Looking back on round two of the playoffs with some observations:
Not so fast, my friends: Neither Trousdale County nor Watertown was necessarily the pick to win its second-round game, but don’t tell that to anybody putting on a helmet in Hartsville or Watertown. The Yellow Jackets ended two years of frustration against its former semifinal-round tormentor, knocking off Meigs County 16-8, while the Purple Tigers slammed the door shut on Marion County’s run with a 7-0 victory. It now sets up a Trousdale County-Watertown quarterfinal for the fourth consecutive season. Watertown will also host it for the fourth consecutive season. However, the Yellow Jackets have won the three previous playoff meetings.
Waking up from a Knightmare: Andrew Southard’s right foot will be remembered as one of the reasons Pope Prep broke an 0-for-16 drought against Brentwood Academy and advanced to the program’s first-ever semifinal round. Southard drilled his third field goal of the night as time expired – his second such game-winner this season – as the Knights prevailed 24-21 after trailing 14-3 early in the contest. They’ll head to McCallie, and it’s very likely nobody will pick them to win, but they’ve already done something no JPII team has accomplished before.
Down (a top player), but not out: No Barion Brown, no problem for Pearl-Cohn. The Firebirds took to the road for perhaps their most impressive win of the season without their top player, knocking off previously unbeaten Hardin County 31-21. Jayden Robinson carried the load offensively with 224 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Next up – a rematch with Tullahoma. Pearl-Cohn nearly rallied from a 24-0 deficit in the teams’ first meeting on Sept. 24, but suffered a 24-21 loss for its lone blemish this season.
What isn’t a rematch next week?: There are several games next week that aren’t rematches of a 2020 playoff contest or a 2021 regular season meeting. Lebanon hosts Oakland for the first time since 2008 (a 17-14 Lebanon win). Oakland won playoff meetings at home in 2017 and 2019. Meanwhile, White House and East Nashville will tangle for the first time ever in the Class 3A quarterfinals, while Page visits Green Hill for its first-ever meeting with the Hawks. Nashville Christian and Middle Tennessee Christian meet for the first time since 2016 in the Division II-Class A semifinals. And MBA hosts Christian Brothers in the Division II-Class AAA semifinals. Those two teams played last year in the final week of the regular season.
Forced to the road: Some region champions will be forced to hit the road for quarterfinal games next week due to the way the brackets are constructed. If two teams from opposite regions in the Division I quarterfinals face each other, the top team on the bracket is the home team this season, regardless of record or seed. That means Gordonsville, White House, Page and Oakland will be visiting teams in their respective third-round showdowns.
In the semifinals, the top team on each bracket hosts this year, regardless of seed. That means Watertown, Springfield and Summit will be hosting their final games of the season, win or lose. The TSSAA should reexamine this format. If one team is a higher seed in the semifinals, it should host, not just arbitrarily give it to one side of the bracket based on whatever year it is. There isn’t enough reward for region champions as it is, but this one’s a no-brainer of a change.
Making travel plans now: At least three BlueCross Bowl championship games are already guaranteed to feature teams from the 615 Preps coverage area. In Class 6A, the entire western half of the bracket features area teams (Beech, Hendersonville, Ravenwood, Summit), while Division II-Class A has an all-area semifinal (Nashville Christian at MTCS), as does Division II-AA (Davidson Academy at Lipscomb Academy). Three area teams remain in 5A (Green Hill, Page, Springfield), two each in Division II-AAA (Pope Prep, MBA), Class 3A (White House, East Nashville), and 2A (Trousdale County, Watertown), and one each in 4A (Pearl-Cohn) and 1A (Gordonsville).