Originally listed as the No. 8 seed in Class 5A Quadrant 2, the Blue Raiders had already exchanged films with top-seeded Columbia Central when the news came down that Sullivan South had been awarded Cleveland’s spot due to a clerical error.
“We left out last night thinking we were out of it (the playoffs), then this morning we find out we were in and now I have to tell the team we’re not in it,” expressed an exasperated coach Ron Crawford. “Our hearts were broken last night, then we were excited to be in, and now they’re broken again.”
With a 29-27 upset loss to 2-8 Rhea County Friday night, Cleveland slipped to 5-5 on the season and became the only team in the Southeast Tennessee tri-county area to not make the postseason.
Fellow Bradley County teams from Bradley Central and Walker Valley will continue to play, as well as both Polk County and McMinn County teams have made it in. Hamilton County has 11 teams in the playoff chase this time around.
“That’s why we said we should ‘leave no doubt,’” the first-year Raider coach stated. “We lost our last two games by not playing well and it cost us. If we win either of those games, there is no question we’re in (the playoffs).”
A release from the TSSAA stated Saturday evening that “Sullivan South will take the place of Cleveland in the Class 5A football playoff bracket due to an error in the tie-breaking procedure. They (Sullivan South) will travel to Columbia Central in the first round of the playoffs.”
“The reason Sullivan South has qualified for the playoffs and Cleveland does not qualify for the playoffs is due to an error in determining the final Wild Card spots in 5A based on the tie-breaking procedure.”
“Section II. B. of the Football Regulations states:”
“In the event of a tie for a championship, second place, or qualifier, should one of the team’s opponents play 11 games, only the first 10 games played shall be counted.”
“Enka High School in North Carolina was one of the opponents of Sullivan South. Enka played 11 games during the regular season. When the brackets and qualifiers were initially set, Enka’s record of 5-6 was taken into account when determining the tie-breaker procedure in Section III. D. of the Football Regulations which states: “The team who plays the greatest number of teams who win 50 percent or more of their games.“
“The initial view of Enka’s 5-6 record gave Sullivan South one less team who won 50 percent or more of their games. When Section II.B. is applied, it makes Enka’s record 5-5, therefore adding a team to the number that Sullivan South has played that have won 50 percent or more of their games. This places Sullivan South ahead of Cleveland in the tie-breaker procedure.”
“As of noon on Saturday, the bracket was set. This is not the first time that a mistake has been found after the initial release of the brackets. In every situation in the past, it has been dealt with by making the correction that affects the least amount of teams in the bracket,” the statement concluded.
The Blue Raiders were the last team to qualify for the Class 5A playoffs, therefore they were the first to be eliminated when Sullivan South was awarded the spot.
This is the second straight year Cleveland has been on the playoff bubble only to have it burst. Also posting a 5-5 record in 2011, the Raiders left the field after their final regular season game (a 42-26 victory at Rhea County), thinking they were in the postseason, only to find out the next day they were left out.
For the second time in a week, the Bears (6-4) will have to face their longest rival McMinn County (9-1) in Friday’s opening round, after falling to the Cherokees by a 34-29 margin in the District 5-AAA championship game Friday night.
“We know each other well. There won’t be any secrets,” declared Bradley head coach Damon Floyd. “We are going to have to put our best 11 guys out there and play better than we did Friday night. It’s a matter of execution, and of course we can’t afford to turn the ball over.”
The Cherokees are the second-seeded team in the Quadrant 2 bracket, while the Bears are the seventh seed. The only other time in the series that dates back to 1916 the two teams have faced each other in the playoffs was in 2000, when Bradley claimed a 48-0 second-round victory.
The rest of the Quadrant 2 bracket has top-seeded and second-ranked Siegel (10-0) playing host to Oakland (6-4), Blackman (7-3) at District 6-AAA champion Cookeville (5-5), while the Bradley-McMinn winner will face either Riverdale (7-3) or District 12-AAA champ Cane Ridge (8-2) in the second round.
Coming off a winless season in 2011, new head coach Glen Ryan has Walker Valley in the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Making its sixth playoff appearance in the 12-year history of the school, the Mustangs (5-5) are the seventh-seed in Class 5A, Quadrant 2 and will travel up Interstate 75 to face Lenoir City (8-2), the No. 2 seed. The victor of the first-ever meeting between the Mustangs and Panthers will advance to face either Anderson County (5-5) or District 5-AAA runner-up Ooltewah (7-3), who will meet on the Owls’ home field Friday.
The Sullivan South-Columbia winner will advance to square off against either Tullahoma (6-4) or White County (4-6), the respective runner-ups from District 8 and 6-AAA.
For the third time in the last four years Polk County (7-3) will open the playoffs against Kingston (6-4). The District 5-AA champion Wildcats pulled the stingers out of the Yellow Jackets by a 28-14 margin last fall and ended their 2009 season with a 29-0 shutout.
“Don’t let Kingston’s record fool you. They play in the same district as Alcoa, CAK and Loudon,” explained Derrick Davis who is taking his 10th-ranked ’Cats to their 12th straight playoffs. “They won their first five games, then faced a murderer’s row of Lenoir City, Alcoa, CAK and Loudon.”
The Polk County-Kingston winner will advance to take on the victor of third-seeded and second-ranked CAK (9-1) and Loudon (6-4).
On the other end of the Class 3A Quadrant 2 bracket, top-ranked Alcoa (9-1) will entertain District 5-AA member McMinn Central (5-5), while District 5-AA runner-up Sweetwater (7-3) will play host to Tyner (8-2).
After turning a 3-7 mark last season into 7-3 this year, Copper Basin returns to playoffs for the third time in the last four years as it earned a No. 4 in the Class 1A Quadrant 1 bracket.
The Cougars will entertain fifth-seeded Lookout Valley (5-5), whom they defeated two weeks ago by a 42-27 margin. The winner advances to face top-seeded and fourth-ranked Greenback (9-1) in the second round.
The Class 4A brackets boasts the most Chattanooga teams with fourth-ranked East Hamilton (9-1) leading the charge. The District 6-AA champion Hurricanes earned a No. 2 seed in the Quadrant 2 listing and will play host to Marshall County (5-5).
Setting up an interesting possible second-round matchup, