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While this week has featured quite a few good games in the Major League Baseball playoffs, Friday night will feature a lot of interesting games that will help determine the playoff fate for a lot of teams across the state.
Entering Friday, all five county teams are all still alive in the race for the playoffs, but only Kingston appears to be a sure bet entering the final month of the regular season.
Kingston's five wins should be enough to secure the Jackets a postseason berth, but with three games remaining, the Jackets are now battling for postseason seeding and as many home games as possible in November. Vic King's squad will have a chance to pick up another win Friday at McMinn Central in a non district contest.
The remaining four county teams will be taking on district opponents. The two teams with the most to gain Friday are Oliver Springs and Rockwood.
Oliver Springs sits at 3-3 overall entering Friday's game at Oneida, but a victory over the Indians would keep the Bobcats alive in the battle for one of the top two spots in District 4-A. The top two teams in each district automatically qualify for the playoffs.
Rockwood sits at 4-3 overall and are currently tied with Greenback for the top spot in District 3-A (that's after taking Grace Christian Academy out of the equation for being on TSSAA probation).
The Tigers host Greenback Friday night with the winner pretty much locking up a playoff berth. The loser would still be considered the favorite in locking up an automatic berth, but would still have work to do.
The final game in Roane County Friday night will see Midway hosting Harriman. Both teams enter the contest with 2-4 records and it would be hard for either team to make the playoffs with a loss Friday night.
Kingston (5-2) at
McMinn Central (1-6)
What could be a classic trap game awaits Kingston Friday night as sitting between Alcoa and Christian Academy of Knoxville (CAK) on the schedule is McMinn Central.
The Chargers have won just one game on the season, but they are averaging 19.6 points per game and they have scored 20 or more points in three straight games.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, their opponents have scored 35 points per game and 24 points is the least McMinn Central has given up this season.
That should be good news for a Kingston offense that averages 27.1 points per game and has scored 26 points or more five times.
The key to Kingston's success is having play-makers all over the field on offense. Demarcus Foster, Cody Akers, Darian Sams, Dustin Kitts and Aaron Fielden have all made plays on the ground this season as the Jackets are averaging 212.1 yards per game rushing.
Kingston, however, has also been making more plays through the air lately as QB Preston King (695 yards passing) has nice chemistry with Robbie Szozda (20-429, 6 TDs) while Fielden (9-225) and Jordan Jones (5-79) are also capable of big plays through the air.
The Jackets could be looking back at a rough loss to Alcoa. The Jackets could be looking ahead to a showdown with CAK. However, the Jackets are probably focused on getting a win to improve their postseason seed... Kingston 38 McMinn Central 21.
Oliver Springs (3-3) at Oneida (5-1)
It will be a battle of contrasting styles Friday night as the run-oriented Indians host a spread attack from the Bobcats.
To say the Indians like to run the ball could be an understatement as Oneida has thrown only 42 passes all season.
Brandon Smith is the Indians leading rusher with 526 yards rushing on 55 carries (9.6 yards per carry). Oneida also has four other players with at least 100 yards rushing.
Although the Indians don't throw much, QB Cole West has completed 18 passes with Houston West hauling in 11 of those passes for an eye-popping 326 yards and 4 TDs.
The Indians defense has also been on the warpath lately, as Oneida has posted shutouts in three of their last four games.
Oliver Springs will need all of their play-makers if they are to leave Scott County with a win Friday night.
Jordan Romero leads the Bobcats with 667 yards rushing and 12 TDs on the season, but the balance of QB Garrett Miller (475 yards rushing, 379 yards passing) is a must. Miller will be looking for Austin West and John Simms in the passing game and Bobcat head coach Wiley Brackett will also be looking for a way to get the ball into the hands of Michael Nelson and Jordan Davis Friday night.
Both teams are still alive for the District 4-A championship, but Oliver Springs will be all-but-eliminated with a loss. That desperation and the need to stay above .500 should lead to a focused Bobcat squad Friday night... Oliver Springs 20 Oneida 14.
Greenback (6-1) at
After opening the season with six straight wins, the Cherokees took one on the chin last week with a 40-0 shelling by Grace Christian Academy.
Greenback, however, is not alone as the Rams defeated Rockwood earlier in the season, 28-0.
In those first six games, the Cherokees were dominant at times, averaging 29.5 points per game while giving up just 13.2.
A big reason for the success of the Cherokees has been dual-threat QB Hogan Goodson and speedy RB Richard Seymour.
While Greenback relies on a couple of thoroughbreds, Rockwood looks more like a bunch of Clydesdales as the Tigers will look to pound the Cherokees with multiple backs.
Everett Campbell leads the Tigers with 338 yards rushing on the year, but Jared Breazeale, Ethan Headrick all Tyler Skidmore have more than 269 yards on the ground while Kyler Hagler, Drake Long and Kyron Inman could also see five or more carries.
Rockwood won District 3-A last season, but they didn't run the table as Tigers lost at Greenback. How many times has Tiger head coach John Webb reminded his team of that this week? And the Tigers always seem to play their best with a chip on their shoulder... Rockwood 23 Greenback 21.
Harriman (2-4) at
In what is pretty much a must-win game for both teams, the Green Wave are hoping home field advantage pays off Friday night.
Both teams match up well with their opponents defense.
Harriman has struggled against the pass at times this season and Midway QB Thomas Viar along with big play receivers Shandon Lyle and Christian Moore are bound to test the Blue Devil secondary.
Midway, however, has also seen the emergence of a running game as RB Clay Clower has topped the century mark in each of the last two weeks and Viar also gives the Green Wave another solid runner in the backfield.
Speaking of running the football, that's pretty much all that Harriman does.
The Blue Devils are big up front and match up well with a smaller Green Wave front seven. With the big boys leading the way, junior RB Lucas Lunsford has had a great season with 544 yards rushing. Lunsford, however, has carried the ball only once the last two weeks because of an injury and his health will be critical to Harriman's success.
The one good thing about Lunsford's injury as been the play of Tyler Stubbs. Stubbs has amassed 193 yards in the past two weeks as Harriman's feature back.
This one will be decided by tempo. Midway will be looking for a wide-open style game while Harriman wants to grind-it-out. Harriman senior Jace Greene and his friends up front should be able to control the line of scrimmage and keep Viar and the Green Wave offense off the field... Harriman 26 Midway 22.
Goose's Gander on other games of interest: Grace Christian by 42 over Tellico Plains, Sunbright by 14 over Oakdale, Coalfield by 42 over Jellico, Sequoyah by 7 over Scott, Stone Memorial by 14 over Cumberland County, Loudon by 16 over White County. Last Week 8-2; Overall 67-18.