The top four teams in each region earn postseason spots, but only the top two finishers get to play their first game at home.
With the season reaching its halfway point this week, here’s a look at how the playoff picture appears to be shaping up:
Predicted champion: Dobyns-Bennett
The emergence of quarterback Zane Whitson has elevated the Indians above the fray. Science Hill and Farragut will still get their shots. Farragut is the wild card in the mix.
Home game: Science Hill
The final two spots: Farragut and Bearden
Predicted champion: David Crockett
This is not over by any stretch of the imagination. Tennessee High and Cherokee are knocking loudly at the Pioneers’ door.
Home game: Tennessee High
The final two spots: Cherokee and Daniel Boone
Cherokee should give the Vikings a strong test for the No. 2 spot. Boone could get pushed for the fourth spot by Volunteer.
Predicted champion: Greeneville
This is the hardest pick of any from the six local regions. The Greene Devils and Cyclones figure to have a whale of a football game on Oct. 18.
Home game: Elizabethton
The final two spots: Sullivan South and Union County
The Rebels are still a contender for the top two spots. The final playoff spot is up for grabs.
Predicted champion: Unicoi County
This isn’t cut and dried, and this league probably has the deepest race to the top. The Blue Devils must navigate Chuckey-Doak and Johnson County, which already lost to the Black Knights.
Home game: Chuckey-Doak
The final two spots: Johnson County and West Greene.
Predicted champion: South Greene
The Rebels are the real deal this year, looking good on both sides of the football.
Home game: Happy Valley (tiebreakers will likely play a key role, and the Warriors are in the best shape so far)
The final two spots: Hampton and Sullivan North
Predicted champion: Cloudland
The Highlanders may not be leaps and bounds better than the rest of the league, but should still be the top dog.
Home game: Jellico
The final two spots: Unaka and Hancock County
David Crockett quarterback Cade Larkins added another big game to his resume with 280 yards passing against Cocke County on Friday. That pushed his career total to 9,343.
Larkins is only 23 yards short of the all-time Region 1 record, which is currently held by former Greeneville standout Cade Ballard.
Larkins moved into eighth place on the state’s all-time list. He is 1,779 yards short of Kyle Akin’s record.
Larkins added three touchdown strikes against Cocke County, giving him 87 for his career. He is one touchdown pass away from moving into the top 10 all time.
PLAYING ON SATURDAYS
College football options are still on the table for Larkins.
“I love Chattanooga, I love ETSU, and I love Tennessee Tech,” Larkins said after Friday’s game. “I’m just grateful to be recruited at all.”
Larkins said he will likely make his decision near the end of the season or shortly after it is over.
HOW WE VOTED
Coverage-area teams receiving votes from the Johnson City Press/Kingsport Times News in this week’s Associated Press state poll, along with the No. 1 selection. (Coverage area is six counties: Sullivan, Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson, Hawkins):
Oakland (No. 1)
Dobyns-Bennett (No. 3)
Knox Central (No. 1)
David Crockett (No. 2)
Cherokee (No. 9)
Greeneville (No. 1)
Elizabethton (No. 2)
Alcoa (No. 1)
Peabody (No. 1)
South Pittsburg (No. 1)
THE TOP 10
Only one change was needed after a near-perfect week for the Top 10. Sullivan North’s loss to South Greene bumped the Raiders out of a tie for the No. 10 spot.
All other teams won, with the exception of idle Daniel Boone. Here are this week’s rankings:
|1. David Crockett
|5. Tennessee High
|6. Science Hill
|7. Sullivan South
|8. Daniel Boone
|9. Unicoi County
|10. Johnson County
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Science Hill at Knox Catholic
The Fighting Irish is coming off a big-time 56-19 pounding at the hands of Chattanooga McCallie, which is a loaded private school. That probably means Catholic will be in a snarly mood when the Hilltoppers make the journey to Knoxville.
Cherokee at Elizabethton
The Cyclones will have their hands full against Chiefs’ quarterback Collin Trent, who is a game-by-game threat to produce 300 total yards. But the Cyclones have playmakers of their own, and this should be an entertaining contest.
Johnson County at Hampton
One thing seems likely with the Longhorns involved: This game should be tight. Only 11 points have separated the Longhorns from their opponents through four games with two one-point wins combined with four- and five-point losses.
PICK OF THE WEEK
Elizabethton 35, Cherokee 27
It could be an offensive showcase with the level of skill players that will be on the field. It’s hard to pick against the Chiefs in a close game, but give the Cyclones a slight edge based on their overall play to this point in the season.
Picks record: 3-2.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Zane Whitson, Dobyns-Bennett
The Indians had no trouble with Hardin Valley in a 42-0 win, and Whitson was a big part of offensive assault. He hit on 11 of 16 passes, averaging 21 yards per completion to finish with 233. He also racked up five touchdown passes, including a pair of 69-yard strikes.
THE HOGS AWARD
Unicoi County Blue Devils
The Blue Hogs brought their lunch pails and feasted into the night. They cleared the way for 221 yards rushing, and the pass protection (8 completions in 11 attempts) was rock solid in a 65-13 pounding of Claiborne.
DEFENSIVE UNIT OF THE WEEK
David Crockett Pioneers
It wasn’t an easy award to grab this week with D-B, Elizabethton and Science Hill each turning in gems.
But the Pioneers allowed only 76 yards of offense in a 35-0 win over Cocke County. Also, Crockett totaled 3.5 sacks, picked off three passes, forced four fumbles and recovered two, and also had a 42-yard strip-six as Brayden Reid stole the ball and raced into the end zone.
Elizabethton and Greeneville will decide the District 1-AA regular season title Tuesday on the Lady Greene Devils’ home field.
Lady Cyclones’ head coach Bill McClay said his team knows it faces a challenge against a program that has made four straight state tournament appearances and won titles in 2015 and 2016.
“It is a big ask for our girls, but we want to put our best foot forward,” said McClay, whose team is 4-0 in league play and 7-2 overall. “Last year we played them tough the first time we faced them. We need to dig down deep and defend well.”
McClay said his team is set up well to at least finish second in the league. Greeneville is 3-0 in the district and 8-5 overall. The Lady Greene Devils have a match remaining with third-place Sullivan Central.
“We would hope to play them again in the postseason,” said McClay. “So I don’t know if we feel the same pressure that we would have maybe in the playoffs. We want to learn something from this game.”
Leading the way for the Lady Cyclones up front are seniors Kaylen Shell and Lexi Brown.
“We may only get two or three decent chances, so we have to convert,” said McClay.
Senior Maggie Johnson leads the way in the midfield while McClay will rely on freshman Morgan Heaton in the goal.
Postseason play begins Oct. 14 at the home sites of the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. The semifinals are Oct. 15 at home sites, and the District 1-AA championship is set for Oct. 17 at the highest remaining seed.
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In District 1-AAA, Science Hill has its rematch with Dobyns-Bennett on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Tipton Stadium.
The Lady Hilltoppers (10–3-1) defeated Dobyns-Bennett (3-4-2) in their first meeting by a score of 3-1.
Science Hill is undefeated in league play at 5-0 while the Lady Indians are 2-2.