published Monday, November 14th, 2011

Gossett blog: Scheduling troubles hurt teams at playoff time

That triple-overtime loss to Crace Christian Christian Academy of Knoxville is probably still eating at South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider.

Oh, sure, the Pirates are in the playoffs and will be at Coalfield on Friday night, but if the coach has an issue, that's probably it -- that the Pirates will be at Coalfield.

By percentage points, South Pittsburg wound up as the No. 3 seed in its Class 1A quadrant behind Greenback, whom the Pirates dispatched Friday night, and Coalfield.

And why was South Pittsburg the No. 3 seed? Because at 8-2 they had one more loss than either of the other two? Never mind that those two losses were to Signal Mountain, which would be making its way toward a second straight TSSAA championship if not for the state's decision that the Eagles had played an ineligible player, and Grace Christian, which finished 10-0 but also was sidelined by the TSSAA. Grace Christian? These guys put up six shutouts this year and they also scored 39 or more points six times.

The Pirates are being penalized because they couldn't find enough teams in their own classification to play them. It's the same situation that Tyner and even Polk County face. They're having to play up during the regular season against 2A, 3A, 4A and even 6A competition because they're in a four-team district and have to find seven games annually.

I don't think that's quite right and I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the South Pittsburg faithful would agree with me.

Now just how costly are those percentage points that put the Pirates on the road? Consider simply that the Pirates most often sell out their home games. The entire town closes up early and fills the stands for ball games. Even with the TSSAA taking 50 percent and the two competitors sharing what's left, there remain the issues of concession stand profits and what it costs the program for them to travel, eat a pregame meal and then have postgame chow.

I guess it has perhaps become expected of me to hammer the TSSAA's current district and playoff plans but both have serious flaws and I don't see changes coming for either before next year.

If you want to solve problems, put Class 1A teams in their own district and do the same for the rest of the classifications. It would make for larger districts and it would likely keep teams like Pirates from being penalized for problems not of their own making. Or at least take into considering when a team plays up in classification and give it bonus points for wins in those games or less penalty for losses in such contests.

If most coaches had their way, the TSSAA would return to same-class districts and advance four teams from each with the top team in each hosting and the third- and fourth-place teams traveling.

• It's hard to understand Cleveland coach E.K. Slaughter's (forced) resignation last Monday. Three straight 5-5 seasons, yes, I understand that reasoning, but a year removed from a district championship?

Is it going to get any better?

Before they pulled the trigger, Blue Raiders boosters should have taken a hard look at the talent overall and the positive changes Slaughter had brought to the program with regard to self-discipline and expectations. It takes a lot more than a quarterback that's committed to Pittsburgh to change a program and any coach will tell you that good athletes make good coaches. E.K. was making progress off the field but some of that progress included positive guidelines that hadn't been seen at Cleveland.

Many of those who influenced the decision this time are the same that were so anxious to woo him away from Soddy-Daisy. And it took a lot of prying. The way I remember it, they came back to Slaughter at least twice after he turned them down.

And he would probably be the first to admit that there were games this year he could or should have won, but is Cleveland better for his having been there?

I have no doubts.

For the present, I think Slaughter will remain at Cleveland as a teacher but some football-savvy principal somewhere outside Bradley County will snatch him quickly whether it's as an offensive coordinator or as a head coach.

Anybody hearing Benny Monroe as a possible candidate? He was, after all, the guy who took the Blue Raiders to three state championships in the nineties and there are those who think Monroe is looking for another challenge after leaving Ooltewah two years ago.

• Walker Valley had not opened up its vacant head-coaching position for outside interviewers but it's our understanding that two coaches currently on staff were interviewed last week. There are a couple of local coaches who have expressed interest.

• Marion County has had a number of applicants to succeed Troy Boeck and one of the more interesting candidates is Mac McCurry, who last year was the defensive coordinator at Signal Mountain. McCurry has had several head coaching stops including at least two in Tennessee. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities for the Warriors to check on the status of former Rhea County coach Jason Fitzgerald.

• And before we go, hats off please for Brainerd's Panthers. They lost Friday on the road but they got deeper into the playoffs than any 4A team in the Chattanooga area.

about Ward Gossett...

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 ...

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