Bulldogs not present when TSSAA playoff roll is taken



CELINA-After a few weeks of feeling pretty good about a shot at the playoffs, and a couple of days of feeling really sure about being there, the Clay County Bulldogs and followers were left with an empty feeling Saturday morning.


When the playoff roll was called by the TSSAA in a statewide broadcast that morning, the Dawgs were absent.


The new playoff format had been at best difficult to figure out since it was announced earlier this year, but recent media speculation and reports, along with website information, had led Bulldog followers to think they were in, simply awaiting a seeding and first-round opponent when Saturday morning rolled around.


It didn’t play out that way. 


On Thursday, information posted on the TSSAA website, under a heading of “Class A Football Playoff possibilites for TSSAA football schools,” said of Clay County: “If Friendship Christian wins (over Monterey), they (CCHS) are an automatic qualifier, otherwise they may only qualify as a wild card.”


As things turned out, despite Friendship’s easy win over Monterey on Thursday night, Clay County didn’t make it in as an automatic qualifier or a wild card. Why? Here’s the complicated explanation, school officials said, after a long weekend of study and conferring with the TSSAA: 


The Dawgs, Monterey and Jackson County all wound up with 3-5 records in region play, which threw the tie-breaker to head-to-head. That tie-breaker was thrown out since the three teams split in their games: Clay beat Monterey, Monterey beat Jackson and Jackson then beat Clay. 


The next tie-breaker was overall record, which knocked the Bulldogs out, since they had only four wins and Jackson County and Monterey had five. Monterey beat Jackson County (returning to head-to-head), giving them the fifth spot in the region, and making Gordonsville and the Wildcats the top two 1A teams in the region and giving them the two playoff spots. 


The earlier TSSAA web post of the playoff scenario was a mistake: the Bulldogs were not in with the Friendship win over Monterey. 


Another wrong assumption was made by many through the course of the season: region games against teams in a higher playoff classification do figure in the playoff scenario.


Monterey will visit 3-7 Eagleville in the first round, while Gordonsville will host Lookout Valley. Both Monterey and Gordonsville are in the same playoff quadrant as South Pittsburg, the hands-down favorite to take the state title. 


Three teams from Region 4 made the 2A playoffs. Trousdale County and Friendship both drew first-round byes, while Watertown made it in as a wild card team. Jackson County is bowl eligible with a 5-5 record.

The Bulldogs wound up playing seven teams that will be in the playoffs or are bowl eligible, and the popular Coach T website had them playing the seventh-toughest schedule in Class A, which includes the 1A and 2A playoff classifications (80 teams). The Bulldogs’ opponents won 57.8 percent of their games.