Like most of those in Chattanooga who keep up with prep football, I thought it was all but foregone conclusion that there would be three Chattanooga area teams alive and playing toward Cookeville's first foray into the state championship-hosting business.
Who in Class 1A is going to touch South Pittsburg? No one so far, although the Pirates are going on the road for the first time this postseason (to Knoxville's Grace Christian Academy).
Who in Class 2A should really bother Boyd-Buchanan in its drive toward a probable finals match against Trousdale County? Rockwood might. The Tigers went up against a big line last week (a reported average of 260 pounds) at Hampton and came away with a surprisingly easy win. That should serve as fair notice to the Buccaneers, who also average somewhere around 260 from tackle to tackle.
I felt after seeing Loudon take Bledsoe County apart that local Class 3A favorite Polk County was in trouble despite the Wildcats' first unbeaten season since 1918 and the first region championship for Derrick Davis, their popular, down home coach. No knock on Ooltewah but I knew it wouldn't take much of the 6A postseason to expose weaknesses the Owls coaching staff managed to mask through a 9-0 start. Cleveland gave it a shot in 5A and might still be playing if not for having three TDs called back in a 28-27 loss to Columbia.
But who in Class 4A was going to challenge Red Bank? Their semifinal game against Whites Creek could have been a stiff contest, for sure. After seeing Ooltewah struggle against Maplewood earlier this year I honestly thought it would be Red Bank and Maplewood playing in the semis this week - one final game at home before going to Cookeville. Instead it will be Greeneville going home to host its third game of the 2009 postseason.
The Greeneville News called the Green Devils' 14-13 win over Red Bank "a win for the ages."
In many ways it was - at least from the Upper East Tennessee perspective. The Lions picked the wrong night to have an off night, but that's to take nothing from Greeneville.
Red Bank struggled to run the football because Greeneville was ready and laying in wait for Red Bank runner Keon Williams, who was coming off a 250-yard performance.
The Lions got one shot at a kickoff return because the other two went into the end zone. They might have gotten a single punt return. Greeneville effectively negated those major performance areas for the Lions, and those parts of the game had gotten the Lions over the hump more than once this year.
As well as Red Bank's defense played, Greeneville time and again came up with the yardage in third-and-short and even several fourth-down tries. Red Bank's linebackers were getting their tackles. This time, though, they were often that nagging 3, 4 or 5 yards downfield.
Say this for Greeneville, the Devils are persistent.
They're fairly consistent and pretty much vanilla, especially on offense. If they hadn't stepped out of character twice earlier in the game, that blocked extra point with 0:48 left in the game that cost Red Bank a tie wouldn't have mattered. Red Bank earlier in the game intercepted a pass inside its 15-yard line and then recovered a fumble in its own end zone. If Greeneville scores on either or both the game is over before Red Bank scored its second TD with less than a minute left.
Greeneville's players aren't flashy. They aren't overly fast in the skill positions. They probably didn't match Red Bank athlete for athlete but they played as a group and their backs know how to utilize a fairly large offensive line.
So there was probably much reflection going on in the homes of Red Bank's players and coaches. They have asked themselves what happened and they will have to answer that one a few more times.
There is nothing to ease the pain but time. They let one slip away, for sure. But when they look back they won't dwell on what could have been but rather what was. They went undefeated in the regular season and spent most of it ranked as the state's No. 1 team, and they got three games into the playoffs.
Only one Red Bank team had a better showing, that being the 2000 state championship bunch that went 15-0.
While this season ended at 12-1, the 2009 Lions gave coach Tim Daniels his third 12-win team in the past four years.
So while knowing he, his staff and his players are hurting, how about a tip of the cap to Daniels and his bunch - one of the best groups in Chattanooga and, yes, in Tennessee.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...