Tennessee prep football playoff previews: Week 1

Tennessee prep football playoff previews: Week 1

November 4th, 2016 by Staff Reports in Sports - Preps

South Pittsburg's Corbin Cawood (50) helps drop Boyd-Buchanan quarterback Ross Wortman 98) for a loss. The Boyd-Buchanan Buccaneers visited the South Pittsburg Pirates in TSSAA football action on October 21, 2016.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

Bradley Central defenders Cole Copeland (10), Jay Person, center, and Hayden Owenby, right, pile onto Maryville wide receiver A.J. Davis during their prep football game against Maryville at Bradley Central High School on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016, in Cleveland, Tenn.

Bradley Central defenders Cole Copeland (10), Jay Person,...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

(All kickoffs at 7 p.m. local time)

Class 6A

COOKEVILLE CAVALIERS (6-4) at BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (8-2)

Stars: Cookeville junior Cade Smith is 69-for-111 passing for 970 yards and 10 TDs, and he's run 71 times for 544 yards. Senior RB Blake Ashburn has 129 carries for 870 yards and 17 TDs and returned 11 kickoffs for 358 yards. Junior LB Michael Scavo leads with 105 tackles. Bradley senior QB Cole Copeland (111-162-3, 1,725 yds., 17 TDs, 77 carries, 468 yds., 10 TDs) hasn't played since injuring a shoulder Oct. 7 but has had limited practice time this week. His status will be a game-time decision. Junior WR Lameric Tucker has topped the 1,000-yard mark receiving on 68 catches with 10 TDs. Rushing leader Adam Mullis, a junior, has 715 yards on 155 carries.

Storyline: After watching video, Bradley coach Damon Floyd said he counted the Cavs in 25 different offensive formations. No matter the set for Cookeville, it all starts with the running game. That sets up the play-action passes for multifaceted QB Smith. The Cavs run a 3-4 defense, as does Bradley, and they try to cause problems by slanting a lot up front. Floyd wants to see his team do the little things well.

Class 5A

Walker Valley's Bryce Nunnelly tackles Rhea County's Mason Stephenson during their prep football game at Rhea County High School on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Evensville, Tenn.

Walker Valley's Bryce Nunnelly tackles Rhea County's Mason...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

LENOIR CITY PANTHERS (3-7) at RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (8-2)

Stars: The Panthers are led by dual-threat QB Gabe Williams and defenders Tyler Dutton and Bryant Bingham. Rhea County has lived on the running abilities of Mason Stephenson, Cody Bice and Christian Stephens and a sound and physical defense.

Storyline: Lenoir City, undersized by the classification's standards, gained the playoffs by winning a three-way tiebreaker with 1-9 Clinton and 1-9 Karns, which got its first win over the Panthers in the final regular-season game. They've lost three in a row. Rhea is riding a four-game win streak and has won seven of its last eight. That last loss was to state-ranked Indianapolis Cathedral. Rhea has benefited from a strong and beefy offensive line.

McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (7-3) at FARRAGUT ADMIRALS (9-1)

Stars: Farragut QB Adam Fulton has thrown for 1,963 yards, and five receivers have a minimum of 220 yards. Cade Burkey and Drew Butler have 100-tackle seasons already. Xavier Abernathy is the run-minded Cherokees' primary offensive threat.

Storyline: The Admirals are riding a seven-game win streak and scored at least 63 points in three of those wins. Their loss, though, was to Oak Ridge, which lost 28-24 to the Cherokees. McMinn is not one of the fancy teams but one that relies on physical play along with misdirection and power-blocking from its wing-T offensive scheme.

WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (6-4) at OAK RIDGE WILDCATS (8-2)

Stars: Mustangs QB Kolten Gibson has three quality receivers in Bryce Nunnelly, Cooper Melton and Zach Eslinger. Oak Ridge has a prolific receiver as well in Clemson-committed Tee Higgins.

Storyline: Walker Valley has been able to score almost at will and was within seconds of upsetting region champ Rhea County, but the Mustangs lost a pair of OL starters and key offensive cog RB Alex King in a shootout last week with Ooltewah. The teams have one common opponent — both lost to McMinn County.

The Ooltewah student section cheers another touchdown during their prep football game against Soddy-Daisy at Ooltewah High School on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, in Ooltewah, Tenn.

