Yes, the TSSAA hands out state championships quite liberally these days, but this year the organization needed one more football matchup.
Most people across the state would assume Maryville laid claim to the overall public-school state championship. The Rebels not only blew the doors off Cane Ridge in the 6A title game, they did it in the state’s largest classification and it’s very easy to make an argument they played the state’s toughest schedule.
Maryville beat Class 5A state champion Knox Catholic and Class 3A winner Alcoa. But the Rebels didn’t get to play the state’s only undefeated team: Greeneville.
Maryville edged Catholic by a score of 49-42 in Week 1. And combined with its slim 28-24 win over Alcoa in Week 4, there should be no denying a smaller school can compete with the Rebels.
Greeneville had the kind of team this year that looked the part of a champion. Yes, Maryville and Alcoa have fielded that type of team nearly every year since the new century began, but Greeneville belongs in the same sentence with those powers this year.
It won’t happen, but if there was a high school playoff mirroring the colleges this year, the semifinals would look like this:
#3 Knox Catholic at #2 Greeneville
#4 Alcoa at #1 Maryville
Those games, combined with the championship tilt the next week, would likely be more entertaining and competitive than any of those teams’ actual state-title games.
A second back-to-back?
Pencil Greeneville in as a heavyweight favorite to win the 2018 state title, which would give the Greene Devils their second run of back-to-back titles (2010-11).
Greeneville loses only 10 seniors off this year’s team. Eight of the defensive starters return, and the offensive line will graduate just one player.
Quarterback Cade Ballard — who threw for 3,148 yards, 38 touchdowns, completed 82 percent of his passes, and had just five interceptions — will return. By the way, he also rushed for 985 yards and 21 scores.
Greeneville received four challenges this year. In the regular season, Dobyns-Bennett led in the fourth quarter, Science Hill was knocking at the door of a tie late in the second half, and Elizabethton held Greeneville to its lowest offensive output of year in a 24-10 decision that was 3-3 at halftime. In the playoffs, Anderson County jumped out to a 21-0 lead before a 35-10 onslaught rewrote the ending.
Will any of those teams be able to provide a similar challenge to the Greene Devils in 2018?
The Tennessee Tilt
There can be no doubt where the best football was played this year.
The collective thud heard round the state came from the west as the Knoxville area dominated with five of the six titles: Catholic, Maryville, Alcoa, Greenback and Greeneville.
And it took double overtime for the lone west ranger, Union City, to prevent a complete eastern sweep. Union held off Chattanooga’s Tyner Academy.
It was a much different result from 2016, when the west produced four of the six champions, three of them from Memphis.
Titles by the numbers
Alcoa and Maryville continue to fight it out for state supremacy. Each school earned its 16th state championship. For each team it was also their 12th title since 2000. …
Greenback won its second state title, the last coming 30 years ago. The Cherokees were in the finals for the third straight year. …
Union City won its fourth state championship, all of them coming since 2009. …
Greeneville earned title No. 3, all coming since 2010. …
Catholic claimed its third state title after also winning in 2008 and 2015.
With the close of the 2017 season, football fans need not be in despair. The 2018 season openers are only a little over eight months away on Aug. 17.