published Friday, October 25th, 2013

Some Tennessee playoff questions being answered tonight

It isn't all about district championships in Tennessee, some of which could be decided tonight although several won't be until next week.

It's about getting into the postseason.

East Ridge and Tyner are in different postseason classifications -- 4A and 3A, respectively -- but their game at East Ridge tonight could well decide who finishes No. 2 and earns an automatic playoff berth from District 6-AA.

Both have district games next week, Tyner against Red Bank and East Ridge against Howard, but this game, based on district records, should give the nod to the winner.

Hixson can clinch the 6-AA championship with a win tonight at Central, which is scrambling to remain in the playoff picture but playing its last district game tonight.

Grundy County steps out of District 7-AA play, traveling to Cumberland County. And the Yellow Jackets, who have given up district championship or runner-up hopes, need a win in Crossville to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"I think we could be on the bubble with a win Friday night," Grundy's Nick Bryant said. "We need to win this one or next week against Notre Dame to even be on the bubble. If we could win both, I think we'd be in."

A win in either of those would give the Jackets a 4-6 record and surely put them on the road if they got into the postseason, but even with two games remaining it's still "week by week."

"We haven't mentioned it, haven't talked about it at all with our kids," Bryant said. "Right now we need to be taking it one game at a time."

Also with a chance to clinch tonight is Ooltewah in 5-AAA. The Owls are playing at Cleveland, a team likely in the playoffs but battling for better position and quite possibly a first-round home game. East Hamilton could finish No. 2 with a win next week against Bradley Central.

Among the title-deciding games next week are Marion County/South Pittsburg in 6-A, Silverdale Baptist/Boyd-Buchanan in 5-A, Sequatchie County/Signal Mountain in 7-AA and Rhea County/Stone Memorial in 6-AAA. The Rhea/Stone game could be played twice -- next Friday as well as the following week depending on the TSSAA's postseason draw.

In the convoluted TSSAA playoff system, teams play in the same district although they could be separated into separate postseason classifications such as South Pittsburg (Class 1A) and Marion County (2A) and Signal Mountain (4A) and Sequatchie County (3A).

The TSSAA is supposedly on top on the playoff scenarios but has Signal Mountain as the area's highest ranked Class 4A team at No. 18. Hixson is lower and East Ridge below that.

"Those rankings don't yet take into account the teams that finish first or second," Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "Because of our record (6-2) we're about a four or five seed, but they haven't considered district championships or district runners-up."

The one that's hard to figure, and they're mulling it over in Athens, is the fact that McMinn County beat Bradley Central 28-8 but Bradley currently is among the teams ranked high enough by the TSSAA standard to get in while McMinn County, although at 2-2 possessing one more district win than Bradley, is out.

The quandary is based for now on overall record -- Bradley has four total wins and McMinn County three -- and neither Bradley nor McMinn is going to finish first or second and secure automatic entry.

It is another puzzle that may not be decided until every game has been played and every district champion and runner-up spot decided.

"We'll be sitting and waiting until late in the evening next Friday or even Saturday morning before we know," Fitzgerald said. "I kind of like it because of the suspense. In the old days you knew what district and what team from that district you'd be playing."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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