Sluder on the carry (copy)

Cloudland running back Caleb Sluder works for yardage during Friday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal win over Coalfield.

There are moments in time that become special as they happen, and others come into focus while looking back.

But once in a few blue moons, a moment is recognizable as special before it happens.

That’s the case Friday night as South Pittsburg travels 270 miles, Trousdale County mounts up for a little 272-mile journey, and Upperman logs 223 miles — all of them coming to Carter County for state semifinal football games.

South Pittsburg, which will face Cloudland, is on the Alabama side of Chattanooga. Trousdale County, which will meet Hampton, is about 17 miles northeast of Lebanon. And Upperman is a few miles west of Cookeville, a place Elizabethton became familiar with over the last two seasons while winning state titles.

Never before has Northeast Tennessee commanded this much football attention from the entire state. There are 12 games being played across Tennessee, and three of them will take place within 18 miles of each other. If a person wanted, he or she could catch the first quarter in Roan Mountain, get to Hampton around halftime, and catch the final quarter of the Elizabethton game.

Perhaps this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Carter County. But it’s a chance to show the rest of the state what community support should look like. If you are reading this story by way of Facebook or Twitter, why not support the student-athletes by posting a comment about which team you are rooting for — and then throw a little sunshine toward the other two teams?

And while we’re at it, why not make it the entire area? If you’re a fan of any other school, show your support for the Carter County trio. After all, it could be your school in the semifinals next year or somewhere down the road.

Why not ride this home-grown Carter County gridiron show all the way to Chattanooga for next week’s state championship games?


Elizabethton’s senior class earned career victory No. 51 against Greeneville on Friday.

That moves the group into a tie for second place on the all-time Northeast Tennessee list. The Cyclones can tie the record with a win in Friday’s semifinal contest against Upperman.

Here is the new list of top-five marks:

Greeneville — 52 (2015-18)

Elizabethton — 51 (2018-21)

Greeneville — 51 (2008-11)

Greeneville — 51 (2016-19)

Elizabethton — 49 (2017-20)

Greeneville — 49 (2010-13)


Elizabethton’s Bryson Rollins moved into second place on the state’s all-time list for most career passing and rushing touchdowns.

The senior quarterback added one to his total in Friday’s 13-7 quarterfinal win over Greeneville. Rollins has 82 career passing touchdowns and 64 rushing for a total of 146, tying him with Trinity Christian’s Kyle Akin (2011-14) for second place.

Also, Rollins moved his career yardage total (rushing and passing only) to 9,720. He is now only 224 yards short of moving into 10th place on the state’s all-time list in that category. Rollins is averaging 236 total yards per game this season.

Rollins went over 6,000 yards passing for his career on Friday.

Also, this is the first time Rollins has gone over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing in the same season.


Cloudland running back Seth Birchfield moved into the No. 14 spot on the state’s all-time single-season list with 2,617 yards rushing after gaining 191 in Friday’s 22-21 Class 1A state quarterfinal win over Coalfield.

By helping his team earn an additional game, he will have a chance to move into the top 10 — needing only 86 yards. If Birchfield gets his season average of 201 per game, he would move into the No. 6 spot.

Birchfield holds the all-time Northeast Tennessee record for rushing yards in a season, and also set a new mark for rushing touchdowns. He scored three times Friday to give him 41, breaking the all-time NET record that was previously held by Sullivan South’s Curt Phillips (40 in 2007). Birchfield stands at No. 10 on the state’s all-time list, but is only two scores away from the No. 3 spot.


Here’s a look at which teams are favored in all of Friday’s state semifinal football contests. These numbers are not predictions, nor have they been at any point in the postseason. A favorite line is a representation of the general perception of who will win the game and by how much. For example, Oakland is the favorite against Maryville because it has been ranked ahead of the Rebels in a statewide poll all season long.

Class 6A

• Oakland by 14 over Maryville

• Summit by 8 over Hendersonville

Maryville’s close call against Farragut in the quarterfinals bumps Oakland’s favorite role up a notch.

Hendersonville’s defensive performances in the postseason keep the margin down against Summit.

Class 5A

• West by 1 over Powell

• Page by 7 over Henry County

The West-Powell game has been anticipated all season long, and the home-standing Rebels get the razor-thin favorite role.

Henry County has played well in the postseason and has a playoff-experience edge.

Class 4A• Elizabethton by 10 over Upperman

• Tullahoma by 10 over Haywood

The Cyclones have played a very tough schedule and have a big edge in deep-playoff experience.

Tullahoma’s two wins over Pearl-Cohn separate it from also undefeated Haywood, which doesn’t appear to have played as tough of a schedule.

Class 3A• Alcoa by 21 over Giles County

• Dyersburg by 14 over East Nashville

Alcoa’s first test of the postseason doesn’t change the perspective of a heavy favorite role.

Dyersburg’s win over Covington in the quarterfinals boosted its stature.

Class 2A• Trousdale by 5 over Hampton

• Westview by 3 over Riverside

Trousdale has played a tough schedule just like Hampton, and has plenty of late-postseason experience.

Westview lost by two points to Peabody for its only setback of the season, but Riverside is at home.

Class 1A• South Pittsburg by 8 over Cloudland

• McKenzie by 2 over Peabody

Strength of schedule is one reason the Pirates are favored despite the long journey.

McKenzie is undefeated, ranked No. 1, and at home. The Rebels have to be favored, but Peabody is the three-time Class 2A defending state champion.

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