Preseason Prep: Potential title contenders

With nine championships up for grabs, plenty of teams have high hopes for grabbing a title in Chattanooga this season.

The Middle Tennessee area has several teams that might fall under the “contenders” category. For this exercise, we’re highlighting teams that have a reasonably good chance to not only reach the BlueCross Bowl, but win it.

Two more of these groups will come this week, with Sleepers (Tuesday, Aug. 17) and Noisemakers (Wednesday, Aug. 18)

Oakland: For obvious reasons, the Patriots get first mention. Jordan James. Isaiah Horton. Antonio Patterson. Good luck trying to slow them down, let alone stop them. Hard to figure anything other than a slew of injuries keeping the defending 6A champs from a shot at going back-to-back.

Ravenwood/Summit/Independence/Brentwood: Lumping four Williamson County teams together may seem like a cop-out and it probably is, but here’s the skinny – Region 7-6A will be the most competitive in the state this year and its survivor has a very good chance at getting to the BlueCross Bowl. Although Memphis teams return for 2021, they lost a year on the field and they may not recover from that for quite some time. WillCo’s got the edge, especially in quarterback play, and a semifinal with one of the 6A sleepers would be their only hurdle left to a championship game appearance. Getting there is one thing. Winning it is an entirely different – and more difficult – ask.

Independence is one of handful of Region 7-6A teams that could come out of the western half of the Class 6A bracket this season. (Chris Brooks/615 Preps)

Mt. Juliet: The Golden Bears could go unbeaten during the regular season. Their schedule certainly is favorable enough to do so, although Lebanon might have something to say about it. They may not have the bigger-name players as some of their counterparts, but they find a way to knock some of them off, too. The 5A playoffs, however, are as wide-open as any, especially in the western half of the bracket. Henry County presents a major hurdle, as does the next team on this list.

Nolensville: One big reason to put the Knights on this list is that Elizabethton – who knocked Nolensville out in the 4A semifinals the past two years – is no longer their problem. Another one is that the Knights could have one of the more explosive offenses in the area. Samson Johnson and Chance Fitzgerald are two outstanding talents that teams will have trouble slowing down this year. They’ll have a shot at getting past Mt. Juliet and/or Henry County in the postseason.

Pearl-Cohn: The Firebirds would love another crack at Milan and even though Pearl-Cohn moved up to 4A, they could get it as the Bulldogs also jumped up in classification for 2021. The Firebirds will likely come out of the state’s largest region to challenge for the 4A crown, though Haywood and Milan certainly present a challenge in the playoffs. Barion Brown may not leave the field and could very well play as many different positions as possible to help his team win.

East Nashville head coach Jamaal Stewart could have the Eagles making big moves in his season season. (Chris Brooks/615 Preps)

East Nashville: Pearl-Cohn’s departure from 3A opens the door for East Nashville to take its best shot at a deep run. The Eagles should certainly improve in Jamaal Stewart’s second season at the helm and they could get to Chattanooga – but Alcoa will most likely be waiting for them there.

Trousdale County: Class 2A has largely seen the same teams late in the playoffs and 2021 likely won’t be the exception. For the Yellow Jackets, that means another potential date with Watertown in the quarterfinals and Meigs County in the semifinals. After falling in the semifinals the past two years, the third time’s the charm, right? Keenan Burnley hopes so.

DCA: They were close last year and although they lost some talented skill players, Davidson Academy moved up to Class AA and that swings the door wide open. The Wildcats could be in position to take advantage, especially with Bradford Gaines at quarterback.

Nashville Christian: Same goes for Nashville Christian, where the Eagles have got to be tired of losing to the eventual champion in the playoffs. The window’s open for them, too.

Could CPA and Lipscomb Academy be on a collision course for another BlueCross Bowl showdown? (Drake Williams/615 Preps)

CPA: Defending AA champ returns most of the starters including an All-State quarterback (Cade Law) and linebacker (Langston Patterson) who each would love another ring before both head off to Vanderbilt. Check.

Lipscomb Academy: Class AA runner-up returns most of the starters including an Elite 11 participant at quarterback (Luther Richesson) and a likely Mr. Football candidate at running back (Alex Broome) in addition to more Power 5 talent on the roster. Check.

MBA: An improved defense in addition to a potentially high-powered offense led by a junior quarterback (Marcel Reed) who has already played in several huge games during his first two seasons. Difficult playoff bracket, but the Big Red should be game.

Follow Chris Brooks @Brooks_615 on Twitter and on Instagram @cbrooks615.

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