Week Two of the TSSAA football playoffs is upon us, and Williamson County has eight teams in action this week after Summit and Franklin were eliminated last week. Here’s a look at what’s ahead.
Independence at Brentwood, Part II
On Sept. 28, then-2-3 Independence (6-5, 356 points scored/304 points allowed) came to 5-1 Brentwood (9-2, 339/230) and pulled one of the county’s biggest upsets of 2018 with a 42-31 victory. No other team scored more than 33 on the Bruins all season.
That night, the Eagles got incredible performances from quarterback Ethan Cash (22 of 36, 466 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions) and receivers T.J. Sheffield (11 catches, 286 yards, three touchdowns) and Isaiah Collier (8-170-2, and three carries for 42 and another score).
The problem for Brentwood is that Independence now has Chayce Bishop, who caught three balls for 51 yards and was the Bruins’ most gifted receiver, also. The junior transferred before the Eagles’ Oct. 19 win at Memphis East.
Defense may be the key. Brentwood, led by lineman Tank Starr, linebacker Xiere Howard and safety Walker Merrill, has played consistently well. Independence has shown no such consistency, but it has played well at times, such as when it held Smyrna to 14 last week behind Colby Logan (10 tackles, two for loss, one break-up), Chase Robertson (four tackles, three hurries, one break-up) and Brian Pierce (14 tackles).
It should be a dandy, and watch the weather conditions on Friday. Independence had massive difficulties adapting to wet conditions in a loss to Ravenwood to end the regular season.
Ravenwood looks for playoff revenge at Cane Ridge
The Brentwood-Independence winner gets the victor of this one, which should also be a terrific game. It’s also a re-match of last year’s 6A playoff quarterfinal, which Cane Ridge won, 21-18.
Ravenwood (9-2, 292/169) won by forfeit last week. Coach Matt Daniels’ versatile offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Brian Garcia, is as fun to watch as anyone’s. Cane Ridge (11-0, 434/195) is led by all-purpose star Devon Starling, who had 165 all-purpose yards last week and two defensive touchdowns.
The Raptors, who have two Division I college prospects in offensive linemen in Gabe Sleehof and Graham Barton, will want to control tempo. Big-play threats Anthony Holmes and Tony Rice have produced a number of long touchdowns this year, and that’ll be key again on Friday.
Battle Ground Academy, Knoxville Webb slug it out on defense
BGA (9-2 400/116) has made headlines through the passing game of quarterback Nick Semptimphelter and a bevy of quality receivers led by Antonio Stevens, who had four touchdowns last week. The Wildcats don’t put up huge numbers, but have been hyper-efficient all year. Having a good kicker in Jack Sauder also helps.
But it’s BGA’s defense that’s really scary. Stevens and Garnett Hollis star in the defensive backfield, where they take advantage of opportunities generated by linebacker Chico Bennett and the front seven getting pressure. Many a time, that unit has generated a turnover or forced a punt to provide a short field for the offense.
Webb (6-5, 320/188), which started 0-4 against a tough slate, rides a five-game winning streak. It has given up just 60 points over that span. The Spartans were eliminated at this stage of the playoffs last year, too.
Burdick leads Page in tough home game with Beech
Beech (8-3, 379/212) won a crazy triple-overtime game against Summit to earn a second-round game with Page (10-1, 344/186), which throttled Hillwood for a seventh-straight win.
Two-way star Michael Burdick continues to make game-changing plays on both sides of the ball. This is the kind of game where Burdick could be the difference. It’s also important that quarterback Cade Walker, who’s been productive through the air and has also avoided critical mistakes, continues to play at his normal level.
The winner gets Shelbyville or Hillsboro.
Fairview hosts East Nashville battle in evenly-matched game
Fairview (9-2, 407/190) hasn’t been challenged the last two weeks. That won’t be the case against East Nashville (10-1, 368/162).
It seems that receiver Kam-Harris Lusk is good for three or four touchdowns every week. He’ll absolutely be the key player in this one, but seniors Blake Russell and Brock Harris have turned in their share of big plays also.
If Fairview advances, its brutal playoff path continues with, in all likelihood, a game against Pearl Cohn next week.
Coutras leads Nolensville at Maplewood
Nolensville (7-4, 329-198) continues to be well ahead of schedule. Junior Tim Coutras continues to make explosive plays on both sides of the ball, and the Knights’ passing game, led by Ryder Gallardi, can make big plays thanks to tight end Tim Stayskal.
But Nolensville may have met its match with Maplewood (10-1, 440/118). The teams played on Oct. 11, and Maplewood won, 20-13. That’s been Maplewood’s closest game in its current nine-game winning streak.
The winner draws either Marshall County, which Nolensville beat on Oct. 26, or Tullahoma, which beat the Knights on Sept. 28.
Brentwood Academy looks for new streak at Christian Brothers
BA (8-2, 357-99) shut out Ensworth to end the regular season and snap an uncharacteristic two-game losing streak. The Eagles’ running game, led by quarterback Wade Williams and running back Tomario Pleasant, it tough to stop.
Christian Brothers (8-2, 305/127) has defensive lineman Christian James, a three-star recruit who’s heading to Vanderbilt. A regular-season-ending loss to Memphis University School snapped its seven-game winning streak.
The winner gets the winner of Briarcrest and MBA.