By Chris Brooks for The News Examiner
The fall semester ended a bit earlier for Sumner County football teams than other area squads, so the final grades can be handed out sooner than normal.
Beech was the last team standing as the only squad to reach the second round, and only four of the eight teams made the postseason.
The grades are full-season grades, with changes based on the second half of the season and playoff performances, if applicable.
The Buccaneers’ final grade drops since Beech missed an opportunity to host a playoff game with a Week 11 loss at Hillsboro.
It was still a good season with an 8-4 finish, as two of those losses came to Cane Ridge. Alex Vanzant, Chaz Williamson and Chris Peach combined to rush for 31 touchdowns to carry the offensive load.
Beech’s defense largely kept opponents honest, helping the team to its 10th consecutive postseason trip (and third-straight appearance in the second round).
The Green Wave’s grade likely remains in the A range if they hold on to defeat Beech on Sept. 30.
That would have kept Gallatin away from Independence in the first round of the playoffs and sent the Green Wave to Shelbyville instead.
If Gallatin had turned it over, say, three times instead of seven against Cane Ridge, that game would likely have been a different story, as well.
Jordan Mason will go down as the school’s most prolific rusher, and he and the rest of the offense are certainly deserving of any awards they get this year.
When you’re the only 7-3 team in the state of Tennessee that doesn’t make the postseason, it has to be termed a major disappointment.
The Commandos can certainly look back to one-point losses at Cane Ridge and Beech as missed opportunities.
However, this grade drops because Hendersonville came out flat at long-time rival Gallatin and was throttled in a game that ultimately cost the Commandos a playoff spot.
Were the Commandos good enough to win the region? At times, they were. But inconsistency is a killer, and Hendersonville found that out the hard way. Winning four of seven region games should be good enough to make the playoffs. The fact that the Commandos did that, and were still left out of the postseason, is a testament to the competitiveness of Region 6-5A. Now, it’s back to Class 6A, although Hendersonville has had success there.
The only way this grade could have been higher is if the Knights had beaten Baylor a second time to earn the school’s first-ever playoff victory.
Pope John Paul II turned heads when it went to Chattanooga and knocked off Baylor for the first time in October.
The 2016 season will be remembered as the best one in a decade for the program, and hosting a home playoff game – despite the loss – is a big step forward for the Knights.
The Panthers finished the season with 31 players suiting up in the final game.
It was a year mostly void of highlights after Portland defeated White House, though there was still a mathematical chance of reaching the postseason in the final week.
What the Panthers will be thankful for, like everybody else in Region 5-4A, is that Pearl-Cohn and Maplewood won’t be region opponents beginning next season.
The Bison hit the halfway point of the season with everything in front of them, but a difficult four-game stretch proved too much for Station Camp.
The Bison lost by seven to Gallatin, beginning the slide that knocked them out of postseason contention for the second consecutive season.
Station Camp now moves back to Class 6A beginning next season, and things won’t be any easier there.
The Eagles’ missed opportunity came to open the second half of the season in a 16-14 loss at Jackson County.
Winning that game would have kept them from revisiting Marion County, where they suffered the exact same fate as last season.
However, Westmoreland did rebound from a sluggish start and played very well in region games, including a 1-point loss to Forrest, and led Watertown at halftime before the Purple Tigers stormed back to take the regular season finale.
As it turned out, White House’s schedule was more difficult than at first glance. Eight of the Blue Devils’ 10 opponents finished at .500 or better and five of them (Pearl-Cohn, Maplewood, Macon County, Springfield and Goodpasture) reached the second round of the playoffs.
For a team as young as White House’s was, that is a tall order. What the Blue Devils learned from this season should serve them well in the next two years, especially in their new region.
When you finish 0-10, there’s only two ways to go – up or sideways. White House’s effort, even in games where they faced big deficits, suggests that they’ll see quick improvement next season. Here’s to that winless streak ending soon.