The Ooltewah student section cheers another touchdown during...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

CAMPBELL COUNTY COUGARS (8-2) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (8-2)

Stars: Cougars junior QB Zach Rutherford is 223-of-320 passing for 3,090 yards and 31 TDs. His top target is senior WR Seth Roberts (51 rec., 709 yds., 9 TDs). RB Patrick Strunk has 815 yards on 143 carries and 8 TDs and has caught 25 passes. Another senior, DT Mike Rhoades, has 13 tackles for loss, including four sacks. Ooltewah senior QB Collin Thurman is 131-of-213 for 1,521 yards and 14 TDs. RBs Cam Turner and Sincere Quinn, a senior and a sophomore, have teamed for 1,658 rushing yards and 29 TDs. Junior WRs Andrew Manning and Cam Chambers have combined for 48 catches for 844 yards and 8 TDs.

Storyline: Ooltewah coach Mac Bryan has been away with a family emergency but is expected back for the game. Defensive coordinator Doug Greene has conducted practices this week. His defense will be challenged by the Cougars' heavy aerial assault and an offensive line that has allowed three sacks all season. The Owls will try to create problems offensively by playing fast. Both teams scored 28 or more points in a game eight times, Campbell County with a high of 57 and Ooltewah with a high of 69.

Members of the East Hamilton Hurricanes football team break through a banner prior to a home football game.

Members of the East Hamilton Hurricanes football team...

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

Class 4A

EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (5-5) at MARSHALL COUNTY TIGERS (9-1)

Stars: Marshall County sophomore QB Bryce Wallace is 153-of-210 passing for 2,153 yards and 27 TDs. Junior RB Kamron Liggett (128 carries, 14 TDs) and senior WR Tre Crutcher (58 receptions, 13 TDs) have 888 yards rushing and receving, respectively. Senior LB/RB Cain McWilliams has 10 sacks among his 65 tackles and has 9 rushing TDs. East Hamilton senior QB has accounted for 1,122 yards of total offense and 11 TDs. Junior RB Jhaeden Smith has 71 rushes for 571 yards and 5 TDs. Senior WR Blake Aldridge has caught 33 passes for 487 yards and 6 TDs. Senior K/P Jake McClure is 23-23 on PATs, 11-13 on FGs and averages 37.1 yards per punt.

Storyline: Marshall County is a physical team that plays fast. The Canes' defense will see several formations, ranging from the I to an empty backfield. Each Hurricanes player doing his assignment every play will be of prime importance. The Tigers will line up defensively in a 4-3, and they like to bring pressure. East Hamilton knows its best chance at success would be the ability to establish the run.

CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (3-7) at PAGE PATRIOTS (6-3)

Stars: Central QB Jaheim Jones is 58-of-122 for 787 yards and 5 TDs. Fellow sophomore RB Michael McGhee, who got rolled up on last week but has been cleared to play this week, has 132 rushes for 672 yards and 6 TDs. Senior D.J. Baxter has 296 receiving yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs and 65.5 tackles. Page junior QB Jacob Van Landingham is 92-for-176 for 1,406 yards and 10 TDs with 78 carries for 324 yards and 6 TDs. Freshman RB Donald Johnson has 139 carries for 858 yards and 11 TDs. Junior WR Will Pierce's 30 catches have produced 476 yards and 5 TDs. Senior DB Cruze Kerrigan has 81 tackles.

Storyline: Page features a multitude of skill-position players, a dual-threat QB and a big offensive line. It thrives on big plays. The Pounders are coming in off a loss in which they had four turnovers, which hasn't been characteristic of this year's team. To start, they'll look for success running right at the Patriots. Central coach Cortney Braswell's message to his players this week has been to be thankful for the opportunity and to play to their potential. They were 0-10 and at home this time last year.

GILES COUNTY BOBCATS (7-3) at HIXSON WILDCATS (6-4)

Stars: Giles County junior QB John Bachus is 196-for-224 for 2,987 yards and 25 TDs to go with 80 carries for 531 yards. Add to that senior RB R'Kell Reed, whose 158 carries have gone for 1,115 yards and 17 TDs. Sophomore WR K.J. Zeigler has 45 receptions for 745 yards and 9 TDs. Hixson's offense starts with the inside plays to RB Myles Ratliff, setting up dual-threat QB LaDaquis Word. LB Brody Gregory is also a force on the offensive line. Strong-legged K Austin Slifko is a weapon.

Storyline: The Wildcats will be trying to hold down a potent, balanced offense that can cause the opposition technical problems. The Bobcats are averaging 38.3 points per game. Hixson's defense must be sound in every way, including lining up in the proper gaps. The Wildcats' offense must help by possessing the ball as much as possible and keeping Giles County's offense off the field. That could mean heavy doses of Ratliff between the tackles.

