Oliver: Non-conference game still important for Highlands, Ringgold
Don't tell Ringgold football coach Matt Humbert that Friday's “non-conference” game with Highlands is just an exhibition contest.
The Rams (5-2) go to Highlands (6-1) in an interesting inter-conference matchup between playoff-bound teams.
Both teams could get a good gauge of where they will stand in the upcoming WPIAL Class AAA playoffs after things play out Friday night.
And while this game means nothing in the two teams' respective standings, it could speak volumes when the WPIAL football committee gets together to make the playoff pairings in less than two weeks.
For starters, both teams are ranked in the Trib Total Media Top 10 in Class AAA with Highlands ranked seventh and Ringgold ninth.
Both teams would like to keep momentum building going into the playoffs.
But the truth is, the game may mean more to Ringgold than it does to the Golden Rams.
Highlands could end up in a three-way tie for first place in the Greater Allegheny Conference with Franklin Regional and Mars, both a half-game back at 5-1 in conference play.
In reality, all three will get a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
Ringgold, meanwhile, is locked in third place in the Big Nine Conference. The Rams hope to be one of the third-place teams to get a home game in the first round. That and a better draw in the bracket.
Getting a win over a potential conference champ would weigh heavily in Ringgold's favor to give the Rams a home game and a seed as high as seventh in the playoffs.
A loss would make a good argument for the WPIAL to send the Rams on the road against a higher seeded opponent.
Ringgold has two losses and they are against unbeaten Thomas Jefferson and West Mifflin.
Should the Rams go into the playoffs with a 7-2 record, Humbert and his team would be feeling pretty good about themselves, especially with a home game in the first round.
Yes, when Ringgold visits Highlands, there will be more than a few folks interested in seeing how that one turns out.
It means squat in the conference.
But a meaningless exhibition?
Especially for Ringgold.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.