The third week of the playoffs was certainly a memorable one as three rural West Tennessee teams advanced to the state semifinals Friday night with victories.
Here are a few things to take away from those results.
Liberty’s defense: Milan ended the first quarter at Liberty with a 36-yard touchdown run by Anthony Ballard. That would prove to be the Bulldogs’ only score, but it’s also the only score Liberty has allowed in the postseason after shutting out Raleigh-Egypt and Melrose in the first two rounds.
Liberty’s offense: The Crusaders’ defense has gotten a lot of attention as of late, as it should after having given up 13 points in its last six games. But let’s not forget the team’s production on the scoreboard. While the Crusaders have allowed seven points in three playoff games, they’ve scored 100 in those same games, which includes a scoreless first half in the first round.
Similar history: The last time Trinity Christian Academy played in the Class 2A state championship game in Cookeville (2010), Signal Mountain was the Lions’ opponent. The TSSAA had just reclassified the schools a month before, and Signal Mountain was about to move up to 4A. So TCA essentially played a 4A team for the championship. TCA is hosting Trezevant this week in the semifinals, who has been a perennial power in 4A the last few years, for a shot to return to Cookeville. Ironically, TCA had to beat McKenzie to play that 4A team last time, too.
New ways to win: Much has been said and written in the past 10 weeks about how essential the play of Andrew Goldsmith has been to TCA’s success after the Lions’ 0-4 start. Their one loss since then was the game in which they thought Goldsmith had torn his ACL. Similar circumstances seemed to play out again this week when Goldsmith tweaked his knee in the first half. But he stayed in the game and directed the offense and still helped the Lions pull away from the hosting Rebels. Big plays by Eli Parker, Tyler Thomas, Chris Tucker and Sergio Pagoaga helped TCA maintain the lead.
Malone’s effectiveness: A lot of people believe Peabody quarterback Kendrick Malone is one of the top athletes in rural West Tennessee football. Considering how effective he is as a dual threat in that role, that’s a valid argument. The question this week going into the Dresden game was would Malone’s presence in the backfield make Peabody 39 points better? That’s hard to say, but the Tide went from a 39-0 loss to a 21-point win in the playoffs. Peabody is a dangerous team.
Postseason win streak: The Golden Tide have won eight straight playoff games now dating back to their state championship run last year. The list of teams they’ve beaten on that streak is an impressive list for fans around here: Huntingdon, TCA, McKenzie, Adamsville, Marion County, KIPP, Union City and Dresden. Since that streak started, they’ve suffered as many losses as they’ve had head coaches – two apiece. The most recent two wins avenged those losses.
Trash talk backfired: There was a lot of off-the-field talk about Peabody’s off-field conduct after videos and photos circulated on social media last week and head coach Shane Jacobs issued a public apology on Monday. Any effort to quiet that talk on Friday in pregame and keep the focus on the field went out the door when Peabody opened the door to the visiting locker room at Dresden. After a photo was shared of a Peabody player with his hands on a wall-mounted television, pictures made the rounds Friday afternoon of a television that had been placed in Peabody’s locker room this week with post-it notes saying “Please don’t take me.” No public comments were made about the incident, so it’s not known if Peabody took the television. But the Tide did take the win.
Long trips next week: Liberty has played all three of its games at home on its own campus as the Crusaders got to do that being the Region 7-3A champions. Peabody has played on the road all three games, traveling to Memphis then Union City then Dresden. TCA has been on the road all three weeks as well, with trips to Scotts Hill, Adamsville and McKenzie. TCA will get to host its first game in the semifinals. Liberty and Peabody will both hit the road to Nashville for their games, which will be Liberty’s first of the postseason. Host teams were decided in TSSAA bylaws. The first three rounds of the playoffs are essentially four eight-team tournaments pitting the top four teams from adjacent regions against each other (Regions 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, and 7 and 8 are the four pairings). The 1-2 pairings are viewed as Quadrant 1, then 3 and 4 are Quadrant 2 and so on until 7-8 are Quadrant 4. The winners of the odd quadrants will host in odd years no matter the records of the semifinalists, and the even quads will host in 2016.
Brandon Shields, 425-9751