published Monday, October 15th, 2012

Gossett blog: Surging Bucs can aim for undefeated year

One must offer a tip of the cap to Boyd-Buchanan, which broke ahead early and then swapped scores with South Pittsburg in a battle of top-ranked Tennessee teams Friday night.

Boyd-Buchanan, No. 1 in Class 2A, won 35-21 over the Pirates, No. 1 in Class 1A.

While many observers were surprised, Buccaneers coach Grant Reynolds acted as if it was an everyday occurrence.

"We just played ball — nothing special," he said Saturday evening.

It's possible his 8-0 team was under- rather than overestimated.

The 21 points were the most the Bucs have given up in a game all season. Even with those three scores, they have allowed just 69 total (8.6 per game).

While they have two games remaining — Maplewood this week and offense-minded Copper Basin the next — is it too early to take a look at Boyd-Buchanan's history?

According to records dating to 1977, the Bucs have had just one undefeated regular season, that coming in 1996 when they went 11-1 and exited the postseason with a 21-7 loss to Battle Ground Academy. They were 13-2 in 2004, losing the state championship to Donelson Christian in overtime. It came just one year after they won a state title by going 12-2 and beating DCA 26-3 for the title.

They had a stretch from 1999 to 2004 of winning at least 10 games each year.

Too, Reynolds has held his own. He endured losing seasons — but playoff years — in his first two years (2006 and '07) as the head coach but since has produced three 10-win years and a fourth with nine victories.

His personal record as a head coach is 56-27, and that .674 winning percentage spikes to .774 over the past five seasons.

Of course, the Bucs' detractors likely would point out quickly that they have played to date just two teams with winning records -- Silverdale Baptist and South Pittsburg.

The Bucs cannot afford to look ahead to their season finale because this week's opponent is Class 4A Maplewood (5-4), which is coming off a loss to Stratford and looking to remain in the playoff picture.

However, if the Bucs did sneak-peek at Copper Basin, they'd be hard-pressed to look past quarterback Dylan Boggs, who put on a one-man show in the Cougars' 49-41 loss to Marion County. He had four TD passes — completing 14 passes for 23 yards with just one interception — and ran for another score while also kicking extra points.

• With a win this week over Brainerd or next week over Central, Hixson can secure second place in District 6-AA. It would be the Wildcats' best district finish since 2005, when their 5-2 record was second only to Red Bank's 7-0.

Here's a look at what Hixson has accomplished this year: Already it has bettered the record of any Wildcats bunch over the previous five seasons. The win over Red Bank was the Cats' first against the Lions in eight years, and the surprising victory at Tyner was the first time in 21 seasons they had beaten the Rams. They're looking to break a five-game losing streak against Brainerd, and when they beat Central last year it was the first time since 2006.

Jason Fitzgerald, the Wildcats' first-year coach, wasn't interested in all of the accomplishments to date. He was concerned about a Friday night win over East Ridge. Hixson had to overcome a two-touchdown deficit.

"Here we'd played Tyner, DeKalb County and East Hamilton and we're facing a one-win team. I think our guys thought they could just walk out there and win," he said. "We didn't turn it on till the second half. We have to do something different."

• With two weeks left in Tennessee before the first week of playoffs, is it too early to throw out Coach of the Year candidates?

In no specific order, my frontline guys right now would be East Hamilton's Ted Gatewood, Calhoun's Hal Lamb, the Buccaneers' Reynolds, Ridgeland's Mark Mariakis, McMinn County's Bo Cagle, Marion County's Mac McCurry and Hixson's Fitzgerald. You'd have to think also about Gordon Lee's Charlie Wiggins, Gordon Central's Chad Fisher, Silverdale Baptist's Al Rogers, Fort Payne's Paul Ellis and North Sand Mountain's Adam Gilbert.

East Hamilton's Hurricanes, ranked fourth in Class 4A in the latest polls, still haven't clinched the District 6-AA championship but could do so with a win Friday night at Red Bank. A win would push them to 8-1 with a last game against Howard.

Calhoun, the defending Georgia AA state champion, is 6-0 and Ridgeland is 5-1. McMinn County is leading 5-AAA with key district wins already over Ooltewah and Cleveland; and Hixson has set a number of pride marks this year under Fitzgerald. Silverdale has set numerous records, the biggest being an 8-1 record.

