Bracket breakdown: State football playoffs

Bracket breakdown: State football playoffs

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Bracket breakdown: State football playoffs

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Bryce Matthews

Bryce Matthews

Lazarius Patterson

Lazarius Patterson

The TSSAA state football playoffs begin Thursday. Here’s a bracket breakdown for each of eight classification:

The TSSAA state football players are less than a week away.

The TSSAA state football players are less than a week away.

Oakland's defense is allowing just 12.9 points per game this season.

Oakland’s defense is allowing just 12.9 points per game this season.

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

CLASS 6A

Darkhorse: Oakland (9-1). The Patriots aren’t exactly a secret, but to pick anyone other than Maryville out of the top half of the bracket is going out on a limb. The Patriots have the talent to challenge the Rebels for a spot in the BlueCross Bowl.

Oakland's JaCoby Stevens.

Oakland’s JaCoby Stevens.

Players to watch:

JaCoby Stevens, WR/DB, Oakland — The LSU commitment has made 23 catches for 545 yards and 9 TDs while also recording 59 tackles, 1.5 sacks, five interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a pair of defensive scores; Taeler Dowdy, RB, Blackman — The senior has been one of the most consistent Midstate performers all season long, eclipsing the 100-yard  mark in all but two games while totaling 1,439 yards rushing and 18 TDs; Lazarius Patterson, RB, Oakland (1,061 yards rushing, 13 TDs); Chris Rowland, WR, Ravenwood (1,461 all-purpose yards, 14 total TDs); Kyle Evans, QB, Franklin (1,304 total yards, 17 TDs); Joey Hayes, QB, Mt. Juliet (1,670 yards passing, 15 TDs).

First-round matchup to watch: Siegel (2-8) at Bearden (6-4). The Stars are 2-8 and a No. 6 seed but are very capable of playing with third-seeded Bearden. This could be a shootout. Don’t be surprised if both teams surpass 35 points before the final horn sounds.

Collision course: Oakland at Maryville, semifinals (Nov. 27). Could be the two best teams in the state. Only one will get to play for the title. This would be a rematch of last season’s 6A semis (with Maryville winning 26-14).

Noteworthy: All 32 teams in the new “Super 6” reached the playoffs, leaving some potentially ugly first-round matchups. Included in that is an 0-10 Antioch team having to travel four hours to face a 9-1 Whitehaven squad and a 1-9 Warren County team having to travel three hours to face a Maryville team that has won 40 games in a row and 83 of its last 84.

BlueCross Bowl matchup predictions:

Cecil Joyce: Maryville over Ravenwood.

Michael Murphy: Maryville over Whitehaven

Sam Brown: Maryville over Ravenwood

Centennial running back Tyrel Dodson (25) has ran for 428 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

Centennial running back Tyrel Dodson (25) has ran for 428 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

CLASS 5A

Darkhorse: Henry County (8-2). The Patriots aren’t far removed from a 5A title but are coming off a tough loss to Centennial in the 7-5A title game last week. The Patriots have ability and could easily see themselves in the quarterfinals, but would then have to pull off some upsets to get a shot at a trip to Cookeville.

Andrew Bunch

Andrew Bunch

Players to watch:

Andrew Bunch, QB, Independence — Bunch missed substantial time with an elbow injury, but the senior has still thrown for 1,867 yards and 25 touchdowns on 120-of-181 (66.2%) passing; Tyrel Dodson, RB/LB, Centennial — Dodson has rushed for 432 yards and 11 touchdowns on 63 carries this season, and theTexas A&M commitment has also posted 69 tackles, six sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery; Carson Croy, QB, Brentwood (1,774 total yards, 11 TDs); Nate Johnson, WR, Independence (1,038 yards receiving, 11 TDs); Rodrick Napper, RB, Beech (1,398 yards rushing, 21 TDs); Terrell Carter, RB Hendersonville (965 yards rushing, 11 TDs); Maleik Gray, WR/LB, La Vergne (440 yards receiving, 52 tackles, 12 total TDs); Malique Flemming, RB/DB, Hillsboro (580 total yards, 5 TDs, 65 tackles).

First-round matchup to watch: Cane Ridge (8-2) at Independence (10-2). Cane Ridge was solid in a tough Region 6-5A, but the task of slowing down the top-ranked Eagles and Bunch will be daunting.

Collision course: Hendersonville at Independence, second round (Nov. 13). Hendersonville’s lone blemish was a loss to Hillsboro, but the nine Commando victories were all by double digits. Hendersonville reached the 6A final two seasons ago and reached the second round of the 6A playoffs last season. Independence is averaging 43 points.

