published Monday, October 28th, 2013

Gossett blog: Cleveland gearing up for playoff run

Ron Crawford has nowhere to go Friday night -- unless his wife tells him differently -- so he might go scouting or simply stay at home and catch the scores on the radio.

Cleveland has finished its regular season, and it's likely that the Blue Raiders cemented their playoff berth with that Friday win over Ooltewah.

It's so different from last year. Cleveland coaches had figured the playoffs and knew they had probably missed out. Then they get a call from the TSSAA saying they're in, and then the TSSAA called back. "Sorry, we were wrong; clerical error. You're out."

Wonder what kind of penalty the TSSAA paid for its mistake. None, unfortunately, other than looking foolishly inept, and that's a shame considering all the innocent mistakes schools have made -- and paid for -- over the years.

It will be hard this year to overlook the Blue Raiders, who ended the pre-playoff year on a three-game win streak. They're still in the running for the District 5-AAA championship depending on what East Hamilton does against Bradley Central this week.

The Hurricanes handed Cleveland its only league loss and if East Hamilton and Ooltewah (playing at McMinn County) win this week, the three are looking at a three-way tie.

McMinn County and Bradley Central, though out of the race for first or second place, are still in the playoff picture as prospective wild-card picks.

There are similar situations across town -- teams hoping to lock up definite playoff spots or back their way into the postseason.

Signal Mountain is playing at Sequatchie County and can lock up the 7-AA championship with a victory over the Indians. However, Notre Dame is still in the picture and could get the title with a Friday win at Grundy County and a Sequatchie win over Signal. Sequatchie to win the title with a win over a Signal and a Grundy win over Notre Dame.

So many possibilities seem impossible with this being the final week of Tennessee's regular season.

While Hixson has won 6-AA's championship, at least four other 6-AA teams are still in the playoff picture mathematically speaking -- East Ridge, Central, Red Bank and Tyner.

Tyner needs a win over Red Bank to secure the No. 2 spot and an automatic bid. East Ridge needs a win over Howard and a Red Bank win over Tyner and Red Bank needs a win over Tyner and a Howard victory over East Ridge.

Central? The Pounders are 4-5 and wanting a win at McMinn Central to finish 5-5 and hope for a wild-card spot. They're actually in better shape than Red Bank, which can finish no better than 4-6 and that's a likely longshot.

McMinn Central can finish no better than third in 5-AA behind Polk County and Sequoyah but a win over Central would give them a 5-5 record and a good postseason shot.

It's much simpler in Classes 5-A and 6-A. In 5-A Silverdale will be an overwhelming favorite when it plays at Boyd-Buchanan for the championship. The 9-0 Seahawks are seeking their first win over the Bucs, which would probably mean as much to them as winning their first district championship. The winner wins the district and the loser still finishes No. 2.

It's the same story in 6-A although most everybody from the Nashville side of Lookout Valley all the way to Monteagle Mountain has a favorite, or last least an opinion, for the South Pittsburg/Marion County game.

The stakes could probably get higher. After all, each is assured of the postseason, but this is Marion County and South Pittsburg, long-time rivals with loud-talking and deep-rooted fans. This could be the biggest gate for Marion County is more than a decade, and the most action the dreaded Jasper whistle has had since Eric Westmoreland was racing up and down the field in pre-UT days.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

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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