The TSSAA playoffs begin Friday on the football side, and they have a significant Rutherford County presence. Here’s a look at games involving those teams.
6A games take center stage
LaVergne (4-6) at Ravenwood (8-2) (6A)
Ravenwood, the surprising winner of Region 6-6A under first-year coach Matt Daniels, hosts LaVergne, which won four of its last five to make the playoffs. The Raptors, behind quarterback Brian Garcia and running backs Jordan Smith and Nick Stallcup, have scored 30 or more points on seven occasions. Ravenwood linebacker Anthony McCarthy is one of the area’s best.
LaVergne lost its first five games, with two losses coming on the game’s last play, and two more coming by five and 10 points. But the Wolverines got hot and won four of their last five. Receiver Josh Lewis was last week’s hero, hauling in six catches for 185 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Stewart’s Creek.
Independence (5-5) at Smyrna (7-3) (6A)
It was a disappointing season for Independence, the preseason favorite in Region 6-6A. Still, quarterback Nathan Cisco has plenty of weapons at his disposal. That includes major-college receiving prospects T.J. Sheffield and Kendrell Scurry, and red-hot tailback Troy Henderson, who has made 200-yard rushing games a habit of late. The problem for the Eagles is a defense that gives up 29 points per game.
Smyrna will counter with an offense led by quarterback Alex Bannister and do-it-all offensive threat Blake Watkins. The Bulldogs closed by winning four straight contests.
Blackman (8-2) at Hendersonville (6-4) (6A)
Despite an 8-2 season, it’s been something of a disappointing campaign for the Blaze, a team some pegged to win the state in the preseason. Some of that can certainly be traced to the loss of star running back Master Teague, an Ohio State commitment, with an ankle injury. Still, there’s plenty of talent left, including two of the most talented players at their position in America in wide receiver Trey Knox and defensive back Adonis Otey. Blackman’s fate seems to hinge on the play of dual-threat quarterback Connor Mitchell and whether a defense, which gave up 18.9 points a game, gets stops. Blackman beat Hendersonville by a 63-28 count in the season opener. But, that was with Teague accounting for 245 yards and three scores.
Riverdale (8-2) at Mt. Juliet (10-0) (6A)
Riverdale was the area’s tough-luck team this regular season. First, the Warriors lost defensive lineman D’Andre Litaker, a 4-star recruit and a Tennessee commitment, to a season-ending injury for the second-straight year. Riverdale also lost starting quarterback Christian Souffront for the season with a broken leg in August. But Riverdale’s defense still has Louisville commitment Jarek Campbell in the defensive backfield, and running back Savion Davis seems to rack up 200 yards of offense every week. Adding insult to injuries, Riverdale drew the short straw in a three-way tie for second in 6A Region 3, which means they’ll face a Mt. Juliet team that out-scored opponents 392-30. There may not be a more compelling first-round game anywhere in the state than this one.
Lebanon (5-5) at Oakland (10-0) (6A)
Speaking of demolitions, the Patriots ran roughshod over its challenging schedule by a collective 433-112 margin. On offense, Oakland’s two-quarterback system of Timmy Goodrich and Brevin Linnell worked perfectly, thanks in no small part to senior tailback Jeron Rooks’s 1,698 rushing and receiving yards. But one could argue that the Patriots’ defense deserves just as much or more credit for an unbeaten season. The star is probably four-star college prospect Woodi Washington—he also contributes at receiver—at corner, but the rest of the defensive backfield, including Justin Jefferson, Jalen Locklayer and Kameron Goodrich, have also been terrific. Along the front seven, Christian Cantrell, Blake Spencer, Michael Bond and Aaron Moore have also had big years. This should be a warm-up against Lebanon, a team that gave up 29 points more than it scored.
MTCS, Eagleville look to make a charge
Eagleville (8-2) at Riverside (8-2) (2A)
The Eagles scored 35.1 points a game thanks to dual-threat quarterback Ethan Cobb, who played well just about every week. Senior receiver Graham Hatcher serves as a reliable target. Linebacker Josh Wallman paces a defense that gave up just 15.1 points per game. Riverside out-scored its opponents, 283-169.
Middle Tennessee Christian (6-4) at Tipton-Rosemark (7-3) (Division II Class A)
MTCS rolled up 325 rushing yards and 35.9 points per game thanks to 1,791 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns from sophomore running back Kemari McGowan and 681 and 12 more from Drew Berry. The Cougar defense, which allowed 22.5 points per game, has its hands full with a Tipton-Rosemark offense that scored 42.3 per contest.
Siegel and Stewart’s Creek did not make the playoffs.