Noteworthy: For the last several years, the 5A bracket hasn’t been stacked with a lot of talented teams. That will change this year. Midstate squads such as Centennial, Independence, Henry County and Hendersonville will all have a shot at reaching the final, while the East half of the bracket has heavyweights such as Farragut, Oak Ridge, Ooltewah and Sevier County. Top to bottom, this is arguably the best playoff bracket.

BlueCross Bowl matchup predictions:

Joyce: Independence over Farragut

Murphy: Independence over Farragut

Brown: Independence over Oak Ridge

Pearl-Cohn quarterback Jimmy Ferrell (1) has thrown for 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.

Pearl-Cohn quarterback Jimmy Ferrell (1) has thrown for 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

CLASS 4A

Darkhorse: Kenwood (7-3). The Knights did win their region (6-4A) but aren’t a household name across the state, with the likes of Fulton, Marshall County, Memphis East and Lipscomb Academy in the same bracket. But, with the Midstate’s top rusher (Antwuan Branch, who has gained 713 yards and 10 touchdowns in the past two weeks), Kenwood could be poised to made a solid run.

Antwuan Branch

Antwuan Branch

Players to watch:

Antwuan Branch, RB, Kenwood — Branch has piled up a Midstate-leading 2,179 yards rushing and 23 TDs on 268 carries, leading the Knights (7-3) to the Region 6-4A championship; Ashton Posey, QB, Marshall County — Posey has been lights out this season, throwing for 2,435 yards and 24 TDs on 164-of-248 (66.1%) passing, and the senior has also added eight rushing scores; Dylan Linder, RB, Livingston Academy (1,870 yards rushing, 18 TDs); Jimmy Ferrell, QB, Pearl-Cohn (2,000 yards passing, 21 TDs); Tre Crutcher, WR, Marshall County (919 yards receiving, 9 TDs); Rontavius Groves, WR, Pearl-Cohn (665 yards receiving, 9 TDs); Michael Magochy, QB, Page (2,039 yards passing, 18 TDs).

First-round matchup to watch: Hillwood (5-5) at Springfield (7-3). The Hilltoppers, making the playoffs for the first time since 2004, have played tough defensively all season and will get a huge test against a Springfield offense that boasts three backs capable of breaking long runs, including quarterback Dewayne Buckner.

Collision course: Marshall County at Fulton, semifinals, Nov. 27. This would be a treat for offensive-minded fans as the Tigers, led by one of the top passers in the Midstate (Ashton Posey) would battle a Fulton team that has averaged 43 points and has scored more than 70 on three occasions.

Noteworthy: Giles County, two years removed from a 4A title game appearance, is making an improbable return to the playoffs after starting the season 0-6 and dismissing its head coach. The Bobcats, led by quarterback Jordan Tucker, have won three of four, averaging 35 points during that streak. Giles County will have a tough first-round contest, however, facing unbeaten Stone Memorial.

BlueCross Bowl matchup predictions:

Joyce: Fulton over Pearl-Cohn

Murphy: Fulton over Pearl-Cohn

Brown: Memphis East over Stone Memorial

Transfer Jake Beathard (4) has made a big impact in his first season at Fairview

Transfer Jake Beathard (4) has made a big impact in his first season at Fairview

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

CLASS 3A

Darkhorse: Upperman (8-2) — The Bees, led by dual-threat quarterback Daylen Watts, have strung together seven straight victories, and they’ve outscored their six Region 4-2A opponents by a combined 235-74 during that stretch. The team’s two losses include a 34-26 season-opening defeat against Class 6A Cookeville, as well as a 41-22 defeat at unbeaten 4A Stone Memorial.

Zach Weatherly

Zach Weatherly

Players to watch:

Zack Weatherly, QB, CPA — Weatherly’s stats don’t jump off the page, (1,545 total yards, 17 TDs) but the  Chattanooga commitment has been a consistent leader for the Lions; Jake Beathard, RB, Fairview — Beathard has been impressive in his first season with the Yellow Jackets, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark on the ground, which includes a 232-yard, two-touchdown effort against Stewart County, and the transfer is also one of the team’s top receivers; Steven Jennings, QB, DeKalb County (3,125 total yards, 28 TDs); Corey Simmons, ATH, Stratford (1,739 all-purpose yards, 16 total TDs, 34 tackles, four interceptions); DaVarius Cortner, QB/DB, East Nashville (1,198 yards passing, 11 TDs, 40 tackles, 4 interceptions)

First-round matchup to watch: Stratford (7-3) at Fairview (7-3) – The Yellow Jackets, who finished second in Region 6-3A, will be looking to improve upon last season’s postseason showing, which ended with an opening-round loss to Westmoreland. The upstart Spartans, meanwhile, are making their first playoff appearance since 2006.

