Huge 6A Matchups Highlight Opening Week of TSSAA Playoffs

Jariel Wilson and Centennial travel to Cane Ridge on Friday.

Williamson County area teams will have a heavy presence in the TSSAA football playoffs, which begin Friday. Here’s a quick look at what’s ahead for the teams in our coverage area.

Intriguing 6A matchups lead the way

LaVergne (4-6) at Ravenwood (8-2)

Ravenwood, the surprising winner of Region 6-6A under first-year coach Matt Daniels, hosts LaVergne, which won four of its last five to make the playoffs. The Raptors, behind quarterback Brian Garcia and running backs Jordan Smith and Nick Stallcup, have scored 30 or more points on seven occasions. Ravenwood linebacker Anthony McCarthy is one of the area’s best.

McGavock (5-5) at Brentwood (9-1) 

Brentwood linebacker C.J. Grissim.

Behind superstar quarterback Carson Shacklett, a running game headed by Jordan Nicholas and Carter McKechnie, and a group of capable receivers led by Parker Bullion, Brentwood scored 38 or more points eight times this season. An equally capable defense headed by star linebacker C.J. Grissim held teams to 14 or fewer on six occasions.

Independence (5-5) at Smyrna (7-3)

It was a disappointing season for Independence, the preseason favorite in Region 6-6A. Still, quarterback Nathan Cisco has plenty of weapons at his disposal, including major-college receiving prospects T.J. Sheffield and Kendrell Scurry, and red-hot tailback Troy Henderson, who has made 200-yard rushing games a habit of late. The problem for the Eagles is a defense that gives up 29 points per game.

Centennial (4-6) at Cane Ridge (9-1) 

Cane Ridge, which scored 356 points and gave up just 120 this year, is a heavy favorite in this one. But don’t completely dismiss the Cougars, who’ve upset Ravenwood and Summit this year. Centennial quarterback Tre Stewart has had success throwing the deep ball to all-around play-maker Tavion Fleming, and two-way star Jariel Wilson has rushed for 1,036 yards and averaged 8.4 per carry. The Cougars have given up 35.6 points per game, so they’ll need this one to be a shootout. This is a rematch of a Week 4 game, which Cane Ridge won, 28-12.

Franklin High was the only team in our Williamson County coverage area to not make the playoffs.

Intriguing matchup for Page headlines non-6A public school games

Page (7-3) at Gallatin (7-3) (5A)

Led by bruising running back Bubba Johnson and all-purpose athlete Jacob Van Landingham, Page averaged 30.6 points in the regular season. The defense, led by play-making defensive back Michael Burdick and linebacker Luke Bowers (97 stops, 11 for loss), gave up 15.7 points per game. Gallatin comes in fresh off a blowout of Glencliff following losses to Hendersonville and Beech.

Page Defense Ends Regular Season with a Bang
Page’s Luke Bowers makes a tackle.

Hillwood (3-7) at Summit (8-2) (5A)

Summit, which won Region 5-5A, enter the playoffs without star running back Tai Carter due to a knee injury. However, the Stars’ potent wing-T offense got by just fine without him last week, with running backs Peyton Craig and George Odimegwu combining for over 300 rushing yards. The Stars’ defense leaked a bit late against some of the better offenses on the schedule, and that’ll need to be fixed if Summit wants to make a deep run. Hillwood lost its last two games by a combined 104-0.

Spring Hill (5-5) at Macon Co. (7-3) (4A)

The Raiders have talented players on offense like quarterback T.J. Ennis and wide receiver Justin Oden. But the key for Spring Hill is superstar running back Dontae Smith and the health of his oft-ailing ankle. The Georgia Tech commitment is capable of ripping off 200 yards against just about anybody, and is capable of carrying the team on his own. The Raiders defense, which gave up 24.1 points per game, needs to get better for it to be a long run.

