Another summer of excruciating anticipation is upon us my friends.

And as we get ready for another spectacular football season, we’re here to set things in order from the top and possibly way too early.  No human should ever try and power rank this early in the year with 2016’s successes and failures still fresh on the mind, but folks, we take the risk so that y’all don’t have to.

Thank us later, but for now, we present TSSN’s 2017 Way-Too-Early Power Rankings…

6. Grundy County
Yellow Jackets

Region 4-3A

2016 Finish: 1-9 (Missed Playoffs)
Murphy Fair Preseason Ranking:  NR in Class 3A
Murphy Fair All-State Selections:  0
2016 Valley Record:  0-4

Tale of the Tape:  The Yellow Jackets are a peculiar case because of their youth and inconsistency.  Another problem the Yellow Jackets have had is their ability to keep players on the roster, such as a few years ago when names like Hogan Holland and Houston Mainord up and left Coalmont for other opportunities in the Sequatchie Valley.  That again may be the case this offseason, but nevertheless, after two 1-9 campaigns, the hot seat is warming up for Casey Tate and whether it cools down at all will depend on his success this season with some  now-experienced players on the gridiron.  Also, in an interesting twist, the Yellow Jackets’ schedule is missing the three Marion County schools, which has provided some room for more competitive matchups although they may not be gas mileage friendly.  

Key Losses:  James McDaniel (Running Back/Linebacker), Kevin Castro (Running Back/Linebacker), Dewayne Grooms (Lineman/Linebacker), Matthew Borrows (Wide Receiver)

Key Returners:  Corbin Lusk (Senior Tight End/Linebacker), Ethan Nunley (Junior Quarterback), Daygon Dodson (Junior Wide Receiver)

5. Bledsoe County Warriors

Region 3-2A

2016 Finish: 4-7 (Bowl Game Win vs. Tellico Plains, 40-7)
Murphy Fair Preseason Ranking: NR in Class 2A
Murphy Fair All-State Selections: 1
2016 Valley Record:  1-3

Tale of the Tape:  The Warriors have flown under the radar for a year or two in the megaconference that is Region 3-2A, but with private schools leaving the district, Bledsoe County may be playoff eligible with a squad that is less star-ladened than the past two seasons.  With new coach Dennis Therrell at the helm, the Warriors may get a well-deserved jolt into the playoffs.  Replacing Chaise Sorrows at quarterback will be priority number one in Pikeville, but some key players still left on defense may make the transition more seamless.  That being said, this is still a team that will need to fight for playoff contention with the likes of Marion County and Tyner in their presence, but pulling out Boyd Buchanan is a big burden lifted off the shoulders of Bledsoe County.  A punter by trade, Gabe Boring is the only player with Preseason All-State honors.   The times may be lean, but playoffs are still king for the Warriors.

Key Losses:  Chaise Sorrows (Quarterback), Joseph Gore (Running Back), Derrick Pursley (Linebacker/Lineman), Cole Angel (Linebacker/Defensive End)

Key Returners:  Kevin Whitson (Senior Linebacker), Gabe Boring (Senior Kicker), Coalton Dunn (Senior Linebacker/Running Back), Peyton Holland (Senior Wide Receiver/Cornerback)

4. Whitwell Tigers

Region 3-1A

2016 Finish: 6-6 (1A Second Round Loss vs. Columbia Academy, 20-13)
Murphy Fair Preseason Ranking:  NR in Class 1A
Murphy Fair All-State Selections: 1
2016 Valley Record:  1-3

Tale of the Tape:  Even in the one of the best eras of Whitwell football, the stability and turmoil of the program is at an all time high.  Cue Randall Bouldin, who brings a promising sign of security to a program that now has its ninth coach in 14 years.  The biggest sign of optimism, though, is the youth, and now experience, that this team has as they head into 2017.  The Tigers’ schedule only consists of one non-region Valley opponent in Bledsoe County, who they were competitive with last season.  Hudson Petty could be the firestarter on defense as he has already garnered two All-State Teams selections.  Bouldin and his staff will try and buck the trend of four .500 seasons as they look promising in a narrowing field of deep playoff-contending Class 1A programs.