Collision course: Liberty Magnet at CPA, semifinals (Nov. 27)

Noteworthy: Alcoa and Christ Presbyterian Academy have met in the last three Class 3A title games. Alcoa, which has won nine Class 3A championships since 2000, knocked off the Lions 25-7 in the 2013 championship, but CPA bounced back to beat the Tornadoes 7-0 a season ago. Whether or not we’ll see the rubber match this season remains to be seen.

BlueCross Bowl predictions:

Joyce: Alcoa over Liberty

Murphy: CPA over Alcoa

Brown: Alcoa over CPA

Westmoreland running back Dylan Todd (left) breaks free from a Portland defender.

Westmoreland running back Dylan Todd (left) breaks free from a Portland defender.

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

CLASS 2A

Darkhorse: Watertown (8-2) — The Purple Tigers didn’t win a region championship — they finished second in Region 4-2A to Forrest — but Watertown’s balanced offensive approach makes it a dangerous postseason opponent for any team.

Luke Turner

Luke Turner

Players to watch: 

Boone Sweeney, OL/DL, Forrest — The Rockets are averaging 303.7 yards rushing, and a big reason the senior lineman; Luke Turner, RB/LB, Watertown — Turner has been key on both sides of the ball, rushing for 1,215 yards and 17 touchdowns with a team-leading 118 tackles and three sacks; Daven Odom, Cade Brewer, Donovan Connor, RBs, Lewis County (1,969 yards rushing, 24 TDs); Seth Price, QB, Watertown (2,025 yards passing, 26 TDs).

First-round matchup to watch: Tyner (7-3) at Watertown (8-2) — Watertown looks to have all the pieces necessary to make a deep postseason run, but the Purple Tigers will first have to get by a solid Tyner team that enters the postseason having won four in a row.

Collision course: Marion County at Boyd-Buchanan, quarterfinals (Nov. 20).

Noteworthy: For virtually the entire regular season, Marion County and Boyd-Buchanan have occupied the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the Class 2A rankings. Marion County held the top spot through the first five weeks, and the two Chattanooga-area schools swapped spots following the Buccaneers’ 21-14 Week 6 win over the Warriors.

BlueCross Bowl predictions:

Joyce: Boyd-Buchanan over Trezevant

Murphy: Marion County over Trezevant

Brown: Marion County over Waverly

Jo Byrns running back Mikey Chennault (left) has rushed for 1,038 yards and 11 TDs this season.

Jo Byrns running back Mikey Chennault (left) has rushed for 1,038 yards and 11 TDs this season.

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

CLASS 1A

Darkhorse: Wayne County (10-0) — The Wildcats will by no means have an easy path this postseason. They’ll need to beat powers Nashville Christian and Union City just to reach the championship, but led by Preston Rice they’ve outscored their opponents 416-99.

Daniel Bituli

Daniel Bituli

Players to watch: 

Daniel Bituli, LB, Nashville Christian — Bituli, a Tennessee commitment, has 46 tackles, four fumble recoveries and 3.5 sacks, leading a Eagles defense that’s allowing just 10.2 points per game; Taylor Thompson, WR, Columbia Academy — Thompson has 50 receptions for 1,023 yards and 14 touchdowns; Mikey Chennault, FB, Jo Byrns (1,038 yards rushing, 11 TDs); Mareio McGraw, RB, Nashville Christian (685 all-purpose yards, 13 total TDs); Thomas Garrison, Columbia Academy (808 total yards, 13 TDs); Connor Thomas, RB, Clarksville Academy (1,259 total yards, 25 TDs); Preston Rice, QB, Wayne County (2,111 total yards, 32 TDs).

First-round matchup to watch: Trousdale County (7-3) at Huntingdon (9-1) — Aside from its 27-12 Week 9 loss to Wayne County, Huntingdon has been unstoppable, scoring at least 42 points in each of its nine wins. But Trousdale County, which finished third in Region 5-1A, just might be capable of pulling off an upset.

Collision course: Union City at Nashville Christian, semifinals (Nov. 27).

Noteworthy: Unlike the previous three seasons, Nashville Christian and Columbia Academy are on opposite sides of the bracket, and, therefore won’t meet this postseason unless it is in the Class 1A championship game on Dec. 4. That’s good news for the Bulldogs, who suffered season-ending defeats to the NCS in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

BlueCross Bowl predictions:

Joyce: Union City over Columbia Academy

Murphy: Union City over Columbia Academy

Brown: Union City over Columbia Academy

Brentwood Academy quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall (middle) breaks free from a Father Ryan defender.

