Tysean Jefferson.jpg

Beech running back Tysean Jefferson (3) stiff arms a Hendersonville defender on Sept. 11.

2020 record: 90-29

Last week: 9-1

Just like last week, the third round of the TSSAA state football playoffs is littered with familiar matchups.

Eight of the 10 games discussed below are rematches from the regular season. Cookeville berths are on the line in Division II, while Division I teams are hoping to advance to the semifinals.

Let’s get to the picks. Here are thoughts on 10 intriguing Midstate playoff games:

Main Street Preps Game of the Week

Summit (11-1) at Beech (9-1) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Summit beat Hillwood and Columbia in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Dual-threat QB Destin Wade, a Class 5A Mr. Football finalist, has rushed for 999 yards, thrown for 879 and totaled 26 scores in just eight games. But Wade and the Spartans face a stiff test this week.  

Since dropping its opener at Powell, Beech has been unbeatable. The Bucs delivered perhaps their most compete performance in a 36-0 rout of Hillsboro last week. Senior Tysean Jefferson has rushed for 359 yards and three TDs in Beech’s two playoff games, and he helps a defense that has allowed just 8.6 points per game since the beginning of October.

Anything other than a close margin here would be surprising.

PICK: Beech 34, Summit 30

Franklin (7-5) at Brentwood (9-3) – Friday at 7 p.m.

The oldest rivalry in Williamson County (dating back to the early 1980s) will take on a somber tone Friday night. Pat Crawford, the mother of Brentwood head coach Ron Crawford, passed away at age 80 on Tuesday.

Both Brentwood and Franklin won their second-round matchups with last-second touchdowns. When the two met on Oct. 16, the Bruins came away with a 42-20 victory. That may be too much ground for the Admirals to make up, even though they have won four straight since the loss to Brentwood.

PICK: Brentwood 35, Franklin 28

Riverdale (10-2) at Oakland (12-0) – Friday at 7 p.m.

It’s the Battle of the ‘Boro, round No. 2. Oakland beat Riverdale 30-7 on Oct. 16, though the Warriors were without starting QB Jameson Holcomb, who has since returned from injury to key playoff wins over Wilson Central and Hendersonville.

Oakland, the No. 1 team in the Main Street Preps Top 25 poll, will be difficult to dethrone. The Patriots seem destined for a Class 6A quarterfinal rematch with fellow powerhouse Maryville, which won the 2019 state title.

PICK: Oakland 35, Riverdale 21

Goodpasture (9-2) at CPA (8-1) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Goodpasture has been a pleasant surprise in 2020. After a dismal 4-7 finish last year, first-year coach Tyler Turner has led the program to its first state semifinal since 2010. Senior Brendan Jones ran for six touchdowns during an improbable 61-43 win over previously undefeated CAK last week.

CPA is coming off a bye after quarterfinal opponent Chattanooga Christian was forced to cancel for COVID-19 issues. The Lions already own a 36-0 victory over Goodpasture this season and should enter Friday’s matchup with confidence they can return to Cookeville for the third straight year.

PICK: CPA 28, Goodpasture 14

Nashville Christian (9-3) at Davidson Academy (11-0) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Davidson Academy, the two-time defending DII-A state champion, is moving up to DII-AA next season. To get a chance at one more DII-A title, the Bears must replicate their 35-0 win over Nashville Christian from Sept. 4.

Taking this rematch by the previous margin won’t be easy. The Eagles have won all nine of their games since starting the year 0-3.  But the Davidson Academy defense allows just 7.6 points per game, meaning one or two scores from senior RB Griffin Swinea (1,514 rushing yards, 29 TDs) will probably be enough for the Bears to return to Cookeville.

PICK: Davidson Academy 49, Nashville Christian 17

Trousdale County (10-2) at Watertown (11-1) – Friday at 7 p.m.

The last five matchups between these Region 4-2A rivals have been decided by once score or less, including a 9-7 Watertown victory on Sept. 4 that ultimately made the difference in the region standings. Trousdale County eliminated Watertown in both the 2018 and 2019 quarterfinals.

Watertown’s dynamic offense has put up 33 points per game this year. Touchdowns will be difficult to come by against Trousdale County, but the trio of Brayden Cousino (1,430 passing yards, 19 TDs), Jordan Cason (1,150 rushing yards, 17 TDs) and Quanterrius Hughes-Malone (824 receiving yards, 14 TDs) should help the Purple Tigers find the end zone at least once or twice.

PICK: Watertown 17, Trousdale County 10

Pearl-Cohn (7-0) at Stewart County (10-1) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Stewart County is having its best season in school history after reeling off seven straight victories. Quarterback Will Page accounted for four TDs in a second-round win over Giles County last week.

But the Rebels won’t be much of a challenge for Pearl-Cohn. The Firebirds have outscored their last five opponents by a combined 236-0. Look for Class 3A Mr. Football finalist Martino Owens to have another impressive showing behind center.

PICK: Pearl-Cohn 45, Stewart County 7

McCallie (6-3) at Brentwood Academy (11-0) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Brentwood Academy has been unflappable in close games. The Eagles survived a three-point scare from Pope John Paul II last week – their eighth victory decided by 10 points or less this season.

One of those narrow wins was a 30-27 defeat of McCallie on Sept. 4. But Brentwood Academy has since improved thanks in part to the emergence of its run game. Sophomore RB Deuce Scott (571 rushing yards, 5 TDs) could play an important role in getting the Eagles back to Cookeville after they missed the playoffs entirely in 2019.

PICK: Brentwood Academy 31, McCallie 24

Nolensville (7-3) at Tullahoma (12-0) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Nolensville has won four of its last five – although Tullahoma beat the Knights 29-14 on Oct. 23. Senior QB Ryder Galardi found Chance Fitzgerald for a 30-yard touchdown to lead Nolensville over DeKalb County in the fourth quarter last week.

However, 2020 appears to be Tullahoma’s chance to make a run. The Wildcats have won all 11 of their games on the field by at least two scores, averaging nearly 42 points per outing. QB Ryan Scott (1,120 passing yards, 20 total TDs) and athlete Jakobe Thomas (1,073 yards of offense, 21 total TDs) hold the keys to the powerful offense, while the defense hasn’t surrendered more 14 points in any single game.

PICK: Tullahoma 42, Nolensville 21

Clarksville NE (7-2) at Henry County (9-2) – Friday at 7 p.m.

Henry County jumped all over Northeast in the regular-season meeting Oct. 21, taking a 21-0 lead just four minutes into the contest. Northeast coach Brandon Clark called the start “disastrous.” The Patriots went on to win 58-0.

It’s clear that Henry County is the better team. If QB Ryan Damron (1,249 passing yards, 18 total TDs) and RB Jermarcus Johnson (1,455 rushing yards, 21 TDs) can continue their strong seasons, the Patriots should have no trouble advancing to the Class 5A semifinals versus the winner of Summit-Beech.

PICK: Henry County 50, Clarksville NE 17

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