Every time the Wittenberg Tigers lose to their biggest rival, Wabash, it seems as if their season is over — at least in the immediate aftermath of the game. That’s how hard the players and coaches take the defeats.
Wittenberg’s 28-21 overtime loss last Saturday at Edwards-Maurer Field hit especially hard. Wittenberg fell short of beating the Little Giants three straight years for the first time and dropped into a three-way tie in the North Coast Athletic Conference with Wabash and Denison. With two games to play, each team is 6-1 in conference play.
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However, Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham knows anything can happen in weeks nine and 10. His team (7-1 overall) returns to action at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Wesleyan (3-5, 3-4).
“Our season’s not over,” said Fincham after the loss to Wabash. “We’ve got to go on the road twice here and play a team that only lost to (Wabash) by a touchdown and finish at Wooster. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got no idea if we all end up with one loss what the tiebreaker is.”
Wabash plays Allegheny and DePauw at home in the final two weeks. Denison plays a home game against Wooster and then travels to Kenyon.
The most likely scenario, based on those matchups, is all three first-place teams win their last two games. In that case, Denison would win the tiebreaker and the NCAC’s playoff berth.
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All the teams in the NCAC play each other, so the first four tiebreakers in the NCAC’s system would not break the tie between the three first-place teams. The fifth tiebreaker would. It goes to the team with “the longest active winning streak in conference games at the end of the season.”
Denison lost its third NCAC game on Sept. 29, 68-66 in four overtimes to Wittenberg. If it doesn’t lose again, it will have a six-game NCAC win streak by the end of the season. Wabash, which lost 34-10 at Denison on Oct. 6, would have a five-game winning streak. Wittenberg’s streak would be two games.
Wabash and Wittenberg might have a shot at one of the five at-large berths in the Division III playoffs, but Wabash has the edge there because of its victory over Wittenberg, In the first regional rankings released Wednesday, Wabash ranks seventh and Wittenberg ranks eighth.