Predicting travel plans for TSSAA gold balls | Sports

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.

BOLD PREDICTIONS

Before the season started, our staff came up with some picks for the 2021 football season.

It looks like we had some strong hits.

Hilltoppers history?

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).

Indians incline?

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).

Wolves winning?

West Ridge will win a playoff game. (The Wolves earned a home game, giving this pick a better chance of coming through).

Trailblazers tough?

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).

Pioneers pride?

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).

Cyclones continuing?

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).

Bulldogs biting?

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).

Ranger rumbles?

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).

STATE RANKINGS

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.

Class 6A

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

Class 5A

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

Class 4A

Elizabethton by 17 over Carter

Greeneville by 21 over South-Doyle

Fulton by 21 over Volunteer

Anderson County by 21 over Seymour

Class 3A

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

Class 2A

Hampton by 15 over Monterey

Rockwood by 27 over Happy Valley

South Greene by 28 over York Institute

Oneida by 18 over Cumberland Gap

Class 1A

Cloudland by 12 over Greenback

Midway by 4 over Unaka

Oakdale by 28 over Jellico

Coalfield by 36 over North Greene

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