Teams start the stretch run Friday when they hit the football field.
Every team in Region 4-5A played its last non-region game of the season last week, but now it's time for the region rivals to battle it out on the gridiron and decide their postseason fate.
Riverdale (5-1, 3-0 in Region 4-5A) plays host to Wilson Central (1-4, 0-2) Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Comcast Game of the Week, which is on Ch. 27. Siegel (0-6, 0-3) visits Smyrna (5-1, 3-0), while Oakland (4-2, 3-0) entertains La Vergne (3-3, 0-3) . Blackman (1-5, 0-3) plays host to Lebanon (4-1, 2-0). Middle Tennessee Christian School entertains Cornersville at 7 p.m., while the Region 4-5A games start at 7:30 p.m.
"The key for us is playing team football," Oakland coach Lebron Ferguson said. "We need to play physical in all areas of the game."
Oakland finds itself in position to make the postseason, but it must shake off a tough loss at Lincoln County last week. Awaiting the Patriots is a La Vergne squad that features last season's Region 4-5A Offensive Player of the Year — senior quarterback Andrew Rodriguez, who rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns last week in a 34-0 win over Columbia.
Rodriguez averages 158.5 yards passing per game and has thrown seven touchdown, but he's been intercepted nine times.
La Vergne, however, isn't facing a cupcake.
The Oakland defense surrenders only 12.1 points per game, which is tops in the region in terms of scoring defense. Only twice — losses to Franklin and Lincoln County — has a team scored double digits against the Patriots, who surrendered only six points in a span of three games earlier in the season.
"They are athletic, and (Rodriguez) seems smart," Ferguson said of La Vergne. "It's very important to handle their passing attack. We need to keep everything in front of us."
Siegel is still searching for its first win this season, but standing in its way is an angry Smyrna team that lost its first game of the season last week against Ravenwood.
"I think Smyrna will play good ball," Siegel coach David Watson said. "They didn't play particularly bad last week. They just had some things go against them, and Ravenwood is a good football team. I fully expect Smyrna to be sharp and ready to play as they are very well coached and very talented."
Smyrna features junior quarterback Sonny Gray, who's 62-of-110 for 1,112 yards and nine touchdowns. He has a big target in junior wide receiver Rodriguez Wilks, who's caught 25 passes for 500 yards and five touchdowns. Smyrna leads the region in scoring with 351. points per game.
"I think certainly the key for us is to try to limit their big plays," Watson said. "They have a great quarterback, two really good (wide receivers) and two really good (running backs). So I think we have to try to limit their big plays and make them drive the football on us. That is easier said than done, but we have to try to make that happen."
Siegel, conversely, is still trying to find its way offensively. The Stars are last in the region in scoring offense with 7.6 points per game, and senior running back Corven Parks has been banged up all season.
The Stars have used two quarterbacks this season — junior Jordan Kiss and senior Zeke Anderson — and the Stars could use both against Smyrna. Kiss completed 6-of-12 passes last week for 93 yards and a score, while Anderson was 3-of-6 for 24 yards.
"We are fine at (quarterback)," Watson said. "We have two that I am confident in, and hopefully one of them will get the hot hand."
Next week the Region 4-5A schools in Rutherford County are on fall break.