The final week of the high school football regular season kicks off with a bang on Thursday night.
CAK and Alcoa have combined for the last eight state championships in the last eight years and will square off Thursday night in a game that will decide the District 4-AA championship.
The Warriors beat Alcoa twice last year, in the final regular season game (24-14) and in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs (38-37), ending Alcoa’s seven year reign as state champion.
Another district championship (4-AAA) will be decided on the field on Friday night when Lenoir City travels to Maryville.
The top two teams from each district are guaranteed a playoff spot and given priority when seeding teams. In 6A, 5A, 4A, and 3A the top 32 teams in the TSSAA playoff rankings make the playoffs. In 2A and 1A the top 24 teams make it. If a district champion or runner-up is outside of the final playoff rankings, they will replace the lowest ranked team in the playoffs.
The playoff rankings are based first on overall wins, then a series of tiebreakers. The first tiebreaker is the number of teams on the schedule that have won at least 50% of their games.
For district championship/runner-up scenarios, click here.
Let’s take a look at the playoff contenders from the area (numbers represent the teams’ TSSAA playoff ranking).
2. Maryville (9-0, 6-0) (vs. Lenoir City)- The Rebels are riding a 38-game winning streak and are looking to lock up another district title and home-field advantage through at least the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.
8. Sevier County (8-1, 6-0) (at Morristown East)- The Smoky Bears have clinched the district title and will play at home in the first round. A win could help get them a better seed.
11. Oak Ridge (8-1, 7-0) (at Campbell County)- Oak Ridge’s only loss came to Maryville. The relative weakness of District 3-AAA hurts Oak Ridge in the playoff rankings, but winning the district title should earn them a home game in the first round.
14. Jefferson County (7-2, 4-2) (at South-Doyle)- The Patriots need to win and have Morristown West lose to Seymour to claim the District 2-AAA runner-up spot. Regardless of what happens in Week 10, Jefferson County will make the playoffs, but most likely will be stuck with a tough road game against Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett or Maryville in the first round.
15. Bearden (7-2, 4-2) (vs. Catholic)- The loss to West last week pretty much cost the Bulldogs a chance at the 4-AAA runner-up. Bearden can still finish second but they would need Heritage (0-9) to pull off a miracle upset over West for that to happen. It’s looking like Bearden will be saddled with a tough first round fate similar to that of Jefferson County.
36. Hardin Valley (4-5, 3-4) (at Karns)- The Hawks need a win and some help from several teams throughout the state to back into one of the final playoff spots.
3. Powell (9-1, 7-1) (open date)- The Panthers are sitting pretty with an extra week to rest and prepare for the postseason. They have already locked up the District 3-AAA runner-up and should have home-field through the quarterfinals.
4. Lenoir City (8-1, 6-1) (at Maryville)- The Panthers are having their best year since 1996 and will be rewarded with at least one home playoff game. Lenoir City will win the District 4-AAA title if they can pull off an upset over mighty Maryville.
9. South-Doyle (7-2, 4-2) (vs. Jefferson County) A win will make the Cherokees the IMAC (2-AAA) runners-up and tie the school record for regular season wins. A victory also ensures a home game in round one.
10. West (7-2, 4-2) (vs. Heritage)- Last season the Rebels finished 8-2 and secured a #2 seed on their way to a second straight state semifinal appearance. West is on the right track again this season.
11. Morristown West (6-3, 4-2) (at Seymour)- A win and a South-Doyle loss makes the Trojans the IMAC runners-up and gives them a home game in the first round. This year’s team isn’t as dominant as last year’s squad that reached the quarterfinals but if running back Malachi Horton is back to 100 percent that could change.
27. Central (5-4, 5-2) (vs. Halls)- Central will be without its best play-maker, running back JaJuan Stinson, for the rest of the year. If the Bobcats can handle the Red Devils they will lock up their first postseason trip since 2006.
28. Catholic (4-5, 2-4) (at Bearden) – The Fighting Irish are one of 13 5A teams that head into Week 10 with four wins. That means they will need a win against a tough Bearden team to stay in the top 32.
37. Seymour (4-5, 1-5)(vs. Morristown West) and 40. Anderson County (4-5, 4-3)- Both schools are on the outside looking in right now and need wins to have a chance at the postseason.
9. Fulton (7-2, 5-0)(at Union County)- The Falcons have already clinched the District 3-AA crown. A win and a Livingston Academy loss would give Fulton home-field through at least the quarterfinals.
