With only three weeks remaining in the Tennessee high school football regular season, we’re quickly starting to get a clear picture of what the postseason will look like.
Heading into Week 9, here’s what the playoff picture currently looks like.
In Class 2A, Oneida has already secured a playoff berth. The Indians will be battling for the right to host a first round game when they face Monterey at Jim May Stadium Friday evening (8 p.m., IHSN). Oneida enters the game 5-2 overall, while Monterey also comes in at 5-2. The difference is that the Indians have a loss in region play (to Rockwood), while the Tigers have not lost a region game.
If Monterey wins on Friday, the Wildcats will lock up the region championship and the No. 1 playoff seed outright. Oneida will settle into third place and travel to the Region 1-2A runner-up in the first round of the playoffs.
If Oneida wins on Friday, it creates a 3-way tie atop the region standings, with the Indians, the Wildcats and Rockwood all sharing a claim of the lead. The first tiebreaker is overall record, and Oneida would control its own destiny for a region championship and home playoff game at that point, with the best record out of the group (Monterey would be 5-3, while Rockwood is currently 3-3).
However, Oneida also has the toughest schedule remaining out of the three teams, with a Halloween weekend showdown with Coalfield looming. Rockwood and Monterey don’t face an opponent of that caliber the rest of the way.
If the three teams all finish with identical overall records, the tiebreaker becomes more complicated. There is a caveat, though. Rockwood lost a game to covid. While it was declared a no-contest by TSSAA rules, the Tigers can finish with no more than six wins. If Rockwood were to finish 6-3, and Oneida and Monterey were to both finish 7-3 (the Indians also lost a game to covid, but the TSSAA considers that a win since it was Oliver Springs — not Oneida — that was forced to cancel), Rockwood is eliminated from that first tiebreaker. That would leave Oneida and Monterey, and the Indians would have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
So, basically, this week’s game against Monterey is a de facto region championship game for both the Indians and the Wildcats.
The fourth playoff seed from Region 2 will be York Institute, who will travel to the Region 1 champion for the opening round of the playoffs.
South Greene has already secured the top seed in Region 1. The No. 2 seed will be the winner of Cumberland Gap and Hampton on Friday, a game in which Hampton will be a considerable favorite.
So we already know that South Greene will host York in the first round. Hampton will likely host whichever team finishes third in Region 2. That will be Oneida if the Indians fall to Monterey this week. If the Indians win, it’ll likely be Rockwood.
The No. 3 playoff seed in Region 1 will be the loser of the Hampton-Cumberland Gap game, and they will travel to the Region 2 runner-up for the first round game. The No. 4 playoff seed in Region 1 is Happy Valley, which will travel to the Region 2 champion.
So it’s not hard to see why the stakes are so high for Friday’s Oneida-Monterey game. There’s a consequential difference in facing Hampton, which is a state-ranked team, and facing Happy Valley, which has won only one game all season.
In Class 4A, Scott High has not been mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. But the Highlanders, who enter this week’s game against Fulton with an overall record of 1-5, also have the toughest schedule remaining. In addition to the Falcons, the Highlanders also still have to face region-leading Anderson County in a season-ending road game.
While Anderson County is only 4-4 overall, the Mavericks are unbeaten in region play, with just Scott remaining.
Second place right now belongs to South Doyle, though a game between the Cherokees and Carter on Oct. 22 will ultimately determine second place. The Hornets are currently in third place.
Fulton is currently in fourth place. Having already defeated Gibbs, the Falcons can wrap up a playoff berth this week if they defeat Scott High. A loss to Fulton would eliminate Scott from playoff contention.
The Falcons also have a game remaining against Carter, so they’re still in the hunt for a potential three-seed, though that’s as high as they can get, barring an upset loss by South Doyle to Gibbs on Oct. 29.
Despite not being mathematically eliminated from the playoff race, Scott does not control its own destiny in the hunt for a postseason berth. Here’s why.
Gibbs is currently ahead of the Highlanders in the standings, by virtue of its 49-19 win in Huntsville on Oct. 1. If the Eagles were to upset South Doyle on Oct. 29, the best Scott could do would be to tie the Eagles in the standings, and Gibbs would have the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Complicated? Sorta. But the bottom line in Region 2-4A is that Anderson County has wrapped up the top seed, while everyone else is still trying to sort things out. The Oct. 22 game between South Doyle and Carter and the Oct. 29 game between Fulton and Carter will be critical for determining who else from Region 2 gets to host a playoff game, and that could potentially wind up being a three-way tie, depending on how things shake out.
On the other side of the bracket, Greenville is the clear-cut No. 1 seed — not to mention the top-ranked team in the state. So whichever team winds up the four-seed in Region 2 will enjoy a trip to face the Green Devils in the first round. This week’s game between Elizabethton and Volunteer will determine the No. 2 seed, and who gets to host a playoff game. Seymour is likely to be the No. 4 seed. Sullivan East hasn’t been mathematically eliminated from the playoff hunt, but would need wins over Greeneville and Volunteer to get in.