Wiggins has turned around a program, Ellis has an unbeaten team and Gilbert's crew is battling for a district championship. Marion is 7-2 under the first-year coach McCurry, a complete turnaround from last year's 1-9 season. This year's Warriors need just one more win to give them the most since 1995's perfect season under Ken Colquette.

There are other quality showings this year including Red Bank's E.K. Slaughter, whose team could have folded more than once but didn't and remains in the inner circle of Class 4A playoff probables.

• The list of winless teams dwindled again last Friday with Scottsboro breaking into the win column with a 57-20 win over Brewer. Both clubs are now 1-6 on the season, but Scottsboro has another decent win shot when it plays 1-6 Columbia, which is coming off a 57-0 shutout loss to Fort Payne.

Fort Payne's unbeaten Wildcats (7-0, 5-0) are averaging better than 33 points per game and are coming off back-to-back quality defensive performances: 24-6 over Boaz and the shutout against Columbia.

In one of the bigger games in northeast Alabama to date, North Sand Mountain held off Ider 29-20. The Bison (6-1, 5-0) go after the Class AA Region 7 lead Friday against Fyffe.

• Baylor posted a convincing win (24-7) over Columbia Central, which entered the game ranked ninth among Class 5A teams with a 6-1 record.

I should've known better than to pick against Baylor when the Red Raiders were playing a Division I school, especially coming off an open date. Their win, however, prompted some research. Baylor is 8-0 against public school competition back through the 2008 season. In 2007, they lost two to public schools — 23-20 to Lincoln County and earlier that year 24-14 to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., down there.

Other than McCallie, Baylor's last loss to a school in the greater Chattanooga area was Soddy-Daisy (17-11) in 1999. That's a span that covers three head coaches for the Red Raiders.

• Anybody keeping track of what's going on at Polk County? Yes, Derrick Davis just got his 100th career win and he had a back (Zach Miller) rush for more than 400 yards, but the Wildcats just locked up their fourth straight district title with both of their starting quarterbacks on the training room list. Duncan Coffey is out at least another couple of weeks with a broken collarbone, and replacement Josh Silas got on the field and played with a severe case of turf toe. He even managed a short rollout and a TD pass.

• Have to admit I was surprised, totally caught off guard, by the Silverdale-Lookout Valley score. No, not so much that Silverdale won but that Lookout Valley failed to get any points. There are no real college-prospect type standouts among the Seahawks, but they take that as a compliment rather than an insult, and it's a philosophy fostered by Rogers.

• I mentioned Central running back Michael Rhea a week or two ago, and the junior runner again showed his mettle, leading the Pounders' comeback win over Brainerd with a three-TD, 123-yard rushing performance. They're an up-and-coming team geared more toward 2013.

And as young teams go, Notre Dame continues to roll along with a whole lot of sophomores and freshmen. The Irish's latest victim was Sequatchie County, and the ringleaders in the rout with sophomore receiver/runner Kareem Orr and freshman quarterback Alex Darras.

While they play Whitwell this week, they'll host Grundy County in a couple of weeks with the 7-AA runner-up spot on the line.

• While Greeneville is 5-3 and deservedly ranked in Class 4A, I would expect voters in the Associated Press state high school poll to start ponging up some votes for Signal Mountain, which is on a five-game win streak after losing to Tyner, which has been in the 3A top 10; East Hamilton, ranked fourth in 4A in the latest poll; and Class 6A Blackman.

Other teams in the area deserving consideration would be Silverdale, Hixson, Marion County, Notre Dame and McMinn County.

• And a parting shot and this one's aimed at the TSSAA computer program generated to determine playoff scenarios. All five current Class 4A hopefuls from the Chattanooga area -- East Hamilton, Signal Mountain, Notre Dame, Hixson and Red Bank -- are in the same quadrant, meaning all but one could be eliminated by the other by the quarterfinals. Sure, that might save on expenses, but by this time of year most teams are hopeful of seeing somebody whom they haven't played or read about all season.

A couple of weeks remain to make changes, but the TSSAA leadership and specifically the Board of Control need to step up and address the issue, putting TSSAA savings accounts aside for a change. Last time I checked, the group wasn't in place to stuff its coffers. Maybe they ought to forget self-interest, and I think it happens much more often than it should, and consider the constitution: an association by the teams and for the teams.

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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