MURFREESBORO — To be the man, you have to beat the man.
On Friday, second-ranked Oakland gets that opportunity.
The Patriots travels to Shields Stadium for a Class 6A state semifinal against mighty Maryville. It marks the second time in two years Oakland has faced the Rebels with a trip to the TSSAA BlueCross Bowl Class 6A championship on the line.
Folks, let’s be honest.
Maryville is the best program in the 6A tournament. It has been since the TSSAA opted to add a sixth class. We often speak about the weakness of East Tennessee football, and there was validation this year when you look at the postseason.
But then there is Maryville. The word weakness isn’t associated with that program.
Maryville has a 43-game win streak. A win over Oakland would be its 100th overall win since moving up from Class 4A to 6A in 2009.
The Rebels offense is amazing to watch. It is quick-scoring. Their defense is suffocating.
They rarely make mistakes. And if they do, they recover quickly.
Take last week against Blackman when the Blaze twice forced turnovers inside the Maryville 6. The Blaze failed to move the ball either time and eventually a 14-7 Maryville advantage ballooned to 28-7 at halftime.
And the game was over.
That’s the thing with Maryville. To beat the Rebels you can’t play from behind. Trailing by two touchdowns is a death sentence. It forces teams to do things offensively they don’t want to do.
So what will Oakland do?
I would assume the Patriots will stick to the ground game with Lazarius Patterson, Kendrick Johnson and Brendan Matthews sharing the load. And don’t discount JaCoby Stevens in the wildcat.
But coach Kevin Creasy better be ready for Plan B. The Rebels will load up the box and force Matthews to air it out. If there are any plays you haven’t shown this season, now is the time to pull them out.
Seven years of losses have taught Rutherford County football fans two things.
Be humble and right now the Rebels are still king.
It’s now up to Oakland to dethrone them.
Kreager’s pick: Maryville 28, Oakland 14
Last week: 2-0.
Season: 84-14 (86 percent).
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 and on Twitter @Kreager