Notebook: Muddy playoff picture begins to clear


From a Scott County perspective, it was a lousy weekend of football.

Not only did South Carolina upset Tennessee at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, 15-9, but both Oneida and Scott High came up short in crucial games, despite efforts that could have resulted in reversed outcomes had a handful of plays gone a different way in each game.

Oneida needed a win over top-ranked Meigs County to earn a home playoff game in Class 2A. Scott High needed a win over Northview Academy to earn a playoff game in Class 3A.

Neither happened, with the Indians coming up on the short end of a 28-6 decision against the Tigers, and the Highlanders falling to the Cougars, 35-18.

While Friday’s outcomes weren’t what local football fans — nor coaches or players — had hoped for, they did provide clarity to the postseason outlook, with just two weeks remaining in the regular season.

Oneida will likely finish as the No. 3 team in Region 2-2A, while Scott has been eliminated from postseason contention in Region 2-3A.

While the Indians can finish no higher than third in their region, guaranteeing them a trip to upper East Tennessee on Nov. 3, their opponent remains undetermined. A Cumberland Gap win over Rockwood in the regular season finale could complicate matters, dropping Oneida to fourth and sending the Indians to play the Region 1-2A champion. But that is unlikely to happen, which means the Indians will probably travel to the Region 1 runner-up.

What is already determined is that Meigs County will be the top seed from Region 2. Rockwood will be No. 2 and Cumberland Gap will be No. 4, unless the Panthers spring an upset next week, which means they would be No. 2, Rockwood No. 3 and Oneida No. 4.

In Region 1, Sullivan North has locked down the No. 1 seed, defeating Happy Valley last week. That likely means Happy Valley will finish as the runner-up, while Hampton will finish third and South Greene will finish fourth. However, Cosby can get into the playoffs with a win over Hampton, which would bounce the Bulldogs from the postseason, while South Greene can complicate the standings with an upset win over Happy Valley.

All of that seems unlikely, as there’s a significant difference between the region’s top two teams and the next two teams, with Cosby a distant fifth. So, in all likelihood, Oneida will find itself traveling to Elizabethton, Tenn., to face  Happy Valley in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs.

Happy Valley has lost three consecutive games after a 5-0 start — the same as Oneida — but those three losses came at the hands of stiff competition: Grace Christian Academy, undefeated Johnson County and Sullivan North.

If things pan out as expected, Oneida can earn an opportunity to travel to Decatur, Tenn., and rematch Meigs County with a win at Happy Valley. Meigs County will likely host South Greene in the first round. In the quadrant’s other first round games, Rockwood is expected to host Hampton, while Cumberland Gap travels to Sullivan North.

The winners of the Meigs County and Oneida games will face off in the second round, as will the winners of the Rockwood and Cumberland Gap games.

“We’ve got three games guaranteed and we want to play a while,” Oneida coach Tony Lambert said after last week’s loss to Meigs County. “I told ‘em we’ll play as long as they want to play. We may see this Meigs bunch again.”

That would be just fine with Lambert and his team.

“The referees at halftime said, ‘Coach, we had a bunch of schools last week and we were so glad to have a game that didn’t have a bunch of jawing and trash-talking,’” Lambert said. “That says a lot about our kids and it says a lot about their kids.”

In Class 3A, Alcoa and Austin-East will be the top two teams from Region 2, though they still have to square off to determine which will be No. 1 and which will be No. 2. Barring a couple of major upsets, Kingston will be the region’s No. 3 team, while Northview Academy will be No. 4. If the Yellow Jackets were to lose to both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg-Pittman, while the Cougars stunned Austin-East, the order of the last two teams in the playoffs would be reversed.

In Region 1, Johnson County has sewn up the top seed, while West Greene can secure the No. 2 seed with a win over Chuckey-Doak. Unicoi County will be No. 3, unless it stuns Johnson County and West Greene falls to Chuckey-Doak. The No. 4 seed will be Claiborne, unless it loses to North Greene and Chuckey-Doak beats West Greene.

So, if things play out as they’re expected to, Alcoa will host Claiborne, while Austin-East hosts Unicoi County. Kingston will travel to West Greene, with Northview Academy traveling to Johnson County.

Region 2 is substantially stronger than Region 1, and there will be those who will expect an all-Region 2 second round in the quadrant.

While Scott will not be a part of that playoff picture, Highlander head coach Keith Shannon said it’s important that his team finish the season strong at Pigeon Forge next week.

“It’s an all-in type deal for us,” Shannon said. “It doesn’t matter who, what, when, where. There’s lights. There’s lines on the field. There’s a scoreboard. We’re going to play for the fun of playing.

“We want to play well,” Shannon added. “We want to end this thing on the right note and get things going for the future of the program. It’s important for the future of the program to build on something positive. So we need to end this thing the right way.”

Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter, @benwgarrett.