• Tigers, Bears seek to advance

    By Andy Reed -

    Usually, there fewer second-round playoff games than firsts. But because Division II Friendship Christian and Mt. Juliet Christian drew first-round byes, they’ll be making their 2018 postseason debuts this week to join last-Friday winners Watertown and Mt. Juliet.

    Westmoreland at Watertown

    The Purple Tigers won their region/district for the first time in 33 years and won their first 11 games for the first time in 42. The next milestone for Watertown is playing a 13th game in a season, which would come next week if it can repeat its Week 7 42-0 win over Westmoreland at Robinson Stadium.

    “We’d be the first (WHS) team to go 12-0,” Tiger coach Gavin Webster said. “That would be a great accomplishment for our team.”

    Recent TSSAA playoff history is full of playoff rematches where the team which lost the regular-season meeting wins the playoff matchup. Webster’s not concerned about it;

    “I don’t get into all that,” he said. “I don’t see any sense in that.

    “We just talk about being prepared. We try to prepare for each team like they’re the best team we’re going to face all year.”

    While Watertown sent Bledsoe County packing 57-15 last week, Westmoreland traveled to Benton in southeast Tennessee and dispatched Polk County 14-7 to improve to 8-3.

    “They’ve shown a few wrinkles on offense, trying to get the (running back Tate) Sloan kid in the wildcat,” Webster said of the Eagles. “But pretty much we’re going to see the same (wing-T) offense and the same (50) defense.”

    Webster said the Tigers are healthy for Game No. 12.

    A 13th game would come at Robinson Stadium against either Trousdale County or Tyner.

    Clarksville Academy at Friendship Christian

    The Commanders aren’t coming off a seven-day break, or even 14. It will be 22 days between Friendship’s season finale at Middle Tennessee Christian and Friday’s home game (FCS’ first Pirtle Field appearance since Week 5 on Sept. 14).

    Unlike Friendship’s scheduled bye which coincided with fall break in early October, the players didn’t get an extended break from practice this time.

    “Two weeks ago we had some bad weather, we practiced a couple of days outside and a couple of days inside,” Commander coach John McNeal said. “We tried to focus on certain things and try not to be out as long as we would on a normal day.

    “We went back to our normal schedule (Monday). We’re going to find out this week how that worked.”

    Clarksville Academy is 6-5 following a 44-33 first-round home win over King’s Academy last week.

    “They’re very athletic, McNeal said of the Cougars. “Their quarterback (Bryce Robinson) is very athletic. He’s a dual threat running/ throwing. They have a good receiving corps. They don’t just have one.”

    Friendship is 7-2 and riding a five-game winning streak dating to an early September loss to Goodpasture.

    “We’ve gotten better each week,” McNeal said. “We had a lot of things earlier in the year we’ve focused on.

    “A lot of young players have come through. I feel we’re a whole lot better than we were at the beginning of the year. But that’s where you want to be.”

    The extended break has helped outside linebacker Mac Reeder return to the lineup after missing several weeks due to injury.

    This quarterfinal round winner will face the Middle Tennessee Christian-Fayette Academy survivor with Friendship playing at Pirtle or Clarksville Academy going on the road.

    Blackman at Mt. Juliet

    For better or worse, the Golden Bears find themselves underdogs for the first time this season as 11-1 Blackman visits Mel Brown Athletic Complex for a second-round showdown to be televised live on MyTV30.

    “We are the clear-cut 11-0 home underdog,” Golden Bear coach Trey Perry said.

    The reason Blackman is favored are three wide receivers – Arkansas-commits Trey Knox and Adonis Otey and Middle Tennessee State-bound Michaleous Elder – and running back Tamicus Napier, whom the Golden Bears saw in the past wearing a McGavock uniform and who burned Lebanon with 252 rushing yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 44-7 first-round win.

    “They got tremendous skill talent,” Perry said. “I went back to Memphis Melrose 1996, the last time I saw a group of guys that talented. They had, like, six NFL players.

    “Those concerned with our early strength of schedule, if we’re fortunate enough to advance, we’re not going to have a problem with strength of schedule,” continued Perry, whose Bears would entertain playoff-favorite Oakland, followed by defending champion Maryville. “This bracket is loaded with great football.”

    Blackman doesn’t have to air the ball to Knox, Otey and Elder. The Blaze, whose only loss came to Oakland, have other options.

    “What they do a really good job of on offense is getting their very best players in space,” Perry said. “Their offensive line and their power football game is equally as impressive.

    “They got good balance. They got a quarterback (sophomore Drew Beam) who can get them the ball. They give you enough diversity in their scheme that you can’t hang your hat on one single thing.”

    Blackman runs a slanting odd-front defense.

    “Very outstanding defense that plays tight man coverage on the edge. Their safeties add an extra guy to the box.”

    Perry is also a fan of linebackers Conner Murphy and Matthew Hall.

    “They’re two of the best I’ve seen in a while,” Perry said of Murphy and Hall. “They’re what you want in linebackers – read well, fit well and they finish well.”

    Perry said the Bears came out of last week’s win over Cookeville healthy. Running back Cam Malone, who has missed the last several weeks, is in a brace and is practicing but is expected to be available in an emergency situation only, Perry said.

    “We need everybody we can get,” Perry said. “We’ve worked a long time to put ourselves in this position.

    “The good thing about being prohibitive underdogs is you get to cut loose and play wide open football, and our guys are ready to do that.”

    Nashville Christian at Mt. Juliet Christian

    The Saints reached this quarterfinal round last year, losing at Davidson Academy following a home first-round win over Jackson Christian. This time, Mt. Juliet Christian had the opening round off, meaning a win this week would mark another MJCA first as it seeks a first-ever state semifinal berth.

    “Everybody that’s in the playoffs is ready to dive in and go win,” Mt. Juliet Christian coach Dan Davis said. “That’s what you play the game for.”

    Nashville Christian knocked off visiting Ezell-Harding 41-0 in last week’s first round to improve to 5-6.

    “They’re a solid football team,” Davis said of the Eagles. “They like to run the ball. They like to do a lot of stuff out of the I.

    “They’ll open up a little bit, but they’ll get into some type of pro look and do their thing… They have some good sized linemen, some decent speed.”

    The winner will either travel to Davidson Academy or play host to Grace Baptist in next week’s semifinal.

    Second round playoff games

    FRIDAY

    Westmoreland at WATERTOWN

    Clarksville Academy at FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN

    Blackman at MT. JULIET

    Nashville Christian at MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN

    All kickoffs at 7 p.m.

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