PREP FOOTBALL: With state tournaments starting Friday, it’s ‘win or go home’ time

Terry Davis

The TSSAA State Championship Tournament starts Friday, Nov. 8 – or more directly, it’s win or go home time.

Teams that started their work in July are about to find out if it will pay off. It doesn’t matter if you allowed just 30 points all season like Whitehaven. Going 10-0, like the Houston Mustangs, won’t get you a bye into the second round.

It doesn’t even matter if your team has a losing record. The only thing that really matters this time of year is that TSSAA invited you to the dance.

The District Champions will be seeded against the fourth-place team in each division. District Champions are:

  • Class 1A – Mem. Middle College
  • Class 2A – Fairley
  • Class 3A – Wooddale
  • Class 4A – Millington
  • Class 5A – Southwind
  • Class 6A (Region 7) – Houston
  • Class 6A (Region 8) – Whitehaven

And while it’s rare for district champions to be upset in the first round, it has happened. So, with the table set, here’s a preview of the first round of the TSSAA Playoffs:

Class 6A

Houston and Whitehaven met deep in the playoffs last year. The Tigers handed the Mustangs their only loss of the season and the two schools appear to be on a collision course again.

Whitehaven is led by arguably the best trio of linebackers in the history of Memphis high school football: Tarmarion McDonald, Martavious French and Bryson Eason. All three have committed to the University of Tennessee so they can continue to play together. The Tigers have shut out their opponents in six out of nine games this season.

Houston is led by Lincoln Pare, the senior RB who has been running wild this season. Pare’s performance has won him an offer from a Division I program.  offer has been running wild this season.

Class 5A

Southwind has been flying under the radar all season long. They’ve quietly captured a share of the district championship, and took the top seed with a win over Munford. Class 5A has been among the best tournament districts over the last several years. And over at Kirby High School, QB Draylen Ellis’ big arm will challenge defenses.

Class 4A

The Millington Trojans hope to continues a magical year, going 8-2 this season after finishing last season with a 4-7 record. Millington lost in the first round last season but hope to go much deeper this season.

Class 3A

Wooddale had to survive a competitive district game against Melrose to win the championship. They appear to be on a collision course with South Gibson High from Medina, just north of Jackson. Both are close in the AP football state rankings.

Class 2A

Fairley has won three straight district championships. Mitchell would like to avoid another first-round exit.  Both will host the opening round game. If Fairley wins, they’ll host the first two rounds of the playoffs, but will need two road wins to make a trip to Cookeville.

Class 1A

In the 1A playoffs, the best team in the state – Freedom Prep – won’t get to play for a championship after being forced to forfeit seven games this season for using an ineligible player. It’s a shame; the team only allowed 25 points all season.  Memphis Middle College hopes to break the strangelhold rural county teams have had recently on tournament success.

Division II

Briarcrest hopes to bounce back after losing its only game of the season to MUS. Meanwhile, MUS wants to get back to a championship. Lausanne is a very young team and the defending state champis hope to hold off newcomer ECS and return to Cookeville.

On paper, there may not be many great games to start the first round on Friday. Then again, the games aren’t played on paper.  All games kick-off at 7 p.m. Admission is $8.