Nolensville (3-7) at Livingston Academy (8-2) (4A)

Coach Will Hester’s goal was to get the Knights into the playoffs in their first year as a program. Mission accomplished! What Nolensville needs now is cleaner play from quarterback Brandon Wharton II—he threw five touchdowns, but 11 interceptions—and continued rushing success from Colton Dooley, who recently had a 200-yard game. Tim Stayskal, who led the Knights in receiving, made some big plays on defense also. Livingston Academy scored 27.8 points per game while giving up 141.

Stratford (3-7) at Fairview (7-3)

James Stars Again for Fairview in Week 8
Fairview’s Darius James

Led by Darius James, who averaged 9.6 yards per carry and scored 28 total touchdowns, Fairview averaged 41.5 points per game. Linebacker Tristan Mann heads a defense that posted four shutouts. Two-way star Khristian Harris-Lusk adds three interceptions and nearly 500 yards from scrimmage. Stratford won two of its last three games.

History made at Grace Christian

Grace Christian Academy of Franklin (5-4) at Wayne County (7-3) (1A)

Former Titan quarterback Rusty Smith, now the GCA coach, leads the Lions to their first playoff berth in school history. Superstar quarterback Austin Amor is capable for running or throwing for over 200 yards in a given week, and helps on defense. Lineman Oliver Hunter leads a defense that gave up 25.1 points per game. This one figures to be a shootout: Wayne County scored 415 points and gave up 237.

Offensive fireworks expected in Division II Class AA tilts

King’s Academy of Knoxville (2-8) at Christ Presbyterian Academy (8-2) 

CPA came within five points of going unbeaten this year. Two-way star Kane Patterson ran for 866 yards and led the Lions with 66 tackles and 10 stops for loss for a squad that out-scored opponents by 202 points. CAK was out-scored by 201 points, though two of its last four games were victories.

Harding Academy (3-7) at Battle Ground Academy (9-1)

BGA’s Kel Hawkins.

BGA out-scored teams 341-111 on the season behind a team effort on both sides on the ball. Quarterback Drew Martin is surrounded by weapons like receivers Ollie Reese, Jack Jewell and Kel Hawkins, and running back Tiy Reed. The Wildcats are able to generate a pass rush thanks to linebacker Chico Bennett, and an outstanding secondary led by Garnett Hawkins, Conner Mitchell and Antonio Stevens.

St. George’s (4-6) at Franklin Road Academy (4-6)

FRA’s offense, led by quarterback Eric Stoxstill-Diggs and receiver Lance Wilhoite, was explosive at times. The Panthers’ defense yielded 28.4 points per game, but defensive lineman Tymon Mitchell was a disruptive force, and defensive backs Riley Speed and Watson Tansil can make game-changing plays. St. George’s scored 30 points a game and gave up 35.3, so look for a shootout in this one.

Ensworth, Father Ryan look to get back on track in Division II Class AAA

Baylor (3-7) at Ensworth (7-3)

The two teams played in Week 4, with Ensworth winning 35-21. But the Tigers had two-way star Jaylon King available then, and it is unclear whether King, who appeared to pull a hamstring last week in a loss to Brentwood Academy, will play this week. Star runner Nicky Clifton was also banged up last week. Still, the Tigers have plenty of play-makers besides those, including sophomore running back Keshawn Lawrence and two-way star Tanner Antonutti, the latter being a Tennessee commitment. Baylor, led by four-star prospect and Vanderbilt commitment Brendon Harris, scored 24.8 points per game but gave up 29.2.

Father Ryan (4-6) at Pope John Paul II (5-5)

HS Football Week 6: Williamson County Offensive Player of the Week
Father Ryan’s Jackson Byrd

The Fighting Irish had one of the strangest seasons of any team in the area. Father Ryan was one of two teams to beat Ravenwood, but finished its regular season with a 45-7 loss to McCallie. Quarterback Seamus O’Connell is one of the area’s better dual-threat quarterbacks, and running back Jackson Byrd had a big year. PJP II won the Week 4 matchup by a 27-23 score.

Brentwood Academy (9-0) has a bye and will face the winner of St. Benedict (7-3) at Memphis University School (5-5)