Class 3A

HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (3-7) AT SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (10-0)

Stars: Mackenzie Williams ran wild last week, rushing for 237 yards and three TDs in Howard's playoff-clinching win at Signal Mountain. Hunter Davenport is a leader on both sides of the ball for the Indians. He's rushed for 841 yards and has 20 total TDs and has been in on 92 tackles, 9 for loss.

Storyline: The Indians have been led by a senior-dominated group of offensive and defensive linemen, and those guys will be tested tonight as much as they have been all season. Howard's strength is also its size and strength up front, proven last week with 364 rushing yards without attempting a pass. Which of those veteran units can control the other will determine who advances.

Red Bank's Calvin Jackson (5) gets past the attempted tackle of Signal Mountain's Collin Weigert (35). The Red Bank Lions visited the Signal Mountain Eagles in TSSAA football action on Friday September 30, 2016.

Red Bank's Calvin Jackson (5) gets past the...

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

UPPERMAN BEES (4-6) at RED BANK LIONS (7-3)

Stars: Red Bank's offense is keyed by QB Calvin Jackson and RB Zay Brown, but the defense also has its stars, including Jamel Davis, Ivan Young and Deon Hatter. Sophomore QB Duke Maresh is the key to Upperman's hopes.

Storyline: The Bees lost three straight to end the regular season, falling out of region-championship contention along the way. It's unlikely that they have seen the overall team speed or athletic ability they'll face tonight. Red Bank's three losses are to Division II-AA teams Baylor and McCallie and top-ranked Class 3A Alcoa.

SMITH COUNTY OWLS (5-5) at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (6-4)

Stars: Notre Dame has a sturdy run game led by Akil Sledge, but a lack of consistency and a solid passing game has plagued the Irish at times.

Storyline: Which teams will show up? Smith County played unbeaten Region 4-3A champion Sequatchie to a five-point loss but then lost to 4-6 York Institute by seven. They also lost by two to Upperman. Notre Dame, on the other hand, had two losses — to top-ranked teams — going into the final two weeks of the season and lost both, the last taking the Region 3 championship elsewhere. The Irish have struggled all season with injuries to QBs, and the latest (Cameron Wynn) was injured against McMinn Central.

East Ridge defender Braxton Moffett tackles Howard cornerback Jacques Yarbrough during their prep football game at East Ridge High School on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in East Ridge, Tenn.

East Ridge defender Braxton Moffett tackles Howard cornerback...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (5-5) at DeKALB COUNTY TIGERS (7-3)

Stars: For DeKalb, junior Tyler Cantrell stepped in at QB when the Tigers lost senior Steven Jennings, an Ole Miss baseball commitment. Among his targets is senior Matthew Poss, who doubles as the team's K and P. At times this season the Pioneers have been RB by committee depending on who was healthy. Traneil Moore, Class 3A Mr. Football in 2015, re-emerged in a big way last week, rushing for 301 yards. The senior had been slowed by preseason knee surgery.

Storyline: Four of the Pioneers' losses were to playoff participants, including Region 4-4A runner-up Hixson. Two of DeKalb's losses were to unbeaten teams (Sequatchie County, Stone Memorial), and two of its three losses were at home. It was the Region 4 runner-up to Sequatchie.

McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS (4-6) at ELIZABETHTON FIGHTING CYCLONES (9-1)

Stars: Sophomore QB Corey Russell holds the Cyclones' fortunes. He's passed for 1,658 yards (21 TDs, 3 INTs) and run for 1,062 and 19 TDs. The Chargers rely heavily on senior RB Jackson Long, who has had two games with more than 235 rushing yards.

Storyline: Elizabethton's on a nine-game win streak since a 28-21 season-opening loss to Class 6A member Science Hill. A prolific offense has allowed the Cyclones to score at least 43 points in eight of their wins with a season-high 63 at Claiborne. McMinn Central has lost four of its last five, but the win in that span was a shocking 27-21 victory over Region 3 runner-up Notre Dame two weeks ago.

Class 2A

Meigs County's Logan Fowler (23) runs around right end for the Tigers. The Meigs County Tigers visited the Silverdale Baptist Academy Seahawks in TSSAA football action on September 16, 2016.

Meigs County's Logan Fowler (23) runs around right...

