Playoff hopes drive Rockets and Bulldogs
Under the new Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's playoff system, 32 teams from each football classification will make up the field that will begin post-season play on November 6.
The Forrest Rockets (6-1, 4-0) are in the drivers seat in Region 4-AA, holding down first place and can clinch the top spot with wins in two of its last three games.
Under the new format, each region has a sister region that it will matched with and the top four teams in each will make the playoffs with No. 1 playing 4 and 2 playing 3 on the opposite side.
For the sixth-ranked Rockets it will be tough sledding as they are paired with Region 3-AA that has the top two teams in the latest Associated Press Top 10 Poll.
Undefeated and No. 1 Boyd Buchanan (6-0, 4-0), No. 2 Marion County (6-1, 3-1) and Bledsoe County (3-3, 2-1) are the top three in the Chattanooga area region.
Silverdale, Tyner Academy, Brainerd and Meigs County are all in a dogfight for the fourth spot.
Westmoreland (4-3, 4-1), Watertown (5-2, 3-1), Eagleville (3-4, 2-2), Community (3-3, 2-2) and Cascade (2-5, 1-3) are still in the running in Region 4-AA.
Back to the road
The Rockets are in the final leg of a three-game road stint as they travel to winless East Robertson Friday night.
"I certainly hope the boys are not overlooking East Robertson and I believe they know what will be at stake Friday night," Forrest coach Matt Kriesky said. "We are working towards our goal of winning the region and still have three more region games left. These games are just as important as the Watertown game."
Watertown was a huge boost for the Rockets, who plan on carrying on with the Forrest brand of football that highlights pounding the rock and playing tough hard-nosed defense.
"We plan on running the ball on offense and continue building on what we have done the past couple of weeks," Kriesky said. "Defensively we look to continue to get better and improving from week to week. We need to improve on wrapping up and also taking better angles to the football."
Last year this time, the Rockets were battered and bruised, but not this year and after the East Robertson game in which there is a pretty good chance of resting some starters in the second half, Forrest goes on a bye week before playing its final two games at home versus Eagleville and Jackson County.
"I believe last year was just one of those years where we couldn't catch a break at the right time," Kriesky said. "These young men have been with us for three years now and have had been apart of our off-season training, so I certainly hope that has played a part in it also."
The Cornersville Bulldogs are fighting for their playoff lives at this point and are just looking for that one win that can be a springboard to success.
"We are going into every game like it's a win or go home atmosphere. Mathematically we could still make the playoffs, but a lot of different scenarios would have to happen, and the most important one would be us having to win out," Cornersville coach Gerard Randolph said. "You never know what can happen on any given Friday and that's why the game is to be played."
Cornersville (1-5, 1-3) travels to Lawrence County High School this week where they will take on Summertown (2-5. 1-4), who are in its initial season of varsity football.
"They are a dangerous ball club and they have been able to move the ball on every opponent that they have faced this year," Randolph stated. "They have some really good skill kids that can make a ton of plays, so Friday night will definitely be a great challenge for our young ball club, but our guys are excited about the opportunity."
The Bulldogs suffered a huge loss when their star player Kolbe McMahon went down with a season ending knee injury, but Randolph knows that is part of the game and he is looking for others to step up in McMahon's place.
"It's no secret that Kolbe McMahon is a vital part of our offensive contribution, but I have a great amount of confidence in some of the guys that will get more touches such as Trenton Warren, Cameron Whitaker, and Eli Woodard," the coach said. "We can't hang our heads on something that we have no control over. This group has rallied together and they are ready to step up and compete. This will help us tremendously down the road with the experience that these young guys are getting."
The Bulldogs have never stopped working hard through the setbacks this season and Randolph has stuck to his blueprint that should produce a win this week.
"We have to come out early and set the tone, we cannot allow teams to continue to make big plays on us early in the game," Randolph said. "If we can play sound football at every phase of the game and not turn the ball over I think we will have a shot."