If the regular season ended now, Oneida would be the No. 3 seed in Class 2A’s first playoff quadrant and would host Oliver Springs in the first round of the state playoffs, while Scott would be the No. 6 seed in Class 4A’s first quadrant and would travel to Knox Carter for the first round.
The regular season doesn’t end now, and there’s still three weeks for things to sort themselves out, but the playoff picture is beginning to rapidly clear.
In Class 2A, Oneida is still very much in the running for a No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and is likely to be no lower than a No. 3 seed. In Class 4A, Scott is likely to be no higher than a No. 6 seed. And while the Highlanders won’t be lower than a No. 6 seed if the teams currently on the inside of the wildcard playoff bubble — Claiborne and Grainger — stay there, if either or both of those teams fail to make the playoffs, the Highlanders will drop in the seedings accordingly.
For now, Grace Christian (8-0) has the No. 1 seed in Class 2A’s first quadrant, followed by Silverdale Academy (7-0), Oneida, Rockwood (6-2), Tellico Plains (5-2) and Oliver Springs.
TSSAA’s playoff formula factors wins with more importance than anything else, but also applies a 16-step tiebreaker that favors strength of schedule when teams are tied in the wins column.
Grace Christian’s schedule favors a 10-0 finish and the No. 1 seed in the quadrant. Silverdale does not have a team with a winning record on its schedule; the toughest game it has remaining is Boyd Buchanan (2-5). Should Silverdale win out, it will be the No. 2 seed in the quadrant, regardless of what else happens.
Should Silverdale lose one game and Oneida win out, the Indians will be the No. 2 seed.
With that said, it’s possible — perhaps probable — that by the time we have this discussion in three weeks, Silverdale will not even be in the equation. On Oct. 25, Hampton (4-3) and South Greene (3-4) will meet in a crucial Region 1-A battle. The winner will finish at least second in the region, earning an automatic playoff berth. Assuming Oliver Springs wins enough games to stay in the playoff picture — the Bobcats likely need two of their last three — Silverdale will be shifted out of the first quadrant, increasing Oneida’s odds of obtaining a No. 2 seed.
In Class 2A, the top two playoff seeds in each quadrant receive a first round playoff bye and a second round game at home.
Class 4A’s first quadrant, meanwhile, is easily the toughest quadrant in the state. Four of the eight teams in the quadrant — Greeneville, Fulton, Knox Carter and Sullivan South — are currently unbeaten, and Greeneville and Fulton are consistently ranked as the top two 4A teams in the state.
Greeneville and Fulton each have schedules that favor a 10-0 finish. Sullivan South could also potentially finish unbeaten. Carter has a regular season finale showdown with Fulton and seems unlikely to finish with a 10-0 mark. The seeding order of the unbeatens is still very much in jeopardy, and will depend on the wins and losses of a number of teams that are hovering around the .500 mark the rest of the way.
Carter and Elizabethton (6-1) are likely to battle it out for the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the quadrant.
Scott, at 6-2, is currently No. 6, followed by Grainger (3-4) and Claiborne (3-3).
Should one of Grainger or Claiborne fail to qualify for the playoffs, Catholic would slide into the first quadrant, bumping Scott down to a No. 7 seed and leaving the Highlanders with a first round road trip to whichever team winds up as the No. 2 seed. Should both of those teams fail to qualify, it is likely that Sequoyah (5-2) would be shifted into the quadrant as well.
Oneida and Coalfield are used to deciding the District 4-A championship when they meet annually at Dr. M.E. Thompson Field or Rochelle Field. This year will be no different. The Indians’ 26-7 win over Oliver Springs last week guaranteed that this week’s battle between the Indians and the Yellow Jackets (Friday, 7:30 p.m.) will be a de facto championship game within the district. Should Coalfield win, the Yellow Jackets would automatically lock up the district title. Should Oneida win, the Indians would need only to beat either Sunbright or Jellico to claim the top spot.
Oneida won last year’s game, 21-13, but Coalfield won the two before that. Since 2000, Coalfield leads the series 8-5. All-time, Oneida leads the series 45-21, dating back to a 37-0 win over the Yellow Jackets in 1932.
The Indians’ longest win streak in the series is eight, stretching the entire decade of the 1980s. Coalfield’s longest win streak is five, from 2003 to 2006.
Oneida coach Tony Lambert is 3-0 against the Yellow Jackets as head coach. Coalfield coach Keith Henry — former co-head coach at Oneida — is 2-2 against the Indians.
Scott’s 34-12 win over Claiborne Friday assured that this team — which has been making its mark throughout the season as one of the best teams in school history — will take another step in that direction.
The win was the Highlanders’ sixth of the season, guaranteeing that this season will be a winning one no matter what happens in the final two games (at Catholic and Cumberland Gap).
The Highlanders have already equaled their regular season win total from 2010, when they finished 6-4. That is the most single season wins for Scott since the start of the 2000s, and the most since an 8-2 regular season in 1999.
Already, 2013 ranks among the Top 10 single-season win totals in school history. With one more win, this year’s team can move into the Top 5, tied with the 1983-1985 teams, each of which won seven regular season games. The only teams to win more were 1979, 1980 and 1999, each of which won eight regular season games.