The road to the Blue Cross Bowl begins on Friday night with the first round of the playoffs.
We’ll take you through every match-up featuring Knoxville area teams.
#8 Hardin Valley (5-5) at #1 Maryville (10-0)- Hardin Valley snagged a playoff berth with its win over Karns in the final regular season game. The Hawks are rewarded with their first ever meeting with defending state champion Maryville. The Rebels have reached the state title game every year since 2003.
#5 Science Hill (9-1) at #4 Oak Ridge (9-1)- Both of these schools suffered their only losses against two of the state’s best teams- Dobyns-Bennett and Maryville. Oak Ridge and Science Hill haven’t played each other since 2005 when the Wildcats won by 20. The Hilltoppers were knocked out in the second round by Maryville last year while Oak Ridge lost in the quarterfinals.
#6 Jefferson County (8-2) at #3 Sevier County (9-1)- The Patriots and Smoky Bears met back in August and the game went down to the wire with Sevier County coming out on top 23-22. Jefferson County has one of the best defenses in the area while Sevier County has a high-powered passing attack.
#7 Bearden (8-2) at #2 Dobyns-Bennett (10-0)- Despite having a great season Bearden gets a tough draw with one of the state’s best programs in Dobyns-Bennett. The Indians have won 32 of their last 34 games. One of those defeats came at the hands of Bearden in the second round of the 2010 playoffs.
#8 Central (6-4) at #1 Powell (9-1)- These two teams met just two weeks ago and the Panthers came out on top 20-0 to earn the District 3-AAA runner-up. Central lost star running back JaJuan Stinson to a foot injury in that game and he won’t return this season. Freshman Jeremiah Howard stepped up for the Bobcats and rushed for 194 yards and 4 touchdowns to vault them into the playoffs with a win over Halls. Powell had a bye in Week 10.
#5 South-Doyle (7-3) at #4 West (8-2)- The Rebels have reached the state semifinals two years in a row. To get back there they’ll have to get past a tough South-Doyle defense. The Cherokees have pitched four shutouts this year but they come into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak.
#7 Cherokee (6-4) at #2 Morristown West (7-3)- We have another rematch between a pair of IMAC schools. The Trojans held off a Cherokee second half comeback for a 31-25 win back in Week 2. Malachi Horton racked up 257 rushing yards for Morristown West in that game and looks to be back at 100 percent after an ankle injury slowed him down in the middle of the season. Both teams feature dynamic offenses that average over 30 points and 380 yards per game.
#6 Anderson County (5-5) at #3 Ooltewah (7-3)- Anderson County won its final three games to qualify for the playoffs and will head south to the Chattanooga area to face the Owls. Ooltewah is on roll, having won five in a row by an average margin of 33.4 points. AC’s senior quarterback Micah Hodge might be limited after dislocating his knee two weeks ago, however, Hodge did play three quarters last week against Clinton. Fortunately for the Mavericks their running game has been strong this season. Andy Long has piled up over 1,700 rushing yards.
#7 Walker Valley (5-5) at #2 Lenoir City (8-2)- The Panthers reached the quarterfinals last year with a pair of road playoff wins. This time Lenoir City earned at least one playoff home game after a solid season. The Mustangs come from the same district as Anderson County’s opponent Ooltewah.
#8 Grainger (4-6) at #1 Livingston Academy (9-1)- Grainger narrowly slipped into the playoffs despite losing its final two games. The Grizzlies four wins came against teams with a combined 10-30 record. Livingston Academy’s lone loss came by one-point and the Wildcats handed DeKalb County its only loss.
#6 Gibbs (6-4) at #3 Greeneville (7-3)- These two teams last met in the 2010 quarterfinals with Greeneville winning 42-3. The two-time defending state champion Greene Devils have lost more games this year than the last two years combined but a tough schedule is the culprit (Alcoa, Science Hill, Morristown West). The Greene Devils bulldozed through district play, winning their final five games. Gibbs has been inconsistent but the triple-option offense led by dynamic quarterback Jay Cade can be explosive.
#7 Carter (5-5) at #2 Fulton (8-2)- The Falcons demolished Carter 53-0 three weeks ago. Fulton’s defense smothered the Hornets and allowed Daryl Rollins and company to rack up a 28-0 lead early in that contest. Fulton would love to get a second round game with Greeneville, who embarrased the Falcons in last year’s quarterfinals.
#5 Chuckey-Doak (6-4) at #4 Gatlinburg-Pittman (6-4)- The Highlanders snagged the District 3-AA runner-up with wins over Carter and Pigeon Forge in their final two games to earn a home game in the first round.
#8 McMinn Central (5-5) at #1 Alcoa (9-1)- Alcoa’s defense has shutout four teams and had another three games where it allowed only seven points. The Tornadoes are on a mission to Cookeville and CAK might be the only team that can stop them.
#6 Loudon (6-4) at #3 CAK (9-1)- Before CAK can even think about a rematch with Alcoa, it has to get past fellow District 4-AA team Loudon. The Redskins gave CAK some trouble in their game earlier this season. Loudon kept the Warriors offense off the field in the first half and led 27-21 at halftime. CAK recovered to win 56-34. The Warriors were without wide receiver Josh Smith (UT commit) in that game but Davis Howell stepped up with 13 catches for 223 yards. Smith will play in this game and Howell will play also, despite a broken thumb on his left hand.
#7 Kingston (6-4) at #2 Polk County (7-3)- The Wildcats eliminated Kingston in the first round of the playoffs last year. Kingston started the year 5-0, but has since gone 1-4.
#1 Grace Christian (9-1)- FIRST ROUND BYE– Grace running back Will McKamey is back home after being airlifted to a Chattanooga hospital following a brain injury suffered against South Pittsburg. The Rams have an extra week to gather their thoughts and prepare for a second round game with either Hampton or Silverdale (both 9-1).
#6 Rockwood (6-4) at #3 Boyd Buchanan (9-1)- The Tigers are the only team in this quadrant that isn’t 9-1. The Bucs only loss came against last year’s 4A state runner-up Maplewood.
#2 Oneida (9-1)- FIRST ROUND BYE– The Indians only loss was to Greenback (9-1) in the first game of the season. Oneida handed Coalfield its only loss of the season.
#1 Greenback (9-1)-FIRST ROUND BYE- The Cherokees only loss was by seven points to Grace Christian. Other than that Greenback smashed every team in its path including five shutouts and an average margin of victory of 39.3 points. They face the winner of Copper Basin-Lookout Valley.
#2 Coalfield (9-1)-FIRST ROUND BYE- The Yellow Jackets advance to the second round where they will face the Cloudland-Midway winner. Aside from the loss to Oneida, Coalfield hasn’t allowed more than 10 points in a game.
#1 Webb (8-1)- FIRST ROUND BYE- Other than a first-game loss to Alcoa and a 13-0 win over Catholic, the Spartans haven’t been challenged. Webb will face the Harding Academy-Zion Christian winner in the quarterfinals as they chase their third state title in four years.