High School football time is here! A season full of promise and potential begins this week with three local games played on three different days, so City Auto doesn’t have to give you the best game to go see.
There are 337 football playing schools in the state and more than 3,300 regular season games will be played over the next 11 weeks. Oh, incidentally, almost 20 percent of the schools changed coaches since last year. Tough job, this coaching.
Important local milestones are few in 2014. Riverdale coach Ron Aydelott will get his 75th win at Riverdale this season and Blackman coach Philip Shadowens will get his 50th at. If Siegel can win two more games than it loses in 2014, the Stars will finish the year with an overall record above .500 for the first time.
Besides the local games (see schedule), there are a number of great games around the state this weekend.
Cleveland plays Chattanooga McCallie on Thursday at UTC, and Whitehaven plays Memphis Mitchell on Saturday. In between, on Friday night, Dobyns Bennett is at Knox Farragut, Sevier County is at Beardon, Knox Webb goes to Maryville, Brainard is at Oltewah, Hixson is at Soddy Daisy, Lincoln County is at Giles County, Hendersonville is at Wilson Central, Station Camp goes to Beach and Lebanon plays neighborhood rival Mt. Juliet.
Here are my 7AAA picks for 2014. and they look much like last season.
No 7: Stewarts Creek (1 – 9) won a game in its first season and have loads of young talent and excellent coaching. The Red Hawks should be better since they had a spring practice and now have their own practice field. However, unless they can beat La Vergne or pull a major upset, I’m afraid the Creek will still be seventh.
No. 6: La Vergne (3–7) surely must be better. The Wolverines are long overdue. Two things, La Vergne usually has are promise and promises. There is enough talent dressed in blue and white to put a 6–4 season together and finish fifth or even fourth, but the Wolverines they must beat Smyrna Thursday, and they haven’t beaten the Dogs in years. This is their best chance in a long time and they may even be favored.
No. 5: Smyrna (6–5) will be about the same as 2013 but could fool me and return to the playoffs again. They must beat La Vergne at the Dog Pound on Thursday night, and they usually beat La Vergne no matter where they play. One thing to remember, the Bulldogs always play hard and better than you might expect. Against La Vergne, the Bulldogs find a way to win.
No. 4: Riverdale (4–6). It was a strange Warrior year: 4–2 in the District but 0-4 outside of it. The Warriors closed the year with narrow wins over Smyrna and Siegel, both of whom went to the playoffs. The red and gold should make it to at least 5–5 and I think six wins is possible.
No. 3: Siegel (8–4). The Stars have talent and coaching. What they need is a better defense. I’m betting they find it and go back to the playoffs. The schedule is murderous. The opener vs. Riverdale is critical for both teams.
No. 2: Oakland (12-1). Oakland is in the state’s top five and is a threat to win it all, but the Patriots could finish second in the district. Oakland is loaded with good players and an outstanding coaching staff. The Pats schedule is very tough.
No. 1: Blackman (11–3). The Blaze are also loaded with talent, have a top-rated quarterback (Jauan Jennings) who has a basketball state championship ring, and a coaching staff that prepares a team as well as anyone in the state. Another great year of at least eight regular season wins begins Sunday, and they will earn them all as their schedule is brutal.
NOTE: The first game of the season will feature Oakland at Blackman and whoever wins will take a huge step toward a district championship. The game is on ESPN2 on a strange day (Sunday) and at a very strange time (11 a.m.). I only remember one other Sunday game. Years ago, Riverdale played and won the Pioneer Bowl in Columbia on a Sunday. In order to win the district, the loser of Blackman/Oakland will have to hope that the winner loses two other district games. I don’t think that will happen