Key Losses:  Ethan Skelton (Tight End/Middle Linebacker), Austyn Vandergriff (Tackle/Defensive Tackle)

Key Returners:  Trace Condra (Running Back), Dawson Holloway (Quarterback), Josh Wingo (Running Back)**, Garrett Shrum (Tight End/Defensive End), T.D. Argo (Lineman), Hudson Petty (Running Back), Thundur Roberts (Fullback/Linebacker), Austin Nunley (Kicker/Punter)

3. Sequatchie County Indians

Region 4-3A

2016 Finish: 13-1 (3A Semifinal Loss vs. Alcoa, 24-0)
Murphy Fair Preseason Ranking:  No. 12 in Class 3A
Murphy Fair All-State Selections: 0
2016 Valley Record:  4-0

Tale of the Tape:  After one of the best runs in school history during the 2017 season, Adam Caine will be looking for a lot of star power this summer as he tries to replace a ton of skill players and a linebacker corps that was All-State worthy with Mr. Football Finalist Hunter Davenport now gone.  There are a lot of question marks on the defensive side of the ball but some of the continuity on the offense is cause for optimism in Dunlap with Ethan Barker back for his senior season at the helm of a cautiously talented team.  The regular season’s schedule will be similar to last seasons with an out-of-region slate consisting of two Valley foes, a lower class opponent, and a higher class opponent.  The Indians are still garnering some Statewide hype with some polls putting them in the top ten and others just outside that spot (Murphy Fair).  Caine has his hands full this offseason as he tries for another historical season in the midst of his new coaching era.

Key Losses:  Hunter Davenport (Linebacker), Kyle Cates (Linebacker), Jon Higgins (Lineman), Austin Stevens (Running Back)

Key Returners:  Ethan Barker (Senior Quarterback), Garrett Castle (Senior Lineman), Brent Gray (Senior Lineman), Will Hales (Junior Running Back), Caleb Reed (Senior Linebacker)

 2. Marion County Warriors

Region 3-2A

2016 Finish:  13-2 (2A State Runner-Up, Loss vs. Trezevant, 42-20)
Murphy Fair Preseason  Ranking:  No. 3 in Class 2A
Murphy Fair All-State Selections:  2
2016 Valley Record:  2-1

Tale of the Tape:  Losing a hard-fought title game plagued with injuries, Joey Mathis proved he could steer the ship that Ricky Ross left last season.  In his second year as the man in charge, he held his foot on the gas after a stumble at rival South Pittsburg in early September.  With neither program really losing an edge this season, the “Battle of the Champions” could be anyone’s game, and that could very well be the deciding factor on which team is able to run the table.  Jacob Saylors and Seth McClain are names to fear with this team they both sit on the Preseason 2A team.   Marion County still sits near the top of the 2A Preseason Polls with little change at the top from last season.  Only Adamsville and Union City are projected to be better.  The Warriors have beefed up the schedule, adding Rhea County and Loudon, so if their talent gets them to the Title game, their experience can win it.

Key Losses:  Hunter Zeman (Running Back), Ishmael Avila (Lineman), Eli Morrison (Lineman), Alex Kirkendoll (Linebacker)

Key Returners:  Jacob Saylors (Cornerback/Running Back), Kane Hale (Wide Receiver/Free Safety), Isaiah Sampson (Quarterback). Seth McClain (Linebacker)

1. South Pittsburg Pirates

Region 3-1A

2016 Finish: 12-2 (1A Semifinal Loss vs. Greenback)
Murphy Fair Preseason Ranking:  No. 1 in Class 1A
Murphy Fair All-State Selections: 3
2016 Valley Record:  4-1

Tale of the Tape: After its first semifinal run since 2013, South Pittsburg seems to be back in business on the gridiron.  Vic Grider now enters the third season of his second tenure as head coach of the Pirates, seemingly putting them back to what they were when he left.  The Pirates being favored as the ones to win the title is not a new phenomenon, but it has been a few years since they been at the top this dominantly.  With three Preseason All-State elections, this team is ready to take Cookeville by storm in 2017.  Cade Kennemore should be the focus of the offense as an All-State Wide Receiver, but Linebacker Sawyer Kelley and Lineman Hayden Branham will only boost the potential of this team to an all-time high.  Only two losses smeared their 2016 campaign, but with Sequatchie County and teams like Greenback out of the Knoxville/Tri-City regions losing a lot of key components this offseason, the question is whether the Fighting Griders can win with the plethora of talent they have left from last year’s squad.

Key Losses:  Hogan Holland (Quarterback), Drew Daniels (Lineman), Kyree Pryor (Running Back), Joseph Lilly III (Running Back/Wide Reciever), Lajuan Ford (Running Back)

Key Returners:  Cade Kennemore (Wide Receiver), Garrett Raulston (Running Back),  Hayden Branham (Lineman), Sawyer Kelley (Linebacker) and Mason Fuqua (Lineman/Linebacker), Kelly Cawood (Quarterback)

**Transfer Player 

Contact Chandler Morrison at and follow him on Twitter@RCS_Chandler!


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