Six Rutherford County teams hope to start long runs in the TSSA football playoffs, which begin today, Friday Nov 2. Here’s a look at the road ahead for each.
Rutherford County’s best bet
It’s been another year of coach Kevin Creasy and Oakland (9-1, 471 points scored/93 points allowed) steamrolling everything in sight.
Well, almost everything. The Patriots fell 24-21 to Maryville in Week Two. And on the topic of familiar things, it was the Rebels who also handed Oakland its last loss before that. That was a three-point defeat, that time, in the 6A state semifinals.
And what happened the year before? Oakland handed Maryville its lone loss of the season, that game also in the state semifinals. (The Patriots’ lone loss of 2016 came the next week in a 12-9 defeat by Whitehaven.)
This year’s path to a collision course with the Patriots’ nemesis isn’t easy. Oakland should handle Rossview (6-4, 182/193) on Friday, setting up another winnable home game with Hendersonville or Riverdale (which Oakland beat 49-6 in September).
The semifinals would likely bring a game with 8-2 Lebanon, 9-1 Blackman or 10-0 Mt. Juliet. The Patriots handled Blackman, 24-14, on Sept. 21 and didn’t face the other two, though they did knock off Lebanon, 42-6, in last year’s first round.
It’s the last high school ride for superstar defensive back/wide receiver Woodi Washington, who’s headed to Oklahoma next year, as well as for defensive lineman Joseph Anderson (South Carolina), defensive back Tekoy Randolph, running back Xavier Myers (Illinois State) as well as efficient quarterback Brevin Linnel.
The big school dark horse with a brutal path
Speaking of seniors who are top college prospects, Blackman (9-1, 392/118) has a pair of four-star Arkansas commits in receiver Trey Knox and defensive back Adonis Otey who led the Blaze to another great year. Otey also plays offense, where the Blaze have several players on a balanced attack that can beat teams any number of ways.
Blackman spreads the wealth around on defense, too. Middle linebacker Khori Williams leads the team in tackles and is tied with senior defensive end Alec Patton with a team-high eight stops for loss.
But the Blaze draw an uncharacteristically-tough first round game with Lebanon (8-2, 268/113). If Blackman wins, it probably draws Mt. Juliet (10-0, 393/51), which pitched three shutouts and didn’t give up more than 13 points once.
The small-school contenders
Middle Tennessee Christian (8-2, 303/180) is again led by electric running back Kemari McGowan, who’s run for 4,525 yards (and 9.8 per carry—and he’s not finished with his junior season. Senior running back Drew Berry has added another 1,080 yards from scrimmage and has three interceptions on defense.
How far can the Cougars go? A home game with Jackson Christian (4-6, 193/218) is winnable. Fayette Academy (9-1, 410/172), which gets the winner of that game, is a tougher task. Friendship Christian (8-2, 359/136) likely awaits the winner in a game that would determine who goes to the state title game.
Eagleville (7-3, 328/227) has its own offensive star in dual-threat quarterback Ethan Cobb (77-120, 1,150 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions, 112 rushes for 875 yards and 14 scores) as well as big-play runners in Josh Stout and Wyatt McLemore.
The Eagles got a tough draw in Riverside (9-1, 309/111) and that would probably be followed by another in 9-1 Lewis County.
The large-school underdogs
Smyrna (7-3, 284/145) ended its regular season on a four-game winning streak, its closest game in that stretch being a 17-point victory over Stewart’s Creek. The Bulldogs, led by versatile offensive star Blake Watkins, draw up-and-down Independence (5-5, 323/290), which can put up points against anyone. A win probably leads to a road game at 8-2 Brentwood. If Smyrna advanced, it would probably draw 10-0 Cane Ridge, which edged the Bulldogs 13-3 earlier in the season in a game that decided Region 5-6A.
Riverdale (5-5, 292/246) is in the midst of a rebuilding year, and has a first-round challenge at Hendersonville (7-3, 291/200). The Warriors showed some hope in back-to-back shutouts of Coffee County and Warren County before losing 41-0 to Blackman in the regular-season finale. They’d draw Oakland, which beat the Warriors 49-6 in Week Five, if they advance.