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

JACKSON COUNTY BLUE DEVILS (8-2) at MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (9-1)

Stars: Devils QB Tyler Boling has averaged 149.8 passing yards per game as part of a balanced offense that also includes RB Colby Long (196 car., 1,193 yds.). Meigs has depended heavily on RBs Zy Moore and Logan Fowler, but freshman QB Aaron Swafford has become a serious dual threat.

Storyline: Jackson County suffered consecutive losses in September to Macon County and Westmoreland but has reeled off five straight wins. The Blue Devils finished third in a three-way Region 4 tie with Forrest, which they beat 20-14, and Westmoreland. Meigs has won seven straight, and other than the 43 they surrendered in a loss to Region 3 champ Marion County, the Tigers have allowed no more than 19 points in any game. That's a defense that has given up 10.7 ppg. In four games it has allowed a TD or less.

WESTMORELAND EAGLES (4-6) AT MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (9-1)

Stars: Marion's ground game has been impressive for much of the season, led by speedy RBs Jacob Saylors and Hunter Zeman, as well as Hunter McClain, who's more of a backfield bruiser. LB Alex Kirkendoll is a tackling machine, having made 126 so far, 11 for loss with three sacks.

Storyline: This is a rematch of last year's first-round 42-0 whipping by the Warriors, who gave up just 63 total yards. Marion is confident this could be the first step in a potential third straight trip to the title game, but one thing the Eagles were able to do last year was limit big plays. How patient Marion's offense is might again determine how quickly it takes control of this one.

BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (7-3) AT WATERTOWN PURPLE TIGERS (9-1)

Stars: QB Seth Price has thrown for 2,340 yards and 29 TDs to lead a high-octane Watertown offense, with Donald Staats and Nathaniel Gutierrez paving the way up front. Bucs RB Jeremy Borders runs hard and has the speed to break long runs, while QB Ross Wortman's passing ability can give the offense balance.

Storyline: The Purple Tigers offense has been impressive all season, scoring 42-plus points in all but one game. They will be tested tonight against a Bucs defense that is the strength of their team. One opponent has scored more than 24 points this season. Boyd-Buchanan's defense held Silverdale Baptist to less than 80 rushing yards last week and forced three turnovers. The game likely will be decided by how well the Bucs defense limits big plays and whether they can force a few turnovers.

TYNER RAMS (4-6) AT FORREST ROCKETS (9-1)

Stars: Forrest has an inside/outside rushing attack led by senior RBs Slayton Wild (6-3, 225) and Jacob Jones (6-0, 155). Wild punishes people with runs between the tackles, and Jones is a speed back who likes to get to the outside. Tyner junior Jaylen Bowens has intercepted four passes in the last two games and is also an outstanding runner and versatile enough to play some at QB. Tracy Justice will be counted on heavily on both sides of the line.

Storyline: The Rockets have shut out four opponents and held another to seven points, and their offense has failed to score 35-plus just three times. But this will be by far the most speed and athletic ability Forrest has faced all season. Tyner has won three of its last four, the last two by a combined 72-7. Two of the Rams losses were by a combined three points. Forrest's offense rarely throws the ball, and the strength of Tyner's defense is stopping the run.

South Pittsburg's Dylan McQueen (17) eludes a Whitwell tackler. The South Pittsburg Pirates visited the Whitwell Tigers in TSSAA football action on October 7, 2016

South Pittsburg's Dylan McQueen (17) eludes a Whitwell...

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

Class 1A

CORNERSVILLE BULLDOGS (5-5) AT SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (9-1)

Stars: The Pirates backfield is loaded with potential game-breakers, including Joseph Lilly, Kyree Pryor, Sawyer Kelley and Garrett Raulston. That group averages more than 8 yards per carry. The Bulldogs are led up front by two-way lineman Wesley Foss and in the backfield by Eli Woodard and Cameron Whitaker, who both run with great effort.

Storyline: A 13-point loss to fourth-ranked and unbeaten Columbia Academy was the most lopsided of the season for a Cornersville team that's winning by an average of 24-19, meaning it is not the typical No. 4-seeded team. The Bulldogs rely on effort and execution and must follow that blueprint to limit the number of opportunities the Pirates' big-play offense has. South Pitt has averaged 52 points in its last seven games.

COPPER BASIN COUGARS (5-5) at FAYETTEVILLE TIGERS (8-2)

Stars: Copper Basin senior RB/DB Peyton Sosebee, who has been out since being injured Sept. 30, played sparingly last week. He has almost 1,000 yards rushing and is one of the top tacklers. Junior OLB Keaton Mickens is the leading tackler and can also play FB, TE and WR. Senior QB Jacob Taylor runs the show. Fayetteville has a standout in junior RB/DB Brandon Moore, who has 2,261 all-purpose yards and 31 TDs along with 82 tackles. Junior QB Lex Marsh has 789 yards passing, senior RB Marquice Emmons has 759 rushing, and senior WR Jonathan Pigg has 404 receiving.

