The 2021 Tennessee high school football season will bring with it new region alignments across the state, making for some intriguing races around the area.
The new regions are for the next two seasons before more changes could come in 2023.
Who stands to benefit from a new region placement?
More favorable regions
- Dickson County (Region 6-6A) – Far and away the most improved situation. Dickson County escapes the gauntlet of Williamson County teams to meet up with Smyrna, La Vergne and four Metro squads (Antioch, Cane Ridge, McGavock and Overton). And it’s a big improvement in the Cougars’ playoff prospects, too. Dickson County factors into the postseason picture immediately in 2021. The Cougars were 0-20 in region play the last four years, but that should no longer be an issue as they could be in line for their first playoff appearance since 2012.
- Nolensville (Region 6-5A) – Nolensville essentially took Summit’s place in what was Region 5-5A. The Knights are an immediate favorite to win the region, and the high ranking is based on the playoff prospects of not having to go through Elizabethton in the semifinals again. However, they’ll likely have to go through one of the next two teams on this list.
- Mt. Juliet (Region 5-5A) – The Golden Bears scored a big win by dropping to 5A and avoiding the playoff gauntlet that is Rutherford County. The region could come down to Mt. Juliet and Hillsboro, and they might meet again in the quarterfinals or have to face Nolensville in that round. Either way, their prospects for a deep playoff run increase tenfold with the new alignment. Mt. Juliet’s last semifinal appearance came in 2012. Keep that note handy throughout the season.
- Hillsboro (Region 5-5A) – The Burros don’t have to face Beech in the region anymore, but Mt. Juliet takes the Buccaneers’ place as their chief region hurdle. Most of what was said about Mt. Juliet applies to Hillsboro as well. They could also make a run, though it will be with a new head coach as Maurice Fitzgerald is retiring. In a wide-open class, take your pick. Hillsboro’s last semifinal appearance came in 2014. Make a note of this one, too.
- Pearl-Cohn (Region 5-4A) – The ridiculousness of their region geography aside, moving to 4A isn’t a bad thing for Pearl-Cohn, as they’ll be the Region 5 favorite and get to travel west in the playoffs. Since Alcoa is content staying in 3A (and with their current title run, nobody would blame them), the Firebirds should benefit by moving up.
- East Nashville (Region 5-3A) – And by Pearl-Cohn’s move, former region rival East Nashville benefits greatly. It could come down to the Eagles and Stratford for the Region 5-3A crown, as Maplewood will have a new head coach following Arcentae Broome’s departure for Overton. Jackson County and Smith County are the other region teams they’ll face and both could struggle in this region.
Less favorable regions
These six teams have a tougher road in the next two years, though all of them could still be playoff teams or make deep runs:
- Franklin (Region 7-6A) – You could also throw Centennial here as well, because Summit’s addition makes Region 7-6A arguably the best Division I region in the state. It means the Admirals and Cougars have extra work to do to reach the playoffs. Franklin made a run to the 6A quarterfinals last year, but they lost quite a bit of offensive production and will have a new head coach as well in former Summit defensive coordinator Alex Melton.
- Davidson Academy (Division II-AA Middle) – A program that has won three consecutive state titles will see its level of difficulty increase further in 2021. That’s what happens when you jump up in classification and land in a region with three 2020 semifinalists, including both finalists and defending champion CPA. One of those two champions is guaranteed to not repeat this year, and it makes for some intriguing region matchups.
- Portland (Region 7-5A) – Portland joins Springfield in moving up to Class 5A and moving into the Clarksville-area region that includes perennial power Henry County. The Panthers, who promoted assistant Wes Inman to head coach, could still challenge for a playoff spot against Kenwood and Northwest.
- Clarksville (Region 5-6A) – Clarksville, along with Rossview and West Creek, jumps up to 6A and finds itself facing Beech, Gallatin and Hendersonville. In the Montgomery County-versus-Sumner County region, Sumner County has the edge, but the Wildcats do win simply by not having to deal with Henry County in their region or in the first three rounds of the playoffs.
- Stewarts Creek (Region 4-6A) – Stewarts Creek could still be a playoff team in 2021, but the region competition ratchets up a few notches in an all-Rutherford County region. They’ll face defending 6A champ Oakland, quarterfinalist Riverdale and a potentially resurgent Blackman team while trying to fend off Siegel and Rockvale. A good challenge lies ahead for the Red Hawks.
- Lebanon (Region 3-6A) – What’s important about Region 3-6A is that every one of those teams could make a case for winning the region and every one of them could finish last. Competitively, it’s a fascinating region. It won’t be like your typical five-teamer where there’s usually one squad earmarked for the basement. You can do a lot of things right and still finish last. Lebanon could win this region, and if the Blue Devils do, they would likely avoid a first-round matchup against one of Oakland, Riverdale or Blackman.
Follow Chris Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_615 and on Instagram @cbrooks615.