While one high school football team already knows its postseason fate down to where and who it’ll play, three local teams know they’re in the dance while two others are hoping and praying for some kind of minor miracle.
Fort Campbell’s four-district set up in Class 3A in Kentucky is a simple formula to follow. After the Falcons dropped rival Trigg County, 40-37, last Friday the Falcons finished second in its district, knowing Edmondson County awaits in the first round of the 3A playoffs next week at Fryar Stadium.
Rossview, Northeast and Clarksville Academy are all near-locks for playoff football in Tennessee next week. The Hawks have dominated this season and will enter the 6A playoffs as the state’s eighth-ranked team. Northeast has had a strong district record throughout and should return to postseason play with head coach Isaac Shelby.
Clarksville Academy’s path to the Class A playoffs may be the most impressive considering just about every key, skill player on the offensive and defensive side of the ball has been injured – and a few out for the season – and yet the Cougars will still advance.
But for Kenwood and Clarksville High, the playoff water is murky.
“The way I’m seeing it right now, I don’t see a four-win team getting into the playoffs in 5A,” Kenwood coach Brian Beaubien said. “I mean, I guess it’s possible that a four-win team will get in, but I don’t see it happening this year in this classification.”
Four-win teams are certainly capable of crashing the postseason and have been regular fixtures in the Tennessee football playoffs since the introduction of six classifications four years ago. In some instances, three-win teams have advanced. But Kenwood’s worry is that, with its current 4-5 record heading into Friday’s regular season finale against Northeast, a loss against the Eagles would essentially knock the Knights out.
“This week is big for us,” Beaubien said. “Now, I’m not going to say that I completely understand how a team is selected in the playoffs because it can get really complicated, but from what I can gather, if we win (Friday) I think we’re in. If we lose, we’re out.”
If the playoffs began today, Kenwood would just be on the outside, looking in. Thirty-two teams in each classification advance to the playoffs and, according to the TSSAA web site, Kenwood sits as the No. 33 rated team in 5A. The Tennessean’s projected playoff pairings have Kenwood as one of three teams in 5A (along with Columbia and Cherokee) who are listed as “just missed” if the playoffs began today.
“All we can do is focus on us,” Beaubien said. “We have to focus on what we can control, and that starts with a great week of practice and then playing Northeast on Friday and seeing what we can do. I know for our senior class, this is a huge opportunity. No Kenwood team has made back-to-back playoff trips, so this will be another chance for our kids to do something special.”
Kenwood could have sealed its playoff spot last week, but Clarksville High rallied for a 14-12 win that Beaubien said was difficult for his team to overcome.
“Our kids wanted that win bad,” he said. “They want that respect around the city. They felt that they were the better team that night, but you have to give Clarksville a ton of credit, particularly their defense. But the fact that we do have another opportunity in front of us gives us some hope.”
Wildcats hoping for a longshot
Clarksville’s situation is much more dire. The Wildcats must travel to Springfield and knock off the Yellow Jackets. But that would only be CHS’ fourth win of the season, and if Beaubien is correct, that won’t be enough for Clarksville to get into the 5A playoffs.
Clarksville will have to rely on other 5A teams with similar records to lose and somehow come out on top of the majority of the 16 different tie breaker rules set in place for teams with identical records.
“Our philosophy since the Henry County game (Oct. 11) has been that we’re already in the playoffs,” CHS coach Ken Busbee said. “We’ve approached every game like that. You have to. You wish that we could have won some games early in the year so that it wouldn’t put so much pressure on us on the back end, but our reality is where it is.”
Clarksville (3-6, 3-3 in D10AAA) has won three of its last four games, dropping only that game to the Patriots, but CHS is still the 37th team rated in the 5A playoff group.
“Do we have a shot? We have a very small shot,” Busbee said. “We’ll go to Springfield (Friday), try to pull out a win and then keep our fingers crossed and see what happens around around 7 or 8 on Saturday morning.”
What projections are out there?
The Tennessean playoff projections have Rossview and Clarksville Academy playing first-round home games next week if the playoffs began today, so those projections are subject to change by Saturday morning. However, the Nashville paper’s playoff outlook could be fun to debate.
The Cougars end the regular season Friday against fourth-ranked Nashville Christian, which could leave the Academy at 6-4 overall and 3-2 in District 10-A play. In The Tennessean’s scenario, the Academy plays host to district rival Jo Byrns. But that could shift dramatically after Friday’s games. Jo Byrns also enters Friday’s game with a 3-1 district record but faces a much easier task against Houston County. A win by Jo Byrns coupled with an Academy defeat Friday could see the Cougars on the road for the opening round of the playoffs.
The Tennessean has Northeast projected to hit the road in Quadrant 3 of 5A and face a familiar foe in Beech if the playoffs began today.
The Bucs lost Tennessee signee and All State player Jalen Hurd early in the year with a torn labrum. But the Bucs were ranked much of the year, and the defending state champs are capable of repeating. Last year’s Ealges-Bucs 5A quarterfinal was a classic as Hurd and Northeast’s Jalen Reeves-Maybin (who is already in Knoxville, earning playing time as the Vols’ special teams stalwart) put on a show before Beech captured a 44-43 victory. So a first-round rematch next week would be highly interesting and entertaining.
The Tennessean penciled in Rossview to play host to Hendersonville in Quadrant 3 in 6A. The Hawks should have no trouble dispatching Northwest Friday to go 9-1 on the season and 6-1 in district. Whether that means Rossview will actually face the Commandos is uncertain at this point.
With a week remaining in the regular season and districts champions to be determined, along with a variety of ways that exist to sneak into the playoffs, nothing is set in stone yet and only Saturday morning will tell the true story.