All six of our local high school teams will get a break, either this week or next, before a two- or three-week sprint to the regular season’s finish line at the end of the month.
Five of the six teams appear to be playoff bound.
For Friendship Christian and Mt. Juliet, 2017 feels like 2011 and ’12. The Commanders won state championships both years and the Golden Bears reached the state semifinals. Both are currently undefeated, with Mt. Juliet looking for its second perfect regular season this decade (the other came in ’11).
Start with Friendship, the Commanders have King’s Academy, Middle Tennessee Christian and Concord Christian separating them from their first 10-0 season since 2006. King’s is 5-1 and MTCS 4-3. Concord is winless and didn’t bother to make the trip to Donelson Christian a few weeks ago, taking a 2-0 forfeit loss. If FCS gets past King’s and MTCS, the trip to Knoxville (and wherever Concord, which doesn’t have a field, is playing) will be the period to the regular season.
In the playoffs the top contenders from the West Region are 5-2 Nashville Christian, 6-0 Davidson Academy and 5-1 Tipton-Rosemark. The newly formed Division II Class A classification has just 16 teams. Friendship will have played the seven from its East Region. I don’t think there is a super unbeatable team in this class, unless it’s FCS. My take is the Commanders can beat all 15 of the other teams in the class, though I’m sure a few of those can beat FCS, including DCA, on a given November Friday night. And it’s not unusual for a playoff rematch to go the opposite way from the regular-season matchup (Friendship fans may remember the Commanders’ regular-season shutout loss at Trousdale County in 2011 before paying the Yellow Jackets back in the playoffs on the way to title No. 1.).
I like Mt. Juliet’s chances to run the table even more as rebuilding Station Camp will be next following next week’s break. The finale at Hendersonville won’t be a cakewalk, but the Commandos do have three losses and a game against Rossview. I am concerned about Mt. Juliet in the playoffs as the Murfreesboro-based Region 3 await. After a first-round visit from Cookeville, a second-round matchup against Blackman looms, and then the quarterfinal against mighty Oakland.
What a difference a month makes. Not long ago we were wondering if Lebanon would ever win a game. Now, it’s not whether the Blue Devils will make the playoffs, but whether they will get to host a playoff game for the first time at Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium. The answer is yes if they can win their Week 11 game at Rossview. They already have a tiebreaker over Hendersonville. If the Blue Devils are at home in Week 12, expect a visit from Riverdale. If they are on the road, check Google Maps to refresh your directions to Blackman.
As an aside, every time I talk to first-year Lebanon coach Chuck Gentry, he reminds me more and more of LHS legend Mark Medley and his successor Bob Dillard. Must be the Smith County accents.
Watertown has responded nicely to the graduation losses of record-setting passer Seth Price and his fellow Class of ’17. The Purple Tigers will return from break next week with a trip to Jackson County in a battle of 2-1 teams in Region 4-2A. The winner should finish second and host a playoff game while the loser gets third and go on the road. The Purple Tigers have a Week 11 visit from East Robertson, which is battling Westmoreland for the fourth and final playoff spot. Polk County or Marion County are the likely first-round opponents for the Tigers, either at home or on the road.
Mt. Juliet Christian’s loss at Friendship last week dropped the Saints from third to a fifth-place tie in the D-II A East Region. The top six of the eight teams will advance, with the top two earning first-round byes. The Saints have time to rebound with games remaining with Ezell-Harding (MJCA will be the favorite), Grace Baptist and DCA. Coach Dan Davis tried to sell his troops they can win out and still take the No. 2 seed, first-round bye and home-field advantage in what would be the school’s first-ever postseason appearance.
That leaves just Wilson Central out of the playoff fun. The Wildcats are two games out of the Lebanon-Hendersonville-Rossview triumvirate for the playoff spots with only Lebanon (and rebuilding Station Camp) left on their slate. Central has had it’s share of playoff success over the years, but most programs enjoy their success in cycles, which means some down time as well as good.
In a nutshell, that’s how I see the stretch run unfolding in Wilson County.
Disclaimer: Upsets can spoil the script, for which I shall not be held responsible.