The mandatory summer “dead period” for all TSSAA sports, which began on June 25, ended at midnight this morning, meaning official preparations for the upcoming fall sports season can …
The mandatory summer “dead period” for all TSSAA sports, which began on June 25, ended at midnight this morning, meaning official preparations for the upcoming fall sports season can commence.
With the first day of school less than a month away, coaches can open up school facilities for summer workouts and conditioning before getting into their official pre-season practices on July 24.
The lone exception is high school golf, which can begin organized practice Monday, with their regular season play eligible to start in two weeks.
Cross country, volleyball and girls’ soccer can begin their official seasons on Aug. 14, while the opening football games are slated four days later.
One local sports enthusiast and historian has been counting down the days to the gridiron season with daily poem posts on Twitter like Saturday’s that said: “Rose are red, Violets are blue, We’ll kick off again, in just 42!”
For Walker Valley fans that number is down to 40 as they open on Aug. 17 in second game of the inaugural Kickoff Classic at Finley Stadium against Chattanooga Central.
Bradley Central, Cleveland and Polk County will start their pigskin seasons the next night.
The Bears host reigning state Class 5A champion Farragut, while the Blue Raiders will travel across the river to Evensville to face longtime rival Rhea County. For the first time in a dozen years, the Wildcats will play county-rival Copper Basin to open the 2017 campaign.
With the TSSAA doing its quadrennial reclassification last November, there are several changes the area’s fall sports teams will deal with.
With the dissolution of the “Super 32," the state's largest football classification now has 49 teams divided into eight regions.
Instead of everybody getting a “participation trophy” by automatically advancing to the TSSAA playoffs, now only the top four teams in each region will make the postseason.
The expansion of Class 6A enveloped a second local team, with Cleveland joining Bradley in the new Region 2, which also includes Ooltewah, McMinn County and the Blount County trio of 16-time state champion Maryville, Heritage and William Blount.
With the Raiders, Owls and Cherokees moving up to 6A, Walker Valley’s Class 5A region got a real shake up as well.
Joining the Mustangs in Region 4-5A will be holdovers Rhea County and Soddy-Daisy, who will be welcomed by Lenoir City and perennial powerhouse Knoxville Catholic.
"I had heard some talk about us keeping White County and adding Lenoir City and possibly Oak Ridge. There had also been a little talk about maybe Franklin County, as well, but I didn't expect Knox Catholic," stated Mustang head coach Glen Ryan after the realignment was announced last fall.
The Fighting Irish, who won the 2015 state title and were the No. 1-ranked Class 4A team in the final AP poll last year, were the only large private school in the state to chose not to go to Division II and somehow got shifted out of a region that has four other Knoxville squads — Fulton, Karns, Powell and West.
Polk County’s Region 3-2A also got stripped down, going from eight teams to five as it now stretches over a hundred-mile span.
Losing Meigs County to a region that goes north from I-40 to the Kentucky border, Silverdale Baptist Academy, which is going to Division II, and Brainerd, which moved up to Class 3-A, the Wildcats will once again compete against state powerhouse Marion County, along with Bledsoe County and Tyner Academy while welcoming longtime rival Tellico Plains into the conference.
Only one region win could propel both Walker Valley and Polk County into the TSSAA playoffs.
"I thought the purpose of the realignment was to level the regions out, so that all of them had seven or eight teams," remarked Coach Ryan. "Ours (and Polk’s) only has five, which means not only do we have to find six non-region games to fill our schedule, but all you have to do to make the playoffs is beat one (region) team.
"You could be going into the playoffs 1-9 (as seven did last year, plus there were a half dozen two-win squads)," he added. "You don't deserve to be in the playoffs if you only win one or two games.
"It's not fair to the teams in the seven- and eight-team regions that they have to beat out three or four other teams to make the playoffs and teams in five-team regions only have to beat one."
The new TSSAA setup has seven regions with just five teams. Another three regions have only four teams, meaning all of those teams will make the playoffs whether they have a victory or not.
Along with the gridiron shuffling, three other fall sports got a shakeup as well, forcing some old district rivals to be divided.
The Bradley County volleyball and soccer teams are losing both East Hamilton and Soddy-Daisy, leaving just five teams — Bradley, Cleveland, Walker Valley, McMinn County and Ooltewah — in District 5-AAA in those sports.
While East Hamilton will remain the smallest (1,038 students) Class AAA school in the state in all other sports, the Hurricane volleyball and soccer teams will drop to Class AA.
Soddy-Daisy is remaining in the largest enrollment division, but the Trojan volleyball, golf and soccer squads have been shifted to District 6 by the state's governing body.
However, the TSSAA denied Soddy's request to allow its basketball, baseball and softball teams to also move to the league on the same side of the Tennessee River as it is.
If Soddy had been allowed to make the switch, they would have been in the same district as Rhea County, Stone Memorial, Cookeville, White County and Warren County, meaning both 5-AAA and 6-AAA would have had six teams, instead of the current seven-five split.
In golf, the TSSAA reclassified the sport into “Large” and “Small” divisions, adjusting the enrollment breakdown from the old Class AAA and A-AA setup.
The Bradley County link squads will have a few more teams to compete against on the district level.
With Soddy-Daisy shifted west, joining the traditional 5-AAA teams from Bradley, Cleveland, Walker Valley, McMinn County, Ooltewah and East Hamilton will be Sequoyah and Chattanooga Central for an eight-team league.
Locally the golf season will tee off Aug. 31 with the Bradley Invitational including teams from Cleveland, Walker Valley, East Hamilton, Sequoyah, McMinn County, Sale Creek and Warren County joining the host Bears and Bearettes at Cleveland Country Club.
This year’s District 5-Large Tournament will also be played at CCC on Sept. 18.
On the region level, the local teams will still tangle with District 6, which has added Soddy, DeKalb County, East Ridge, Hixson, Livingston Academy, Red Bank and Howard to its conference.
The Polk County golf program will compete in District 5-Small, which includes the same schools — Meigs County, Sweetwater, McMinn Central, Copper Basin, Tellico Plains and Loudon — as previous years.
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