TSSAA restructuring, playoffs are pretty difficult to figure out

 

By KEVIN DONALDSON

CELINA-What are the chances for a return trip to the playoffs this season for the Clay County High football team? They appear to be pretty good, but if you can completely explain the new football playoff setup to me, I would be grateful.

Well, maybe I understand it a little bit better than that, but it’s a complicated process. Earlier this year, the TSSAA returned to three classifications (AAA, AA, and A, as us old-timers remember), but in a way, they really didn’t.

When playoff time rolls around, each of those three classifications will be split into two. What has actually happened in the restructuring is the addition of another state playoff class and championship. Instead of five state titles in Division I, there are now six. The Bulldogs will be competing in the smallest playoff classification, with 40 other schools.  24 of those teams will make the playoffs. 

There was also supposed to be a return to “district” competition, after several years of “region” play. That didn’t happen across the board, though. The Dawgs were left with basically the same setup as before, with two exceptions. Jackson County and Pickett County are now in our football region, made up of Districts 7 and 8, and Mt. Juliet Christian is out.  

CCHS will play mainly the same folks they have for several years now and compete in eight region contests. Taft Youth Center, and an old foe from the past–Oliver Springs–are the only non-conference games. Those are also the first and final games of the regular season. 

Across the state, there are three regions in Class 1A and 10 districts. 

 

Playoff trip in 2009?

What will it take for the Dawgs to make a second straight trip to the playoffs for the first time in a dozen seasons? 

When playoff time rolls around, there will be five 1A teams in the current district. Trousdale County (the pre-season title pick in Murphy Fair’s annual preview), Friendship Christian, Watertown and Jackson County will all be in the 2A playoff hunt, leaving the Dawgs, Gordonsville, Monterey, Pickett County and Red Boiling Springs in 1A. 

According to a recently-posted TSSAA video, the first and second-place finishers in our region among the 1A  teams would get playoff spots. The unknown factor for some across the state is “wild card” berths that are available.  The TSSAA video says there could be as few as two wild card berths or as many as six. That takes a lot of the guarantee out of finishing anything below first place in some districts in 1A, but evidently not here. 

Gordonsville, despite a sub-.500 season in 2008, was picked the number six team statewide in the 1A playoff category in the Murphy Fair publication, with perennial power South Pittsburg (surprise, surprise) picked number one.

What does it all mean for new head coach David Maxfield and his youthful Bulldogs? They will have to get at least three district wins in some combination over Gordonsville, Monterey, RBS or Pickett County to make the playoffs.