Desperate teams call for desperate measures.
Sullivan North (5-4, 3-2) appears to be in unimpeachable position for the TSSAA 3A playoffs. But if the Golden Raiders want to be truly certain of anything, Three Rivers Conference rival Happy Valley (4-5, 2-3) needs to be taken down a peg.
“They’ll be a desperate team coming over here trying to make the playoffs. They’re on the bubble,” said North coach Robbie Norris.
Early in the season the Warriors were more of a power football team, pounding opponents out of the Pro-I. They’ve evolved into more of a spread team as the year has progressed, although Happy Valley hasn’t entirely turned its back on the power package.
Last week, Warriors running back Phillip Garland pounded out 189 yards rushing with five touchdowns while quarterback Tyler Marlowe passed for 124 yards and a score in a 54-21 win over last-place Sullivan East. North was open last week.
“Garland is a really good running back. Marlowe had a really good game last week. They’re well-coached and it should be a good game Friday,” Norris said.
The Golden Raiders have had an open week to physically mend and focus on sharpening the fundamentals. Wingbacks Jacob Jasper and Kody Goins fuel the North rushing attack. Fullback Bryson Salyers and quarterback Nick Copas fill out the backfield.
Norris said all starters are healthy and ready for action tonight.
Pigeon Forge, the fifth-ranked 3A squad in the East quadrant, faces second-ranked Gatlinburg-Pittman tonight. One might expect this game to affect the brackets.
However, the TSSAA seeding process is bewildering even when compared to the power ratings system in neighboring Virginia. Last year, for example, Sullivan South was snubbed in the 5A selection process, then subsequently seeded in a do-over at the expense of previously seeded Cleveland.
“We’re treating it like a playoff game. Everything is so messed up, we told our kids to take nothing for granted. We don’t even know if we’re in. So we’re just going to keep playing,” said Norris.
Elsewhere, No. 5 Tennessee High (5-4, 3-2) might increase its odds of opening the 5A playoffs at home if it contains Volunteer (1-8, 1-4) at the Stone Castle. Sevier County, the No. 2 6A team in the quadrant, could also help the Vikings out by knocking off No. 4 South Doyle. Or not.
Unicoi County (3-6) wraps up its regular season at Sullivan Central (3-6) . David Crockett (5-4, 2-3) goes Musket Bowling at Daniel Boone (3-6, 2-3) and Cherokee (4-5, 3-3) buries the Five Rivers Hatchet at Seymour (2-7, 1-5).