Playoffs — most successful this decade
20 — South Pittsburg; 14 — Marion County, Notre Dame; 13 — Boyd-Buchanan; 12 — Ooltewah; 10 — Rhea County; 9 — East Hamilton; 8 — Copper Basin, Tyner; 7 — Bradley Central; 6 — East Ridge, Hixson, Red Bank; 5 — Sequatchie County; 4 — McMinn Central; 3 — Central, McMinn County, Meigs County; 2 — Grace Academy, Whitwell.
15 — South Pittsburg; 12 — Marion County; 9 — Baylor, Notre Dame; 7 — Boyd-Buchanan, Ooltewah, Rhea County; 6 — East Hamilton; 5 — McCallie; 4 — Copper Basin; 3 — Hixson, Tyner; 2 — East Ridge, McMinn Central, Red Bank; 1 — Sequatchie County.
TSSAA first-round playoff pairings
Friday, Nov. 4
(All kickoffs at 7 p.m. local time)
Cookeville (6-4) at Bradley Central (8-2)
Lenoir City (3-7) at Rhea County (8-2)
McMinn County (7-3) at Farragut (9-1)
Walker Valley (6-4) at Oak Ridge (8-2)
Campbell County (8-2) at Ooltewah (8-2)
Central (3-7) at Page (6-3)
Giles County (7-3) at Hixson (6-4)
East Hamilton (5-5) at Marshall County (9-1)
McMinn Central (4-6) at Elizabethton (9-1)
Upperman (4-6) at Red Bank (7-3)
East Ridge (5-5) at DeKalb County (7-3)
Smith County (5-5) at Notre Dame (6-4)
Howard (3-7) at Sequatchie County (10-0)
Westmoreland (4-6) at Marion County (9-1)
Boyd-Buchanan (7-3) at Watertown (9-1)
Jackson County (8-2) at Meigs County (9-1)
Tyner (4-6) at Forrest (9-1)
Cornersville (5-5) at South Pittsburg (9-1)
Summertown (8-2) at Whitwell (5-5)
Copper Basin (5-5) at Fayetteville (8-2)
Grace Academy (4-6) at Columbia Academy (9-0)
Father Ryan (4-6) at McCallie (6-4)
Baylor (6-4) at Pope John Paul (6-4)
For the first time in 20 years, Sequatchie County has a 10-win football season, and the Indians have done it without benefit of the postseason, which for Tennessee teams begins Friday.
The 1996 team, coached by Mike Zeller, was the last Sequatchie bunch to put together 10 wins. Adam Caine's group has matched the Sid Fritts-coached 1990 Indians, who started 10-0 on their way to a 12-1 campaign.
Sequatchie is one of 23 area TSSAA teams advancing to the postseason, and 12 of them will be at home Friday. All games will begin at 7 p.m. local time.
"I told the kids on the bus when we got back home, 'Congrats on the 10-0, but when you get back Monday, remember that everybody is 0-0.' The thing about the playoffs is that everybody is good," Caine said of his brief speech to the team on its return Friday night from Upperman.
South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider, a playoff veteran, has been trying to get his team healthy since midseason but feels he has a team that can play with anybody if the Pirates are healthy. He said the problem was getting them there.
"You can't show up with a half-loaded gun," he added. "I'm curious to see what we look like if we get all of our best people out there."
The Region 3-1A champs will be heavy favorites to secure their 10th win of 2016 when they host Cornersville, the fourth-place team from Region 4-1A.
Others with a shot to join Sequatchie this week by securing their monumental 10th wins are Marion County and Meigs County
"I was glad for the kids to get that 10th win," Caine said. "It was important to them, but it's one of those milestones. It doesn't happen that often unless you're Alcoa or Maryville or Brentwood Academy."
Then Indians will be favored when they host Howard, which forfeited a game but then found its way into the Class 3A playoffs with a win two nights ago at Signal Mountain.
"When I got the films on Howard, it hit me in the face how big and fast they are, and their coach (John Starr) has a great reputation," Caine said.
Among those that lost to Sequatchie County this season was South Pittsburg, which has since run off nine straight victories.
"We got beat by a 10-0 football team. It isn't like we got beat by some chumps," Grider said. "Did we leave some chances out there? Yes, but I'm sure they feel the same way. They showed us, though, how hard and physical you have to play if you want to be successful. If that game hadn't turned out like it did, I'm not sure we would've beat Marion (County) two weeks later. It may have been a great learning experience for us."
South Pittsburg is the most successful area team this decade with 20 playoff games and 15 playoff victories. There is no pressure, though, for these Pirates to try to live up to the accomplishments of those who've gone before.
"It may sound crazy, but they've been through the roughest two- or three-year stretch we've had," Grider added. "We've beat some teams but we couldn't beat the good teams at times, and these guys are trying to get (the program) back where it was — re-establish what was."
Red Bank is working along the same lines, getting back to glory days including the most recent reconstruction by Tim Daniels. The message for the Lions, Region 3-3A champs, is the same.
"I told the kids it was great to win the region and to enjoy the weekend, but (the region championship) is not what we play for," coach Chad Grabowski said. "We're starting the playoffs Monday. It's a totally different situation. Lose and you're out; win and you keep playing."
McMinn County coach Bo Cagle is just happy to have the opportunity for a similar speech. The Cherokees, third-place finishers in Region 4-5A, were packing it up after the 10th game the past three seasons.
"On Sunday, the coaches would've been taking up equipment," Cagle said Saturday afternoon. "I'd much rather be meeting to make plans for beating another team."
He wasn't concerned about traveling to Farragut, the runner-up from Region 3-5A.
"We give them our film. What will they see? We run the same schemes every game — offense and defense," he said. "We've played over our heads all season. We may not win any individual battles, but as a group we do all right.
"This time of year, though, you can't make mistakes and win."
Contact Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.