The last two weeks are sure to provide plenty of drama as the playoff picture comes into focus. Let’s get to it:
Father Ryan. The Irish are now ranked third in DII-AAA after a sound win over defending state champ McCallie. They’ve locked up their first home playoff game in seven years and still have an outside chance to win the region outright. Can Father Ryan make a playoff run? Very few folks imagined them getting here, so why not?
Gordonsville. The Tigers traveled to No. 2 Fayetteville and came back with a very good road victory in Class 1A. They’re in line to make their Week 11 showdown with Monterey a region championship game with a chance to ensure home-field advantage through the semifinal round. Gordonsville has quietly put together one of the better seasons against expectations so far, but the battle is just beginning.
DeKalb County. More Tiger talk here, as Smithville’s bunch wrapped up its first-ever region championship on Friday with a last-minute win at Macon County. They have the preferred path for any team out of Region 3-4A, but they would have to go on the road in the quarterfinals unless one of its region mates also navigates to the third round. Still, it’s a big accomplishment for DeKalb County.
DCA. The Wildcats wrapped up their region crown by handling The King’s Academy on Friday. After this week’s game at Franklin Grace, the next road trip they hope to make is to Cookeville in December.
Gallatin. Add a 46-0 loss to longtime rival Hendersonville, in which they gave up nearly 400 yards on the ground, to their already-mounting struggles since a 3-0 start. At the beginning of the season, Gallatin was considered a potential contender. They’ve now lost five straight games and haven’t won at home since last October (also five straight), and now Beech comes marching in looking to take the Green Wave’s region title opportunity away. They’ll break their losing streak before the regular season ends as they host Glencliff next week, but that’s not a game you can build off of all that much entering the postseason. If Gallatin can put it together this week and take down the Buccaneers, then we can look at their season differently. If not, this may not end well.
The Region 6-6A champion’s playoff path. The worst thing that could happen to a team this year is to be sidelined in the playoffs by COVID-19 positive tests. On the field, it’s getting a dangerous Cane Ridge team that’s getting its legs under them in the first round. Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen to whichever team wins Region 6-6A. Cane Ridge will get the No. 4 seed coming out of Region 5 — barring a loss to La Vergne and two Overton wins — and although they’ve had two close losses to Smyrna and Hillsboro, the Ravens perhaps have some of the most talented playmakers to hit the turf on the western half of the Class 6A playoff bracket. It’s bad because a good team will go home on the first weekend. But it’ll make for a great first-round matchup from a fan’s perspective, though, and becomes an instant must-see game in round one. Under the current playoff system, we don’t get many of those.
Macon County. The Tigers were 45 seconds away from earning a critical Region 3-4A victory and getting to the last week with a shot at the region title. Now, they’re playing Livingston Academy for second and the right to host one of Marshall County, Tullahoma or Nolensville instead of traveling to play one of those three teams. They’re 1-2 since that 6-0 start and now need to regroup this week, because Livingston isn’t an easy place to get a win, although this current group of seniors did it two years ago. But in this season, when games are getting canceled as teams are sidelined, programs lose revenue when they can’t host games or completely fill the stands. Getting a home playoff game means more this year for just that reason — extra revenue. So, an opportunity to earn another home playoff game is even more important than ever. The Tigers — and every other team that can get one — must try to lock one up when they have the chance.