published Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Final week crucial for Tennessee high school football playoffs

TSSAA logo
TSSAA logo

The season continues

(In the playoffs)

Class 1A: Copper Basin, South Pittsburg*

Class 2A: Boyd-Buchanan, Silverdale Baptist

Class 3A: Polk County*

Class 4A: East Hamilton, Hixson, Signal Mountain

Class 6A: Bradley Central, McMinn County

  • district champion

(The hopefuls)

Class 1A: Lookout Valley

Class 3A: Grundy County, McMinn Central, Tyner

Class 4A: Notre Dame, Red Bank

Class 5A: Cleveland, Ooltewah, Walker Valley

Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald offered the most telling comment about Tennessee high school football playoff projections and rankings.

"It could all blow up Friday night," he said Saturday.

Final-week results will cement some playoff spots but also could have TSSAA officials burning enough midnight oil to cause a midstate power outage while leaving some coaches, players and interested fans sitting on the edge of their seats till the playoff brackets are unveiled Saturday afternoon.

The Tennessee playoffs will begin on Nov. 2, but in the 24-team Class 1A and Class 2A brackets, the top two teams in each quadrant will receive first-round byes.

Under the TSSAA's most recently posted Class 4A scenario, which includes District 6-AA runner-up Hixson, there are five Chattanooga-area teams in the same quadrant: District 6 champion East Hamilton, District 7 champion Signal Mountain and runner-up Notre Dame plus Red Bank, which could finish third in 6-AA with a Friday win over Tyner.

"Anything could happen. I don't see a four-win team getting in, but so much depends on what happens even outside that quadrant," Fitzgerald said.

The scenario could be disturbed by Grainger County, an East Tennessee team with a current claim to a first quadrant berth. However, Grainger dropped to 4-5 and, like Red Bank, could be facing a must-win situation when it plays at 6-3 Cumberland Gap.

"If Grainger doesn't qualify and it looks like they were the No. 8 seed in the upper east bracket, our quadrant could lose a team to Quadrant 1 and then you're looking at one or more teams from the midstate bracket coming into our bracket," Fitzgerald said.

The area teams' quadrant currently includes Giles County (9-0), Page (6-2) and Maplewood (5-5). Somebody has to go to Giles County. Would it be Red Bank if the Lions win?

Giles County and Page play Friday and both are unbeaten in district play. One, like Signal and East Hamilton, will automatically earn a host role. The quadrant could also change based on the outcome of Notre Dame's home game against Grundy County, which is battling to get into the Class 3A playoffs after getting upset last Friday.

The only guarantees the TSSAA offers are that the top two teams in each district will advance to the playoffs and that each district champion will host an opening-round game.

"That's why I don't really study that stuff," said McMinn County coach Bo Cagle, whose Cherokees will host Bradley Central in a fight for the District 5-AAA championship Friday. "I think maybe it's fun for the fans, and I think the only reason [the TSSAA] puts it out there is to give people something to talk about.

"All that stuff means nothing till the final game of the last week is played. What I do know is if we win we win the district, and I think that means we'll get in [the playoffs.]"

Both Cagle and Bradley Central coach Damon Floyd feel they're headed to the Class 6A midstate quadrant with Siegel, Cane Ridge, Oakland, Riverdale, Blackman, Franklin County and Cookeville.

"I think the winner goes west," Cagle said. "Otherwise you wind up with a quadrant (upper east Tennessee) with five district champions."

Floyd, whose team is coming off its third straight rivalry game (Cleveland, Walker Valley, Ooltewah), said he left the scenario-studying to one of his assistant.

"I think we're a lock for Quad 2, but I know really nothing about the playoffs," Floyd said. "What I do know is that we're playing McMinn County this week for the district title in the state's second-oldest rivalry."

But every district and therefore every classification has its twists. In Class 2A for example, Boyd-Buchanan (8-1, 3-0) is the current leader, but a loss to Copper Basin could have major championship implications.

They meet Friday for the District 5-A championship, and a Cougars win coupled with a Silverdale Baptist win over Grace Academy could set up a three-way tie for first place because Boyd-Buchanan beat Silverdale and Silverdale beat Copper Basin. The winner would be decided by overall record which, in that scenario, would be Silverdale at 9-1.

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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