Lookout Valley (5-5) at Copper Basin (7-3)
Columbia Academy (5-5) at South Pittsburg (7-3)
Silverdale Baptist (9-1) at Hampton (9-1)
Rockwood (6-4) at Boyd-Buchanan (9-1)
McMinn Central (5-5) at Alcoa (9-1)
Tyner (8-2) at Sweetwater (7-3)
Kingston (6-4) at Polk County (7-3)
Grundy County (5-5) at Cheatham County (10-0)
Hixson (7-3) at Notre Dame (8-2)
Page (6-4) at Signal Mountain (7-3)
Marshall County (5-5) at East Hamilton (9-1)
Anderson County (5-5) at Ooltewah (7-3)
Walker Valley (5-5) at Lenoir City (8-2)
Bradley Central (6-4) at McMinn County (9-1)
Battle Ground Academy (4-6) at Baylor (7-3)
St. Benedict (4-5) at McCallie (4-5)
As soon as the TSSAA playoff brackets were released Saturday morning, it was a case of deja vu for Chattanooga-area high school football teams.
For a fourth straight year many area coaches began griping about the state association’s playoff format — its confusing, convoluted way of determining matchups and seedings — almost immediately after the games were posted.
“The whole thing [stinks],” Tyner coach Wayne Turner said. “Go through every class and there are problems with it. It doesn’t make sense to a lot of us coaches, and [the bracket makers] just seem to put people wherever they want to put them. There’s no rhyme or reason for some of the seedings or the games.
“We’re 8-2 against a pretty tough nondistrict schedule. My record is better, but we’re going on the road and wouldn’t play at home at all. How does that make sense?”
Tyner opens at Sweetwater in the 3A bracket, with the victor traveling to play the winner of McMinn Central at Alcoa.
In Class 5A, after being shown in the bracket all day, Cleveland was told Saturday night that it had not made the playoffs. After being upset Friday by Rhea County, the Blue Raiders coaches believed they would not make the postseason, but when the brackets were released showing them in, coach Ron Crawford went as far as to trade video with Columbia Central in beginning preparations.
“[TSSAA executive director] Bernard Childress called to apologize,” Crawford said. “At first we just thought we had missed something and assumed they were right. Mr. Childress called late in the day to say there had been an error and we weren’t in. We’re getting our hearts broken again today after having them broken Friday night.”
And then there are three opening rematches involving area teams from the regular season, most notably Bradley Central traveling to McMinn County in Class 6A and Baylor hosting Battle Ground Academy in Division II-AA. Those teams played just two nights ago, with McMinn’s Cherokees overcoming a 21-point first-half deficit to score 34 straight points and claim a five-point win and the District 5-AAA championship, while Baylor beat BGA by 15.
Now all those teams turn around and prepare to face off again, just seven days later.
“I don’t think you ever want to play somebody back to back like this,” Bradley coach Damon Floyd said. “It’s a pretty heated rivalry, so both teams spent a lot of emotion last week with so much on the line. Now we have to turn around and do it all over again.
“It’s just not an ideal playoff game, but both teams will just have to get ready. The staffs and teams know each other really well, so it will all just come down to who makes more plays and fewer mistakes.”
Boyd-Buchanan won District 5-A, finishing 9-1 with its only loss coming to Maplewood, last year’s 4A state runner-up. But the Buccaneers, who had been ranked No. 1 in Class 2A for much of the season and played a more difficult schedule, received only a No. 3 seed, which means not only do they not get a first-round bye but also likely would travel the rest of the playoffs.
Marion County, which did not win its district and finished 8-2, did get a first-round bye and a No. 2 seeding and would host until the quarterfinals if it advances that far.
The difference between Boyd-Buchanan earning a No. 1 seed and getting the third seed came down to the seventh tiebreaker with Oneida — wins over teams in the same classification. The Bucs play in a four-team district and, because of the program’s traditional success, were unable to schedule nondistrict games in the same class, having to play five teams in higher classes.
The wins over the higher-classification opponents did not count in the Bucs’ favor under the current playoff format, and on the basis of playing in a larger district, Oneida got the top seed.
“It’s tough to know that’s the reason you wind up with the seed you got,” Boyd-Buchanan coach Grant Reynolds said. “I just don’t see the incentive to play a tougher schedule. The teams that are moderately successful have trouble scheduling games.
“But what we’re going to focus on is our first-round game, because it doesn’t do any good to waste time complaining about it now. We’re going to put on blinders now, get ready for Rockwood this week, and if we move on, we’ll just keep preparing for that week’s challenge. That’s all you can do this time of year.”
Nineteen Chattanooga-area teams advanced to the Tennessee state playoffs in their respective classifications, and 11 of those will host first-round games Friday. The playoffs culminate in state championship games in Cookeville the last weekend in November.
East Hamilton received a No. 2 seed in 4A and will host Marshall County in the first round, while Signal Mountain is seeded third and hosts Page. Should both local teams win, East Hamilton would host Signal Mountain in the second round, a rematch of their season-opening game won by the Hurricanes. Also in 4A, Notre Dame hosts Hixson, with the winner likely traveling to top-ranked Giles County in the second round.
Similar to Boyd-Buchanan’s draw, South Pittsburg received a No. 3 seed and will host Columbia Academy in the 1A first round. For the second straight year, the Pirates would then travel for every round that they continue playing. Also in 1A, Lookout Valley travels to Copper Basin.
In Division II-AA, besides Baylor’s rematch, McCallie hosts St. Benedict. Should Baylor win it would travel to second-seed Memphis University School, while McCallie would travel to top-seed Ensworth.
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 ...