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Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

Parity has come a long way in prep ranks

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Over the last few years, the word PARITY has become a familiar term to football fans. That word has become especially relative when the topic of conversation invol-ves college and professional squads that compete on the gridiron.

Football teams that put together extremely long winning streaks are more and more becoming a thing of the past. It's been nearly 25 years since a perfect season was compiled in the National Football League. That special season dates back to 1972 when the Miami Dolphins went 16-0. That '72 team is the only one in NFL history to achieve such an accomplishment. It's doubtful such an occurrence will ever take place again.

College football rarely now has more than two or three teams that end the regular season without a blemish in the loss column. Because of the BCS system, the number of undefeated college football teams without a loss gets smaller and smaller each year after the bowl games have been played.

Parity has also come to the high school football ranks in Tennessee. We're only at the midpoint of the 2006 season and parity is becoming more and more obvious with each passing week. Consequently, it's becoming tougher and tougher to accurately predict the outcome of high school games.

If the first half of this year's campaign is any indication of what we should come to expect from the next five weeks, we're in for an exciting ride, to say the least. With five weeks remaining before the playoffs begin, less than 14 percent of the more than 300 high school football teams still have perfect records.

No fewer than eight teams fell from the unbeaten ranks this past weekend. McCallie's loss to Alcoa, Smyrna's setback at the hands of defending 5A state champion Raven-wood and Houston's loss to Bolton were three of the biggest surprises. I say surprise because the victors in these three games entered last Friday night's action with a combined 4-8 record.

Of the 42 teams that have not tasted defeat this year, most call the state's three largest classifications their home. Nine compete at the 5A level, eight are in 4A and 11 are classified as 3A teams. Only four call 2A home while eight are members of the 1A classification. Only two of the current undefeated teams, Harding Academy and Evangelical Christian School, are members of Division II.

But even more remarkable than the state being left with so few undefeated teams at this stage of the season is the fact that eight of these squads were unable to put together a winning season last year. Two of them, Williamson County's Independence and Station Camp, were each a dismal 1-9 in 2005. Things have certainly turned around for a number of Tennessee's high schools.

At the other end of the spectrum, only two of last year's eight state champions are still undefeated: Maryville and Evangelical Christian School. 5A champ Ravenwood is 2-3, 3A champ Livingston is 1-4 and 1A titlist Trousdale County is 2-3.

Parity is great for prep football. It gives fans everywhere a reason to hope that their team will be playing soon in a championship game. No doubt, there will be some new participants in this year's BlueCross Bowl. Will one be your favorite team?

Murphy Fair publishes the annual TENNESSEE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL PREVIEW. His website (murphyfair.com) gives high school fans further insight into the prep football scene.