Brentwood Academy quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall (middle) breaks free from a Father Ryan defender.

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

DIVISION II-AA

Darkhorse: Montgomery Bell Academy (9-1) — The Big Red suffered a demoralizing 48-14 Week 8 defeat at Brentwood Academy, but the defending-champions also lost last year’s regular-season matchup with Ensworth before bouncing back to beat the Tigers in the BlueCross Bowl.

MBA running back Ty Chandler

MBA running back Ty Chandler

Players to watch:

Ryan Johnson, Bryce Mathews, Brandon Adams, OL, Brentwood Academy — These three Southeastern Conference commitments have been the driving force behind an offense that has piled up 4,384 yards and 458 points; Ty Chandler, RB, Montgomery Bell Academy — The junior is without a doubt the Big Red’s top offensive weapon having racked up a Division II-AA leading 1,772 yards rushing and 27 total touchdowns; Darius Morehead, RB/DB, Ensworth (1,077 yards rushing, 14 TDs); Ryan Parker, LB/RB, Baylor (114 tackles, 6 sacks, 14 rushing TDs); Jeremiah Oatsvall, QB, Brentwood Academy (2,064 total yards, 18 TDs); Steven Regis, QB, MUS (2,255 yards passing, 16 TDs); Robert Riddle, QB, McCallie (1,934 yards passing, 14 TDs).

First-round matchup to watch: Father Ryan (4-6) at Ensworth (4-6). The Irish, who haven’t reached the second round since 2011, will have another shot at the Tigers after suffering a 37-17 loss to them just two weeks ago. For Father Ryan to have any kind of shot, it’ll need to do a better job of slowing Morehead this time around.

Collision course: Baylor at Brentwood Academy, semifinals (Nov.20).

Noteworthy: The East/Middle Region has produced the last five Division II-AA champions. Could 2015 be the year the West snaps that streak? Christian Brothers, led by former Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel, claimed the West Region championship behind senior running back Austin Lee’s 1,240 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns.

BlueCross Bowl predictions:

Joyce: Brentwood Academy over MBA

Murphy: MBA over Brentwood Academy

Brown: Brentwood Academy over MBA

Running back Sam Harvin is the Panthers' leading rusher and receiver.

Running back Sam Harvin is the Panthers’ leading rusher and receiver.

Tennessee high school football playoff brackets

DIVISION II-A

Darkhorse: Knoxville Webb (6-4) — Webb doesn’t have the most impressive record after dropping contests to Alcoa (35-0), Christian Academy of Knoxville (32-14), DCA (20-17) and Oak Ridge (62-6), but the Spartans without a doubt played the toughest schedule of any Division II-A squad. It would be unwise to count the three-time defending champions out.

Clayton Beathard

Clayton Beathard

Players to watch:

Clayton Beathard, QB, BGA — The reigning Division II-A Mr. Football Back of the Year has completed 134 of 248 (54%) pass attempts for 2,343 yards and 25 touchdowns with eight interceptions; Spence Jones, QB, FRA —  The four-year starter was the driving force behind FRA’s unbeaten regular season, accounting for 1,129 total yards and 17 TDs while also hauling in four interceptions; Kyle Gilbert, QB, Davidson Academy (1,845 yards passing, 314 yards rushing, 20 total TDs); Sam Harvin, RB, FRA (1,122 total yards, 16 TDs); Shannon Fayne, RB, DCA (1,111 yards rushing, 16 TDs); Marcus Cawthorne, WR, BGA (921 yards receiving, 15 TDs); Larry Wilhoite, RB, FRA (753 yards rushing, 10 TDs).

First-round matchup to watch: Battle Ground Academy (6-3) at Harding Academy (8-2). In order to make a second straight Division II-A championship appearance, the Wildcats, losers in three of their last four, will need to capture a road victory over a solid Harding Academy squad, which has won seven of its last eight.

Collision course: Knoxville Webb at FRA, quarterfinals (Nov. 13).

Noteworthy: For possibly the first time since dropping down to Division II-A prior to the 2009 season, Knoxville Webb, which has won five of the last six state championships, is not the favorite. That role belongs to unbeaten FRA, which is gunning for just its second state football championship and first since 1991.

BlueCross Bowl predictions:

Joyce: St. George’s over FRA

Murphy: Knoxville Webb over St. George’s

Brown: FRA over St. George’s

The Tennessean’s Cecil Joyce and Michael Murphy contributed to this report. 

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