All playoff games kick off at 7 p.m.
Twitter poll results based on combined results of 24-hour polls tweeted out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings this week.
Division II-A Semifinal
USJ (9-3) at Northpoint Christian (12-0)
Previous score: 2012 – USJ 40, Northpoint Christian 12 (They were SBEC then.)
Common opponents: Both teams went 3-0 vs. Tipton-Rosemark, FACS and ECS. Northpoint Christian’s average score in those games was 45-11.7. USJ’s average was 42.7-7.
Player to watch: USJ linebacker Campbell Carlock
Twitter poll results: USJ – 175; Northpoint Christian – 83
Why USJ can win: The defense has been as good as just about anybody’s in the first half of both playoff games so far, and the offense was productive last week. After the Bruins jumped out to a big lead, the offense did a quality job of milking the clock and staying ahead as time wound down in the second half.
What to know: This will be the second week in a row for the Bruins to play an undefeated team. It’s not often Northpoint has been this far in the playoffs, but it’s been four years since USJ has been this far. The final four remaining teams in the semifinals are from the two West Tennessee districts in Division II as St. George’s and Harding Academy is the matchup in the other semifinal.
Class 1A Quarterfinal
Peabody (10-2) at Dresden (11-1)
Previous score: Oct. 2 – Dresden 39, Peabody 0
Common opponents: Both teams went 6-1 against the rest of Region 7-1A in the regular season with Union City beating both teams to claim the region title. Peabody beat Union City last week in the second round of the playoffs.
Players to watch: Peabody RB Brandon Johnson; Dresden LB Brice Williams
Twitter poll results: Peabody – 299; Dresden – 151
Why Peabody can win: Kendrick Malone wasn’t playing quarterback for the Golden Tide the last time these teams met. It was the following week when head coach Shane Jacobs moved the senior back under center after improving his behavior off the field. Since then, the Golden Tide are 5-0, averaging more than 46 points per game in that stretch.
Why Dresden can win: They won by 39 points the last time they played, so the question may be does the move for Malone to quarterback improve Peabody by 39 points. Dresden’s offense gets plenty of attention because of the fact the Lions average better than 48 points per game, but their defense is among the stingiest in the state as they average about eight points allowed per game. If both sides can play as well as they did the last time they met, it may not matter what players Peabody puts in certain positions.
What to know: Peabody appears to have had the tougher road in the playoffs to this game, having pulled away from an 8-2 KIPP Academy team then ending Union City’s 38-game win streak. But it’s not like Dresden has needed late-game heroics to beat inferior competition the last two weeks, outscoring Middle College and Carver by a combined score of 118-14. Both teams are on a roll right now, and this game will probably be considerably closer than their regular season matchup that ended with the clock running.
Class 2A Quarterfinal
TCA (7-5) at McKenzie (8-4)
Previous score: Oct. 2 – McKenzie 44, TCA 24
Common opponents: They both played Riverside in non-region play in the regular season, and McKenzie played the Panthers again in the playoffs. Counting their records against the rest of Region 6-2A in the regular season and their wins over region rivals last week in the playoffs plus McKenzie’s extra win over Riverside, the Rebels are 5-2, and the Lions are 5-1.
Players to watch: TCA DL Chris Tucker; McKenzie RB Eric Robinson
Twitter poll results: TCA – 222; McKenzie – 95
Why TCA can win: The Lions played their best defensive game of the season last week at Adamsville, holding the Cardinals to 21 points and making big plays down the stretch to keep them from tying the game late. Andrew Goldsmith was unstoppable at quarterback, and McKenzie never figured him out before he got hurt early in the regular season meeting before he came out early in the second quarter.
Why McKenzie can win: When the Rebels are playing their best, they are very hard to stop. They have been hard to stop in the first two weeks of the postseason as they avenged a regular season loss last week and beat Jackson Christian by 33 points when they lost to the Eagles earlier by 17.
What to know: The winner of this game will host a semifinal game next week, and it will be the only rural West Tennessee team hosting as everyone else will travel into Middle Tennessee. TCA is more battle-tested coming into this with the win over the region champion, but there still may be a mental block there since TCA hasn’t beaten the Rebels. That thinking will collide with the notion that it’s hard to beat the same football team twice in one season.
Class 3A Quarterfinal
Milan (9-3) at Liberty (12-0)
Previous score: Sept. 4 – Liberty 30, Milan 8
Common opponents: Both teams went 6-0 against the rest of Region 7-3A. Liberty’s average score in those wins was 45.5-14.5. Milan’s was 33.8-11.
Players to watch: Milan RB J.P. Porter; Liberty DB Alec Long
Twitter poll results: Liberty – 281; Milan – 165
Why Milan can win: Since 2008, the football program at Milan hasn’t lost a game it’s played between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The one time the Bulldogs didn’t make the playoffs in that stretch, they still ended the 2013 season with a win on Nov. 1. But the coaching staff at Milan know how to prepare their team for the playoffs. The 2015 Bulldogs are better in Week 14 than they were in Week 3 and are playing stouter defense. They’ve kept a couple of athletic offenses from Region 8 from producing like they normally do.
Why Liberty can win: The Crusaders wouldn’t be undefeated going into the state quarterfinals with wins over teams like Henry County, North Side, Westview and the Milan team they’re hosting tonight if they didn’t have the capability to win one more this evening. The defense has been the best in rural West Tennessee as they’ve shut four of their last five opponents out, including two playoff teams from Memphis they outscored 68-0.
What to know: This will be a physical game. There’s a good chance the winner of this game will be the first one that reaches 21 points because both defenses have been playing so well as of late. The Bulldogs feel like they didn’t put their best performance on the field when they played Liberty the first time, so they will try to show them a better glimpse of what Milan football is all about this time around.
Class 4A Quarterfinal
Memphis East (11-1) at Lexington (10-2)
Common opponents: Ridgeway, Haywood and Hardin Co. Memphis East went 3-0 against the group, beating them by an average score of 24.7-15.7. Lexington Ridgway (31-26) and Haywood (22-8) and lost to Hardin Co. (30-13).
Player to watch: Lexington QB Tylan Johnson
Twitter poll results: Lexington – 157; Memphis East – 88
Why Lexington can win: The Tigers have won seven straight games after a slow start to the season. The last three wins in that streak have been the most impressive as they beat Crockett County to get into the playoffs, Ridgeway in the first round and North Side last week by a combined score of 109-46. The offense has been clicking well by using the different options to carry the ball they have at their disposal, and the defense has given up 20 or more points three times all year with the most being 30.
What to know: Memphis East will probably be the biggest team the Tigers have faced all year, which the two main competitors for that title already on Lexington’s schedule are Ridgeway and Haywood. East will bring a lot of speed to the game as well, comparable to Hardin County, whom Memphis East beat soundly last week in the second round. The Tigers will need to enter this game ready to fight for 48 minutes if they want to go to the semifinals.
Compiled by Brandon Shields