe they can win both games and nail down a playoff spot. But the door is open for a wild three-way finish.
The three-way Bermuda Triangle scenario definitely exists. Just ask Mills. After Rice scored in overtime to beat Blooming Grove Friday, Mills ran down the officials who were racing off the field, and made them come back for the extra point.
Mills went for two points and won the game by eight.
Why? Because Mills knows if it comes down to a three-way tie, the tiebreaker would be total points among the three teams. Rice has 8, BG has minus 8, and Mildred is at 0.
Stay tuned ...