We are nearing the finish line for this wild and unprecedented 2020 season. Two rounds from now, we will be talking about action out in Cookeville for the Gold Balls. But, for now, it is quarterfinals time in East Tennessee and here are the games to watch for involving Knoxville-area teams.
- Maryville (12-0) vs. Dobyns-Bennett (10-2) – D-B and McMinn County did not get to face each other in the second round as the game was canceled due to the well-documented COVID controversy with the Cherokees. Thus, the Indians got an unexpected bye to prepare for undefeated Maryville. The Rebels are their typical poised selves heading into this one, handling Bradley Central 35-6 in round two. Maryville will be seeking its 21st consecutive trip to the state semifinals and will look to have QB Carson Jones and RB Parker McGill lead the way on offense. These two programs met in Kingsport last season in the quarterfinals, with Maryville dominating, 45-10.
- Knoxville West (11-1) vs. Oak Ridge (9-3) – The first of our pair of regular season rematches in our regional 5A action, West took down the Wildcats, 22-7, back on Sept. 17. West has been elite on both sides of the ball in every game this season, with the exception of hastily-scheduled 35-7 loss to Knoxville Catholic which was pretty much a mid-season exhibition of sorts. West rolled over Lenoir City and Walker Valley to get to this point. The Rebels have a three-headed monster at running back, a consistent senior QB and a defense that is littered with talent. For Oak Ridge, they may be one of the hottest teams in the TSSAA Playoffs. The ‘Cats haven’t lost since the aforementioned game against Wsest and have outscored their two opponents 53-7 so far this postseason. Mitchell Gibbons and Kendall Jackson are as deadly of a QB/RB you will see and Oak Ridge is believing they can take down anyone right now.
- Knoxville Central (10-2) vs. South-Doyle (9-3) – I will be straightforward and say that this has Game of the Year potential. Like the other quarterfinal matchup, this is a regular season rematch. Two-time defending 5A champs, Central, took down the Cherokees 27-19 back on Oct. 22. The Bobcats may be led by a first-year HC in Nick Craney, but the same championship swagger and confidence remains. For S-D, it hit the reset button after two straight losses to end the regular season to the Bobcats and Powell. So far, it’s been a thrashing of Daniel Boone and a grind-it-out road win at David Crockett. Nor big fans of American frontiersmen, eh? Anyway, RB Shawn Gary has been the focal point of S-D’s attack and is a great match for a solid Central defense anchored by Kalib Fortner. Who knows what happens, just enjoy.
- Alcoa (11-1) vs. Gatlinburg-Pittman (10-2) – Another great season for G-P, another season in which the Highlanders have to hate playing on the same side of the playoff bracket as the greatest program in Tennessee state history. G-P had a fantastic, clutch win over Pigeon Forge in round two. The Tornadoes beat Kingston 56-0 for their 27th straight playoff win, seventh shutout of the season and HC Gary Rankin’s 450th career win. No. 451 is coming on Friday.
- Red Bank (9-3) vs. Loudon (10-2) – COVID has affected both programs throughout the season, with Red Bank’s three losses all COVID forfeits, and Loudon’s two being for a forfeit and a 13-0 loss to the Lions due to missing several key players. However, both teams have looked sharp through the first two rounds, and the Redskins just went on the road and pulverized Upperman. QB Keaton Harig and Loudon will be after some revenge and will want to return to the semifinals for consecutive seasons.
- Coalfield (11-0) vs. Oliver Springs (7-5) – This matchup has all the makings of a classic. Oliver Springs started the season 0-4 and looked dead in the water. However, the Bobcats have turned a 180 and won seven of their last eight. The lone loss? A 14-7 heartbreaker to Coalfield on Oct. 23. For the Coalfield Yellow Jackets, they have looked like a title contender from week one, proving they can dominate good competition and pull out wins in clutch time. Examples: the regular season win over Oliver Springs and the comeback win over Greenback in round two. The winner will most likely get a date with South Pittsburg for a trip to Cookeville.