12. Greeneville (6-3, 5-0)(vs. Claiborne)- The two-time defending state champs have the district title locked up. The Greene Devils have had to play only one road playoff game in the last two years. They will do more traveling than that if they make it back to Cookeville this year.
14. Sequoyah (6-3, 2-1)(vs. Sweetwater)- The Chiefs can claim the District 5-AA runner-up position with a win. Sequoyah will make its third straight playoff trip after an 0-10 season in 2009.
22. Carter (5-5, 4-2)(open date)- The Hornets can rest up and get ready for the first round of the playoffs. Carter takes the runner-up spot in 3-AA if Pigeon Forge beats Gatlinburg-Pittman (watch that game on 10News2 at 7:30 P.M. Friday).
24. Gibbs (5-4, 2-3)(vs. Austin-East)- The Eagles snapped their four-game losing streak last week against Union County. A win over A-E cements their playoff spot, but they could still make it even if they lose.
28. Grainger (4-5, 3-2)(at Cumberland Gap)- Grainger will be tabbed the 2-AA runner-up if they beat the Panthers Friday night.
1. CAK (9-0, 4-0)(at Alcoa)- A win over rival Alcoa gives the Warriors their second straight district title and first undefeated regular season in school history.
5. Alcoa (8-1,4-0)(vs. CAK)- The Tornadoes would love to exact revenge on the team that ended their season early for the first time in seven years. A win gives Alcoa the district title and home-field through the quarterfinals.
14. Kingston (6-3, 2-2)(vs. Loudon)- The Yellow Jackets have a playoff spot wrapped up but a win would help their cause towards getting a first round home game.
19. Sweetwater (6-3, 1-2)(at Sequoyah)- The Wildcats can claim the District 5-AA runner-up with a win. A loss won’t keep them out of the postseason.
21. Loudon (5-4, 2-2)(at Kingston)- Loudon’s playoff standing looks solid, but a win would help ease the Redskins’ minds.
23. Gatlinburg-Pittman (5-4, 3-2)(vs. Pigeon Forge)- The Highlanders just need a win over their rivals to pick up the 3-AA runner-up spot.
35. Pigeon Forge (4-5, 1-4)(at Gat.-Pitt.)- Pigoen Forge is on the outside looking in right now. All they can do is win and hope for some help to reach the postseason.
36. Austin-East (3-6, 3-2)(at Gibbs)- The Roadrunners are a long shot but its still possible for them to sneak into the playoffs. It won’t happen without a win at Gibbs though. A-E’s tough schedule will help it win any potential tiebreakers.
3. Grace Christian (8-1, 5-0)(at South Pittsburg)- The Rams went undefeated last year, but were on probation and couldn’t participate in the postseason. Grace beat eventual state runner-up South Pittsburg in the final game last season. A repeat performance this year would give the Rams a first-round bye and home-field through the quarterfinals.
5. Oneida (8-1, 5-0)(vs. Jellico)- The Indians should easily handle Jellico and claim a first round bye. Oneida already has the district championship wrapped up.
22. Rockwood (5-4, 2-2)(at Midway)- It’s possible that the Tigers could cling to one of the last couple of playoff spots with five wins. A sixth victory over the Green Wave guarantees Rockwood a spot.
24. Oliver Springs (4-5, 4-2)(vs. Williamsburg KY)- Booker T. Washington in Memphis has only three wins, but because they finished second in their district they have taken over the final playoff spot from Oliver Springs. The Bobcats can get in with a win and some help. They’ll be rooting against Rockwood and Trinity Christian.
3. Greenback (8-1, 3-1)(vs. Harriman)- The Cherokees shouldn’t have any trouble with Harriman. If everything goes as planned they’ll grab a first round bye and home-field through the quarterfinals. For that to happen, they’ll need Cloudland and Copper Basin to lose their games.
4. Coalfield (8-1, 4-1)(at Oakdale)- The District 3-A runners-up are in a similar situation to Greenback. If Cloudland and Copper Basin lose, the Yellow Jackets will get a first round bye.
20. Midway (5-4, 2-2)(vs. Rockwood)- The Green Wave will reach the postseason regardless of what happens on Friday night.
28. Sunbright (3-6, 2-3)(vs. Wartburg)- The Tigers have a slim chance to make it with a win and some help.