Teams get playoff road maps
Sevier County’s road to Cookeville will begin with Cookeville.
The Smoky Bears learned on Saturday they’ll open up the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s class 6A playoffs against the Cavaliers next week at Burchfield Stadium.
“We’re proud to be a No. 2 seed in a competitive quad,” said Sevier County coach Steve Brewer. “We’re so glad to be playing at home. We’ve got a contest with a team that’s made the playoffs. That has to say something about them.”
Cookeville is a rather mysterious dance partner for the Bears in Friday night’s opener. Gatlinburg-Pittman and Pigeon Forge have more familiar foes in class 3A. The Highlanders will play host to two-time defending state champion Christian Academy of Knoxville next Friday while Pigeon Forge heads to Sullivan North, a team that lost to Seymour back in August.
All three teams are seeking a trip to the BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville on Dec. 6 and 7.
Sevier County, fresh off a fifth straight IMAC title, earned the No. 2 seed in its quadrant. The top seed went to the only team to beat the Bears this year, unbeaten Maryville.
Sevier County's 9-1 record earned it a home game against the 6-4 Cavaliers. Cookeville had a four-game winning streak in the middle of the season but has lost three of four entering the postseason. Brewer and his staff were looking at film Saturday, trying to learn more about the Cavaliers. It’s a different scenario than the last couple of years when the Bears faced Knoxville-area teams in the first round.
“It’s a little bit challenging,” Brewer said. “You’re not famaliar with the team at all. Most of the time, if it’s in the area you’ve got some familiarity with who you’re playing. ... You see them on the news. You have an idea. This is a little bit out of the area. Make sure we check these guys out. At this point in the year, there’s not a whole lot of changes in basic philosophy.
Gatlinburg-Pittman, 8-2 and coming off a rivalry win over Pigeon Forge, is third in its 3A quadrant behind Alcoa and Chuckey-Doak. The Highlanders start off with CAK. The Warriors are just 4-6 this season with a pair of three-game losing streaks. But that schedule included tough games with playoff teams Catholic, Grace Christian, Alcoa and Webb. Those four teams are a combined 33-6.
“It’ll be a tough draw for us,” said G-P coach Benny Hammonds. “We’ll have to play, I’m sure, our best football to come out on top of them. ... They’ve got a much better team than their schedule dictated to them.”
Hammonds said he’s concerned about CAK’s ability to throw the ball. The Warriors are averaging 238 passing yards per game. The coach said the passing game is what hurt his team in a 49-42 loss to Carter in Week 8.
“We’ve got to get better in that secondary,” Hammonds said. “I know we can play better than we did against Carter. We certainly can’t have the same kind of game against CAK that we did against Carter in the back end. That’s just disaster for us.”
The team G-P beat Friday, Pigeon Forge, is the fifth seed in the quadrant after a 5-5 season. The Tigers are seeking their first playoff win in school history under first-year coach Scott Meadows. They’ll face a 6-4 Sullivan North team that opened the season with a wild, 35-32 loss to Seymour. The Raiders won five of their next six before going 1-2 in their last three games.
Pigeon Forge has faced that same kind of inconsistency this year, something Meadows will try to correct in the playoffs.
“Everybody is 0-0 going into the playoffs, and it’s kind of a kill or be killed situation,” Meadows said on Friday night. “What I want our guys to do, and we’ve got to understand this, we’ve got to come back and go to work on Monday.
“We’ve got to get ready to go into the playoffs, because we can still do something that no other Pigeon Forge team has done ... win that first playoff game.”