Many area teams will begin their quests for state football championships when the first round of the TSSAA playoffs begin Friday. But only six championship trophies are available.
Here’s a look at how far area teams are predicted to go in this year’s postseason, along with predicted state champions.
Science Hill — Second round.
The Hilltoppers have a 50-50 battle against Bradley Central in round one, and they have plenty of experience in tight games. But getting past Maryville in round two would require a shocking upset.
State champion: Oakland.
David Crockett — Semifinals.
Getting that far means the Pioneers may have to beat two teams (Tennessee High and Daniel Boone) they barely edged in the regular season — or they may have to knock off a strong Knoxville team (Central), which has traditionally been very tough for Northeast Tennessee teams.
Daniel Boone — Second round.
Knox Central presents a mighty challenge.
Tennessee High — Second round.
State champion: Fulton.
Elizabethton — Quarterfinals.
The Cyclones would have to play much better than they did against Anderson County in 2017 to get this far. This year’s version of the Cyclones is different from last year, maybe enough to tip the scales against the Mavericks.
Sullivan South — Second round.
The Rebels didn’t have much resistance to offer Greeneville the first time around.
State champion: Greeneville.
Johnson County — Second round.
Yes, those pesky Roadrunners likely await the Longhorns in round two. And even at home in Mountain City, it’s tough to tame Austin-East for four quarters as Johnson County found out last year.
Unicoi County — First round.
It’s not out of the question for the Blue Devils to advance, but it is a challenge.
State champion: Alcoa.
All teams — First round.
It hasn’t been a dominant season for Region 1 teams, and the matchups against Region 2 are tough every year.
State champion: Meigs County.
Cloudland — Second round.
Cloudland has lost by 40, 40 and 32 points to Coalfield in the last three years of second-round matchups. If they meet again it should be more competitive, but that’s a large gap to close.
State champion: Cornersville.
David Crockett’s Cade Larkins, who is averaging 317 passing yards per game, needs just 249 yards in the Pioneers’ first-round playoff game to move into 10th place on the state’s all-time single-season list. He is 706 yards away from moving into the top five. He also has 36 touchdown passes, five away from an all-time top 10 ranking in the state.
Donta Hackler is four touchdowns away from a top 10 ranking in state history. He has 14 scoring catches on the season.
Greeneville quarterback Cade Ballard was 4-of-4 passing for 169 yards and three TDs against Sullivan East on Thursday, moving his season total to 32 touchdown passes with just 18 incompletions. Ballard has no interceptions this season.
Football games of the week
Bradley Central at Science Hill
Sullivan South at Chattanooga Central
Tennessee High at South-Doyle
Kingston at Unicoi County
Bears vs. Hilltoppers — Science Hill may be a slight home underdog, but the Hilltoppers shouldn’t be short on motivation or momentum. They suffered a controversial loss to Bradley in the first round last year, and have won three straight games heading into this matchup.
Rebels vs. Purple Pounders — All three of South’s losses are against very good teams (Daniel Boone, Greeneville, Elizabethton) while Central has been outscored 259-252 on the season.
Vikings vs. Cherokees — There’s reason to buy Tennessee High as the favorite here. The Vikings are two or three plays away from being 9-1, and South-Doyle’s seven wins came against teams with a combined record of 18-52.
Yellowjackets vs. Blue Devils — Kingston is 4-6 and Unicoi is 8-2, but the schedule difficulty and strong finish slightly favors the Yellowjackets.
Pick of the Week
Science Hill 35, Bradley Central 33
This will probably be one of those games where the team that makes the last big play, or gets the last big break, will walk away with the win.
Picks record: 5-5.
Player of the Week
Nathan Lane, Johnson County
It was a night to remember for the Longhorns’ senior as he led his team to a 35-12 win over Unicoi County for the Region 1-3A championship.
Lane scored all of his team’s touchdowns, including four on the ground while racking up 182 yards on 20 carries. He also authored a pick six, his second in as many weeks and his fourth interception in that span.
The Hogs Award
Daniel Boone Trailblazers
Proving their worth in a 49-15 pound-down of Cherokee, the Trail Hogs cleared the way to allow three backs (Charlie Cole, Easton Harrell and Devon White) to rush for more than 100 yards apiece.
Defensive unit of the Week
Sullivan South Rebels
Facing their county rival, the Rebels’ defense answered the call all night in a 36-0 victory. Along with the shutout, South limited Sullivan North to just 176 yards of total offense.
State championships were earned in each of the three classifications Saturday in Murfreesboro.
Class AAA — It was little surprise as Germantown Houston won the title with a 1-0 decision over Collierville. The Lady Mustangs won their ninth state championship, and their fourth in the last six years.
Class AA — Hendersonville Beech won its first-ever title with a 3-2 overtime decision over Seymour.
Class A — Signal Mountain, which was runner-up in 2017, won its first-ever state title with a 1-0 decision against Merrol Hyde.
Kara Weems will make it official with Milligan College on Thursday. The David Crockett senior will sign to play softball with the Lady Buffaloes at 2 p.m. in the high school library.
Elizabethton finishes on top in the final High School Top 10 of the 2018 season.
Team (W-L) ― Last Week
1. Elizabethton (9-1) ― 1
2. David Crockett (10-0) ― 2
3. Daniel Boone (8-2) ― 3
4. Tennessee High (7-3) ― 4
5. Science Hill (5-5) ― 5
6. Johnson County (9-1) ― 6
7. Sullivan South (7-3) ― 7
8. Dobyns-Bennett (4-6) ― 8
9. Cloudland (8-2) ― 10
10. Unicoi County (8-2) ― 9