Right lane headons block the road to Cookeville
It was bound to happen.
From the end of October until now, every time I looked at the brackets hanging on the wall in the office I was hit with a momentary mixture of excitement and dread for the quarterfinal round. Friday could just as easily have been defacto state title games as the brackets brought together too many of the good teams too soon.
The TSSAA logic on travel makes perfect sense from the angle of geography, but its premise leaves a huge gaping assumption regarding state-wide parity and that flaw was readily apparent with what nearly everyone believes — and history would further support — was a state title bout between Alcoa and the Christian Academy of Knoxville. It wasn’t much better with undefeated Maryville and Dobyns-Bennett colliding, except for the fact the same kind — if not the same record-wise — collision was taking place in Murfreesboro between Riverdale and Siegel. It’s only when you peek at the west and realize that four of the five best 6A teams were playing each other for the right to try and tackle Whitehaven that the scale on the brackets leans so far to the east.
There are 27 6A teams in District 1-8 of AAA and 27 in 9 through 16, but with quantity even it does not mean quality is anywhere near parity. The playoffs determine that and in two weeks they will but the road for those schools lying to the east of the TSSAA headquarters in Murfreesboro is vastly more difficult than those lying the other side of it.
D-B showed up with a team that unlike some of its historical predecessors wasn’t ready for a playoff upset and played a game that challenged and pushed Maryville like the state semifinal it could have easily have been. And Siegel and Riverdale may well feel the same after Siegel prevailed 33-20 but lost its star receiver Brent Stockstill — son of MTSU head coach Rick — in the contest that sets it to host Maryville.
But that’s little consolation to Dobyns-Bennett and it was certainly no consolation to Alcoa.
There is no adjustment for the state’s two best teams residing in the same district like CAK and Alcoa do. What the fans that crowded both sides and every available vantage point of Goddard Field witnessed was in essense if not fact the 3A state title game.
While Alcoa has appeared the more playoff sound squad with a stiffer defense and ability to run the clock or as it showed against CAK, score quickly out of the ground game, it was CAK that won the 16th round between these two Goliaths of 3A.
No disrespect to Elizabethton or CPA or Milan, but while the Warriors may lose focus and be upset in the next two games — and shock the life out of me in the process — they will not be tested as they were Friday. Never have two styles or approaches to football differed so widely and been utilized so successfully against each other for so long as they have in this series and the two meetings this season have been the best of them all.
The logic says its impossible to get the two best teams to the finals, that the willy-nilly of geography makes anything but regional seeding impossible and that the best the system can do is have the best team loft the trophy no matter if it’s the second- or seventh-best team they actually face in the finals.
It really can’t be any other way, I suppose.
But some nights, that’s a real shame.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com