As the football season seems to be far away on the horizon, we’ll be taking a look at some of the more monumental and load-bearing matchups of the season. And that means a countdown for the ones playing the home game.
For this list, keep in mind that the games do not have to include two Valley teams. The matchup can be important for a number of reasons including playoff implications, region implications, future program implications, pride, team-esteem, and player morale. In essence, though, there probably won’t be a lot of debate over the matchups placement more about who will win the matchup.
And with that, we’ll take a trip out to Coalmont to begin our expedition into the wonderful world of preseason football speculation.
5. Smith County at Grundy County
Region 4-3A Foes
THE HYPE: This one might not have tipped the scales of anticipation, but these two programs are the playoff line in Region 4-3A if things go as planned. A late season matchup leaves a lot to the imagination as far as records go, but the way things are shaping up, a win over Smith County for the Yellow Jackets could be their ticket to the 3A Playoffs. Head coach Casey Tate has Grundy County believing after some late season heroics almost left Dekalb County with an unexpected loss at home. The Owls have been impressive clinching the fourth spot last year on their way to a first round playoff loss. The Owls will be the target of teams like Grundy County, York, and Cannon County as the top three spots seemed to be locked thus far. Then again, a lot can happen in nine weeks.
PREDICTION: Grundy County and Smith County come into the game fighting for a playoff berth tied in the region. After a tight game, Smith County breaks out on a 76-yard run to put themselves ahead by 6. The Yellow Jackets fight but fail on two different drives as Smith County paves its way to the playoffs yet again. Grundy County, though, does increase its win total substantially.
4. Bledsoe County at Tyner
Region 3-2A Foes
THE HYPE: Again, we find ourselves with a matchup not on the radar of the masses, but this could very well be the difference between a third place finish, a four-seed, or misstep away from the 2A playoffs. Last season, Tyner didn’t necessarily thump the Warriors only taking the game 20-0 under the rain in Pikeville. The Warriors have seen their competition in 3-2A enough to be able to pull off an upset or two in 2016. Still, the away game may be the death of those dreams. Hopefully, we’ll be rewarded with another soggy bout with a closer score than last time around. Josh Owensby definitely has a grip on the program after a year at the reigns, so this season could be unexpected from the most underrated team in the region.
PREDICTION: Bledsoe County comes into the game tied for the three-seed with Tyner and pulls out the win in Rams territory after a close, clear-skyed battle under the lights. The Warriors make a dent in the postseason but fall to another Region 3-2A team in the 2nd Round.
3. Whitwell at Grundy County
Classic Sequatchie Valley Rivals
THE HYPE: The Tigers and Yellow Jackets may be divided by a mountainside but being drowned out by the rest of the Valley unites them. Don’t think for a second, though, that these teams are friendly to one another on the field. With new head coach Tracy Malone and second-year coach Casey Tate, this one is definitely a season defining matchup. The Yellow Jackets come off of a 1-9 season while the Tigers made the 2nd round of the playoffs in the final year of the R.C. Helton campaign. Opening your season with a Valley opponent is not uncommon, but for these two teams to take on each other this early is definitely disappointing, seeing that both team usually have more hype towards the end of the season than the beginning. Still, Whitwell will have to prove that it hasn’t missed a step while the Yellow Jackets will have to show the world that they bring more to the table than a duo or trio of wins.
PREDiCTION: Whitwell starts off fairly strong, stunning Grundy County with an early score. The Yellow Jackets end up coming back late to take the game 21-17 in Coalmont. Whitwell starts off with a loss, but their region has yet to come. The Yellow Jacket have hope of a .500 season after putting the pieces together.
2. Boyd-Buchanan at Marion County
Region 3-2A Rivals
THE HYPE: This one may seem more obvious. The Warriors and Buccaneers sit at the top of their region, and not many teams seeing knocking them off as an option. Either way, this matchup will likely be as close or closer than last year’s bout which ended with a Boyd-Buchanan 21-14 win. The two squads were destined to meet up again as it handed the Warriors their first loss of the season. Marion County would later make it to the State Title game while Boyd-would be knocked out by fellow Region 3-2Aer Tyner. Assuming that both squads are back to perfect form by week six, this one could be another classic. And if 2015 told us anything, it’s that this game has region, playoffs, and State Title implications. Not too shabby for No. 2.
PREDICTION: The Buccaneers come out strong enough to walk into the locker room with a 14-point lead at the half. In the fourth, the Warriors score 28 points to counter another touchdown by the Buccaneers in the third. Marion County walks away victorious from Bill Baxter Stadium with 35-28 still proudly boasted on the scoreboard into the wee hours of Saturday.
1. South Pittsburg at Sequatchie County
Classic Sequatchie Valley Rivals
THE HYPE: If you thought the game at Beene Stadium was hype last season, then you probably have every intention of heading up to the Indians’ domain and are considering pulling all your work buddies out to the game. Why? Because it the best knock-down, drag-out showdown this side of Walden’s Ridge. And everybody knows it. Defenses shined in the 12-7 bout, and this season could bring another slatemate into the second half. Starting out strong, this is definitely season-defining for the Indians, but for the Pirates, the result could be overrated as they could still make a run at Cookeville with a win or loss. It does help out player morale when you win the first one, though. Either way, it’s safe to say we’re in for another close game if not a classic.
PREDICTION: The Indians and Pirates stay scoreless through the first quarter but quickly score a touchdown a piece. After a scoreless third, the two teams trade scores yet again in the fourth. The Indians finally punch through the stout Pirate defense for a long run. The hold on to a 21-14 lead to take the first game of the season.