PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Lookout Valley (7-3) at Sunbright (7-3)
Grace Academy (6-4) at South Pittsburg (8-2)
Meigs County (5-5) at Bledsoe County (9-1)
Tyner (5-5) at Alcoa (6-4)
Kingston (7-3) at Polk County (7-3)
Harpeth (7-3) at Sequatchie County (7-3)
Brainerd (5-5) at East Hamilton (6-4)
Red Bank (7-3) at Sequoyah (5-5)
Notre Dame (5-5) at Marshall County (7-3)
Shelbyville (7-3) at Ooltewah (7-3)
Bradley Central (7-3) at Cookeville (6-4)
Oak Ridge (7-3) at McMinn County (8-2)
McCallie (4-5) at Battle Ground Academy (7-3)
Fultondale (8-2) at North Sand Mountain (9-1)
Ider (7-3) at Oakman (7-3)
Cleburne County (5-5) at North Jackson (10-0)
Walker (6-4) at Fort Payne (9-1)
While some area coaches of playoff football teams again are unhappy about the seeding process, the unanimous sentiment in the third year of the TSSAA's new postseason format was that at least their teams are still playing.
"There are a lot of places where they're packing up the equipment for the year and getting ready for basketball season," Polk County coach Derrick Davis said. "It's not a perfect system, but it's what we've got and now is the time to just prepare for that first game and hope you can be around again next week to do it all over again."
Polk is one of seven area teams that will host a first-round game this week as the TSSAA's football playoffs kick off. Two other teams, Baylor in Division II-AA and Boyd-Buchanan in Class 2A, earned first-round byes and will begin playing in round two. Boyd-Buchanan (9-1) will host the winner between Rockwood (6-4) and Watertown (6-4). Should the Buccaneers advance, they likely would travel to top-ranked Trousdale County in the quarterfinals.
Top-ranked Baylor will host the winner between Briarcrest Christian (4-6) and Montgomery Bell Academy (5-5) in the second round. Also in D-II, McCallie is the only area team to open against a state-ranked foe, traveling to fourth-ranked Battle Ground Academy, which already owns a 12-point regular-season win over the Blue Tornado.
Eighteen area teams earned a spot in the TSSAA playoffs, with three games matching up two area teams against each other. Four area teams also will begin postseason play in Alabama this week, while Georgia teams have one week of the regular season remaining.
In Class 3A, Tyner (5-5) is making its 18th straight playoff appearance but will travel to seven-time defending state champion Alcoa (6-4). Four of Tyner's five losses were to playoff teams and the other was to Signal Mountain. Alcoa entered the season having won 43 consecutive games but has its most losses in a season since 2003.
Red Bank, which limps in having lost its last two regular-season game, has won its first-round game six of the last seven years. The Lions (7-3) are unhappy with having to travel in the first round, despite having a much better record than Sequoyah (5-5). Also in 4A, district champion East Hamilton must open against a Brainerd team it defeated by nine points in the regular season. Brainerd won its last two games by less than a touchdown to advance.
"To be perfectly honest, I'm never a fan of playing a team you've already played during the regular season," Hurricanes coach Ted Gatewood said. "But I'm excited to have the opportunity to be playing this time of year. Both teams have gotten better since the last time we played.
"We've got five weeks to make something happen. Our kids understand that we're not a great team yet, but we're still playing."
But no area coach was more upset over his team's playoff draw than South Pittsburg's Vic Grider. When the defending Class 1A state champion Pirates lost 3-0 in triple overtime Friday at Knoxville Grace, it not only snapped their streak of scoring in 135 straight games but also cost them the top seed in their bracket.
By falling to a third seed, South Pittsburg (8-2) not only lost the right to have a first-round bye but must travel every round it plays after this week.
The Pirates host Grace Academy, which is back in the playoffs for a fourth time just two years after going winless.
"There are lots of things that are disappointing about it," Grider said. "The two teams we lost two are both in trouble with the TSSAA, but we get no credit for that and we get no credit for playing the toughest schedule in the state. We played seven teams in a larger class and five of them were state-ranked. You get no credit for strength of schedule. We would've been better off just not scrambling to fill a 10-game schedule.
"We're disappointed right now, but we'll get over it pretty quick, and I think everybody on our side of the bracket will find out we're a very highly motivated team because of this."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...