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Jackson Fritts (9) and his Meigs County teammates celebrate after defeating visiting Trousdale County in a TSSAA Class 2A semifinal last Friday. The Tigers will take on Peabody in a BlueCross Bowl showdown Saturday in Cookeville. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

As the three-day spectacle of state championship football games begins Thursday at Tennessee Tech, it will mark the 20-year anniversary of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee sponsoring the event.

Tennessee began its playoff format to decide state champions in 1969, then in 1982 moved the three title games to a central location, Vanderbilt's Dudley Field. The TSSAA has since expanded to nine classifications, creating the need for three championship games to be played each day over a three-day span, and the location has been moved twice — to Murfreesboro in 2000 and then to Cookeville in 2009.

However, one constant for 20 years running is the name of the event: BlueCross Bowl.

"We are grateful to have reached this milestone in our partnership," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. "Participating in the BlueCross Bowl has been a goal for thousands of young athletes in Tennessee, and we look forward to continuing the tradition."

BlueCross Bowl Schedule at Tennessee Tech

All times EST

Thursday, Dec. 5
Division II-A: Davidson Academy vs. University School of Jackson, noon
DII-AA: Christ Presbyterian Academy vs. Evangelical Christian School, 4
DII-AAA: McCallie vs. Montgomery Bell Academy, 8

Friday, Dec. 6
Class 1A: Greenback vs. Lake County, noon
Class 3A: Alcoa vs. Pearl Cohn, 4
Class 5A: Knoxville Central vs. Summit, 8

Saturday, Dec. 7
Class 2A: Meigs County vs. Peabody, noon
Class 4A: Elizabethton vs. Springfield, 4
Class 6A: Maryville vs. Ravenwood, 8

BlueCross BlueShield is Tennessee's largest health insurer, and the company has said that being the sponsor for the state's most well-attended high school championship event is its way of showing commitment to supporting wellness for families and communities throughout the state.

"Sports are a great way for young people to learn valuable life lessons like discipline, commitment and teamwork," said BlueCross BlueShield senior vice president and chief communication officer Roy Vaughn. "Supporting the games is another way we can promote healthy physical activity."

This year the Tennessee Titans are adding a special element to the BlueCross Bowl by inviting all championship teams to their Dec. 15 game at Nissan Stadium. Members of each championship team will receive admission to the game, a key AFC South matchup with the Houston Texans, and coaches and team captains will be recognized on the field.

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Dalton running back Jahmyr Gibbs leaves Northwest Whitfield defenders behind after catching a pass during their Aug. 31 game in Tunnel Hill, Ga. Gibbs, who had a standout senior season this year by rushing for 2,358 yards and is being recruited by some of the nation's top college football programs, has been selected for the All-American Bowl for high school players. / Staff photo by Robin Rudd

Gibbs' big honor

Representatives from the All-American Bowl will visit Dalton High School on Friday to recognize senior running back Jahmyr Gibbs as a 2020 high school All-American. Gibbs is one of 14 athletes from the Peach State to be selected to play in the annual East vs. West All-American Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 4, at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Representatives will present Gibbs with his honorary All-American jersey in a ceremony at the school Friday morning in front of the student body and faculty.

This season, Gibbs rushed for 2,358 yards — averaging 11.3 per carry — and 39 touchdowns for the Catamounts, who compete in GHSA Class AAAAAA, Georgia's second-highest classification. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound runner is committed to Georgia Tech but also has scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU and Ohio State among others.

The 1 p.m. EST game will be nationally televised by NBC and will feature the country's top 100 prep football players. More than 25,000 fans attend the annual game, which has produced 16 eventual Heisman Trophy finalists, 410 NFL draft picks, 144 Pro Bowl selections and 57 Super Bowl champions.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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