Every team has hit the halfway point of the high school football season, with many region contests still to be played before playoff spots are determined.
Those early non-region tests are largely out of the way, with a couple of major in-region battles thrown in for good measure.
Injuries haven’t been a huge factor to this point (and every team needs to knock on wood, just in case), so that gets a B+ for largely staying away so far.
No team has gone unscathed through five weeks, but some are trending in the right direction while others have scuffled in the first half.
Don’t like your grade? That’s okay. The great thing about the second half of the season is those are the games that will define playoff hopes, so these grades can massively change between now and the end of October. But the only way to change a grade for the better is by simply playing better. These grades are not on a curve. Rather, they’re on their own individual merit, because not every team is in the same classification.
In alphabetical order, here’s how the class stacks up:
I was admittedly down on the Buccaneers entering the season, with less depth than usual and a younger core of key players.
Then, Hendersonville happened, and that upset raised a lot of eyebrows around the region. It signaled that Beech wasn’t rebuilding – just reloading – and there was enough firepower to make waves.
The Buccaneers almost did enough to knock off Cane Ridge, and a decision to go for the win at the end does not hurt this grade. Beech is playing A+ defense right now, and the Buccaneers are in good shape for the stretch run with two of the three biggest games on the schedule already behind them. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk from here.
The only reason this isn’t an A or an A+ is that dreadful first half against Wilson Central. It can’t be erased, though if the two teams played again right now, it might be a different outcome.
Gallatin also would like to have Week 1 back, and although the Green Wave can’t reverse their opening loss at Mt. Juliet, it doesn’t make a terrible dent in this grade, either.
Jordan Mason (99 carries, 1,085 yards, 11 touchdowns) is a bona fide Mr. Football candidate in Class 5A, and after switching quarterbacks to junior Collin Minor, the Green Wave passing game has helped to balance the offense more.
This isn’t an A or an A+ because the Green Wave have played their two region games against Hunters Lane and Glencliff, neither of which offered any resistance. The real tests are still to come.
But Gallatin holds all the cards in Region 6-5A, and that’s a good place to be at the halfway point.
Two points keep the Commandos’ grade from being higher. Those same two points also keep Hendersonville from first place in Region 6-5A with two losses in the ledger.
The Cane Ridge classic aside, Hendersonville’s defense has played A-level football with the exception of the final 12 minutes at Beech. Curiously enough, the Commandos had enough votes to be noted in last week’s Class 5A Associated Press statewide poll, but even after defeating Hillsboro, Hendersonville lost points in the poll this week and dropped completely out.
Winning against Hillsboro helps tremendously in potential tiebreakers, as nobody in this region wants to finish fourth and possibly travel to Independence in the first round of the playoffs.
Pope John Paul II: B+
This is the most competitive team the Knights have fielded since Golden Tate suited up a decade ago. Plenty of experience and skill line the starting lineup. Defeating Father Ryan was a huge victory for the program just to get the region losing streak out of the way.
A .500 regular-season finish is very much possible, and if the Knights can upend one of MBA, Baylor or McCallie, that elusive first playoff victory could be in sight, too. Playing Ensworth tough was very telling in how competitive this team is, and the Knights’ first half has been pretty good. Time will tell, though, how this grade finishes out.
The Panthers’ schedule gets a little more favorable in the second half of the season, if only because Pearl-Cohn is already in the rear-view mirror. After producing a goose egg in the opener, Portland’s offense found some traction and defeating long-time rival White House in convincing fashion is the highlight of the season so far.
Three more region games await, and if the Panthers can take one, a second consecutive playoff appearance is likely. Portland’s season hinges on its Oct. 28 game at Macon County.
Station Camp: B-
The Bison have been up-and-down so far, with two shutouts book-ending a road victory at Rossview and two blowout losses to strong teams.
Station Camp can control its own destiny with five games remaining, and that’s more than a lot of teams can say at this point in the season.
The Bison have arguably the toughest four-game stretch around in the next five weeks (Gallatin, at Hendersonville, Beech, at Cane Ridge), so Station Camp will earn everything it gets in the second half of the season.
After a dreadful start to the season with two shutout losses, the Eagles are headed in the right direction with much-improved play since region games have started.
A near-upset of sixth-ranked (and still undefeated) Forrest sparked the Eagles to back-to-back wins to close out the first half of the season.
A playoff spot is Westmoreland’s as long as the Eagles continue to play well in those region games.
White House: F
Nothing has went right for the young Blue Devils this season, and a proud, tradition-rich program is going through one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory. An offense that struggled to score points last season hasn’t made gains in that department, and everybody else in Region 5-4A has improved from last year. Losing to Portland for the second-consecutive season was a tough blow. However, the season isn’t lost just yet.
It’s looking more and more like it will take two region victories to finish in the top four, so the Sept. 30 contest against Macon County is a must-win game. The region’s top-two teams – Pearl-Cohn and Maplewood – wait in the final three weeks of the season.
Sadly for the Blue Devils, 0-10 is most definitely in play, but winning even one game will improve this grade come season’s end.