Storyline: Fayetteville scored 21 points in its opener and more than that in every game since on the way to averaging 34.9 per game. The Tigers have the edge in speed, so being tough and disciplined will be key for Copper Basin. The Cougars' defense must keep a watchful eye on Moore and gang tackle whenever possible.

GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (4-6) at COLUMBIA ACADEMY BULLDOGS (9-0)

Stars: Grace's leaders are senior QB Jared Thompson (48-98, 522 yds., 6 TDs, 92 carries, 681 yds., 10 TDs), and sophomore RB Cade Tinsley (114 carries, 1,033 yds., 12 TDs). Columbia Academy is ground-oriented and led by senior RB Logan Neal's 93 carries for 955 yards and 16 TDs. Sophomore RB Tre Davidson has added 412 rushing yards and 7 TDs and sophomore FB Davis Cofer has contributed 363 and 10 TDs.

Storyline: Columbia Academy is as big and physical as Class 1A teams go. The Bulldogs run a wing-T offense that begins with traps and dives to a 6-foot-3, 235-pound FB. Neal is their most dynamic player, leading them in rushing, kickoff-return yardage (193) and receiving, albeit with eight catches for 160 yards. That's a testament to how good their running game has been. Columbia Academy likes to vary its defenses, so recognition by all the Golden Eagles will be the key for Grace offensively.

SUMMERTOWN EAGLES (8-2) at WHITWELL TIGERS (5-5)

Stars: Summertown senior RB/DB and coach's son Chase Mote has 137 carries for 1,116 yards and 17 TDs and has caused seven fumbles with his 135 tackles. Senior QB Riley Chapman is 76-of-141 for 1,498 yards and 18 TDs. Senior WR/DB Dylan Powell has 31 catches for 616 yards and eight TDs and also has four INTs. Sophomore LB Lennox Johnson has 113 tackles.

Storyline: Summertown, which averages 31.8 points per game and is coming off a season-high 52 last week, operates a variable offense and will get Mote the ball in several ways. The Eagles prefer man-to-man coverage and like to bring pressure. They're also prone to slip in an onside kick at any time. Sound tackling and handling the blitz packages will be the major keys for Whitwell.

McCallie's Robert Riddle (14) stiff-arms Baylor's Pierce Collins before unleashing the ball during McCallie's win on Sept. 30. Riddle is the area player of the week after his performance last Friday against Pope John Paul II.

McCallie's Robert Riddle (14) stiff-arms Baylor's Pierce Collins...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Division II-AA

FATHER RYAN FIGHTIN' IRISH (4-6) AT McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (6-4)

Stars: Irish RB Jackson Byrd has rushed for 794 yards and 10 TDs and will be the focal point for the McCallie defense. QB Jay Shoop, son of UT defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, has thrown for 511 yards. Meanwhile McCallie QB Robert Riddle has thrown for more than 2,400 yards and 18 TDs and can also help his defense with a 39.7-yard punting average. Two-way lineman Giovanni Hightower excels both at protecting Riddle and pressuring the opposing QB. He has five tackles for loss, three sacks and 11 QB hurries this season.

Storyline: The Irish enter tonight's game having lost three straight with a combined 17 points in those defeats. McCallie won 30-7 when the teams met in week three and should give the Irish plenty of matchup problems on offense.

BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (6-4) AT POPE JOHN PAUL II KNIGHTS (6-4)

Stars: QB Ben Brooks, a University of Memphis baseball commitment, has thrown for 1,750 yards in leading the Knighs to the program's best season in more than a decade. Jamal Thompson has run for 607 yards and 12 TDs and has another 318 yards and four scores as a pass receiver. Baylor's Brendon Harris and Kalvin Watson each has more than 340 rushing yards, and Harris also has four interceptions on defense. LB Cooper Lewis leads the Red Raiders with 67 tackles.

Storyline: The Knights won the first meeting this season, 21-19, just three weeks ago by stopping Baylor's 2-point try with 36 seconds remaining. Brooks led the Knights to a pair of fourth-quarter scores and the PJP defense held Baylor to 1-of-10 success on third-down conversions. Baylor seemed to get refocused last week with a 27-point win at Father Ryan.


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