By MICHAEL DANN
Gatehouse News Service
HARRISBURG - It's a bag of mixed emotions for Jason Roper.
The seventh year head coach at Harrisburg learned his first round playoff fate would be Herrin next Saturday in the first round of the IHSA playoffs.
That - in many regards - is good news. Roper already has a win against the Tigers under his belt this season and Herrin is a team that he is already all too familiar with.
The bad news - Harrisburg will be classified as a class 4A team after playing as a 3A club all season long.
Herrin was the final team in the IHSA football playoffs with 38 playoff points. The Tigers tied with Greenfield-Northwestern and won on a tiebreaker.
"It is what it is," Roper said Saturday night. "Honestly, in my opinion, they should just let every team in the playoffs, this way it eliminates playoff points, what kind of schedule you play, because apparently none of that really matters.
"Is it the IHSA faults? Is it the systems fault? I don't really know," Roper added. "I do know that enrollment plays a part in sports and apparently it plays an even bigger key in football. To be a good team all season long and then to be one of the smaller schools in our class, I just would have liked to have been in 3A"
During Week 6 of the regular season, Harrisburg was a 48-14 winner at Herrin. Roper is going for his first career playoff victory as coach of the Bulldogs and despite the bump in classification, he feels good about his chances.
"There is a part of you, as a coach and for your players, you'd like to draw someone you haven't played before. Someone you can learn about and get excited about. The positive is we knew Herrin very well and as it stands right now, we could see another familiar opponent the second week of the playoffs with Mt. Carmel."
Should Harrisburg knock off Herrin, they would get the winner of the Mt. Carmel/Columbia game next Saturday.
"It's nice to get a home playoff game," Roper said. "It's great for this community and it's even better for our kids. We've gotten better all year and I full expect the kids to come to practice on Monday excited and ready to go."