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Who is going to win state football championships?
It’s a good thing they don’t play on paper because the playoffs would be over after this column was published.
But here are picks for which teams will grab the gold ball in 2021.
Class 6A — Maryville
Oakland is favored, and the Patriots wore the Rebels out in last year’s semifinals. But Maryville has won two of the last three meetings.
Darkhorse: Like Oakland, Summit is defending its state title. And although moving up from Class 5A to 6A can be a big step, the Spartans are a good bet to reach the title game.
Class 5A — Powell
It’s hard to get past what the Panthers showed against Science Hill. This is a loaded team with a great chance to win it all, but they likely will have to beat Knoxville West to do it.
Darkhorse: Green Hill. Some team is coming out of the west to face the favored east side, and the Hawks look like the top threat.
Class 4A — Greeneville
There’s too much speed for any team in the state to handle for four quarters. Elizabethton has the experience and the titles, but the Greene Devils proved to be the better team in the first meeting.
Darkhorse: Pearl-Cohn. The Firebirds lost to Tullahoma by three points, but a state quarterfinal rematch could tilt the other way.
Class 3A — Alcoa
Six titles in a row is all the evidence needed.
Darkhorse: There really isn’t one, but Covington has the best history and played Alcoa tough twice in 2018 and 2017 title games.
Class 2A — Meigs County
This would be the “Finally!” title. The Tigers have lost just seven games over the last six years, but have no titles. They finished runner-up in each of the last two seasons.
Darkhorse: Decatur County Riverside has a reasonable path to get to the championship game.
Class 1A — Peabody
The Golden Tide might not have what it would have taken to win a fourth straight Class 2A title, but one division lower it will be a beast to remove from the bracket.
Darkhorse: South Pittsburg wouldn’t have to play Peabody until the finals, but would have to beat undefeated and top-ranked McKenzie. That wouldn’t be the toughest team the Pirates have faced this year because one of their losses came against Class 6A power Oakland.
SCIENCE HILL LOSSES
The Hilltoppers enter the Class 6A playoffs with three losses, but they came against state-title contending teams.
If the postseason wasn’t geographically limited — it isn’t in basketball or baseball, where teams from the same district can play for a state title — an argument could be made that all three teams would be favored to at least play for a championship.
Elizabethton defeated the Hilltoppers 34-15 in the season opener. If the Cyclones and Greeneville could meet in the Class 4A state title game, instead of the quarterfinals, it’s reasonable to think they would.
Powell beat the Hilltoppers 42-14 in Week 4. It can be argued that Powell versus Knoxville West would make the best Class 5A title game.
And Maryville topped the Hilltoppers 41-17 in Week 6. If Maryville and Oakland could meet in the finals, instead of the semifinals, it would match expectations for these talented teams.
Before the season started, our staff came up with some picks for the 2021 football season.
It looks like we had some strong hits.
Science Hill will come up with a historic win in the playoffs. (This is still in play. Reaching the quarterfinals would qualify because that’s the deepest postseason penetration the Hilltoppers have ever had).
Even though this is a clear rebuilding year, Dobyns-Bennett will still have a solid season. (The Indians didn’t finish the way they wanted, but 7-3 is very respectable).
West Ridge will win a playoff game. (The Wolves earned a home game, giving this pick a better chance of coming through).
The Trailblazers will hold up nicely against a tough schedule. (After a rough start, Boone did indeed hold up and won the Region 1-5A title).
Sans some of the big names from recent past, the Pioneers will still make noise. (A playoff win is probably needed to make this pick come through, but Crockett is at home).
The postseason could be more impressive than the regular season for Elizabethton. (Cyclones’ fans are hoping this comes true because it would take a win over Greeneville).
Blue Devils bold?
Unicoi County will win the Region 1-3A championship. (Been there, done that. Nice season for Unicoi County).
Hampton will win the Region 1-2A title and make an impressive postseason run. (This first part missed the mark, but only by six points as the Bulldogs fell to South Greene. Part II is still in play).
Unaka asserts itself as a playoff presence. (The Rangers took care of this one by earning a home playoff game. Unaka may be a slight underdog, but no longer an afterthought in the postseason).
Here are the Region 1 football teams that received votes from the Press/Times News this week:
Class 6A: 9. Science Hill
Class 5A: None
Class 4A: 1. Greeneville, 2. Elizabethton
Class 3A: 7. Unicoi County
Class 2A: 6. South Greene, 10. Hampton
Class 1A: 6. Cloudland
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Since all playoff games are important, here’s a look at who is favored in games involving Region 1 teams.
Science Hill by 7 over Farragut
West Ridge by 3 over Cleveland
Maryville by 24 over Dobyns-Bennett
Bradley Central by 21 over Jefferson County
Halls by 1 over Daniel Boone
David Crockett by 3 over Sevier County
Knox Central by 17 over Tennessee High
Knox West by 27 over Morristown West
Elizabethton by 17 over Carter
Greeneville by 21 over South-Doyle
Fulton by 21 over Volunteer
Anderson County by 21 over Seymour
Unicoi County by 17 over Austin-East
Alcoa def. Johnson County by forfeit
Pigeon Forge by 16 over West Greene
Gatlinburg-Pittman by 12 over Chuckey-Doak
Hampton by 15 over Monterey
Rockwood by 27 over Happy Valley
South Greene by 28 over York Institute
Oneida by 18 over Cumberland Gap
Cloudland by 12 over Greenback
Midway by 4 over Unaka
Oakdale by 28 over Jellico
Coalfield by 36 over North Greene