Looking back on the final week of the regular season and what stands out in the playoff brackets:
DeKalb County wins and doesn’t even play: Earlier this week, we all thought DeKalb County was done for the year after positive COVID-19 tests came back. But unlike other school systems, DeKalb County’s didn’t allow contact tracing to see how many players were affected. That is, until Friday. The school board reversed course, allowed contact tracing and the Tigers appear to be on track to play in round one of the 4A playoffs at home against Spring Hill. They would have had nothing to play for seeding-wise against Cumberland County, so the week off turns into a bye week to be ready to go in the first round. It’ll be a story worth watching as the playoffs unfold.
Division II-AAA’s West Region is a mess: The extra week given to Division II-AAA teams to make up games is huge, since the West Region is turning into the region nobody can run away with. A four-way tie for first place entering the final week means several possibilities. All four teams involved — Pope John Paul II, MBA, Christian Brothers and MUS, in their current running order — could finish in a different position than they currently occupy. MBA plays St. Benedict and Christian Brothers plays Briarcrest next week, while JPII and MUS have to sit and watch.
- There are three different scenarios in play:
- If MBA wins — MBA is first, Christian Brothers is second, MUS is third, JPII is fourth.
- If MBA loses and Christian Brothers wins — Christian Brothers is first, JPII is second, MBA is third, MUS is fourth.
- If both teams lose — JPII is first, MBA is second, Christian Brothers is third, MUS is fourth.
MBA holds all the cards, while JPII is a big Briarcrest fan this week.
Home, sweet home: Only a handful of teams can say they have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The winners of Region 4 and Region 8 can claim that this season in Division I. Gordonsville earned that right in Class 1A with a win at Monterey, while Hendersonville did the same in Class 6A by beating Mt. Juliet. In Division II-Class A, both DCA and Davidson Academy won’t have to travel for playoff games before a potential BlueCross Bowl trip. Same goes for Brentwood Academy and whichever team emerges from the West Region in Division II-AAA. In AA, however, Lipscomb Academy might have to travel for a semifinal if ECS advances to that round, since the West Region’s top seed is scheduled to host the game this year (it rotates each year). With the exception of DCA, all of the other teams mentioned also had something in common in Week 11: they all won on the road.
The waiting game: If it wasn’t for Shelbyville and Franklin County getting into a fight last week, the Class 5A quadrant with regions 5 and 6 would be set. But after that brawl, both teams were hit with postseason bans, and Shelbyville — occupying the second seed in Region 5-5A at the time — is planning to appeal. That will be heard on Monday, and the decision that emerges will help set that bracket. Until then, coaches have to plan for two separate opponents, with the possible exceptions of Hillwood and Summit, as it appears those two will square off in round one regardless of the ruling.
Intriguing 6A playoff openers: Class 6A has some good matchups in round one, which isn’t always the case. Warren County visits Mt. Juliet, and the Golden Bears will be hard-pressed to stop C.J. Taylor after he rushed for nearly 200 yards against Oakland. Wilson Central visits Riverdale, and the Warriors must keep Zavier Ali under control. Ali just became the Wildcats’ all-time leading career rusher on Friday, with 1,702 rushing yards across two seasons. He has 1,262 yards and 13 touchdowns this year. And Hendersonville hosts a resurgent Blackman team that has ridden the Drew Beam-to-Todd Lark connection in the past few weeks to climb back in the postseason picture. And then there’s Cane Ridge traveling to Brentwood. The Ravens might have had some tough weeks down the stretch, but with their playmakers, would you count them out?
If we’re looking ahead … and we are: Potential second-round games include Fairview at Pearl-Cohn, Nolensville at DeKalb County, Warren County or Mt. Juliet at Oakland, Riverdale at Hendersonville, and Independence at Brentwood. And there are more that could surface in 5A and Division II-AAA. Buckle up and dress warmly. November football is upon us.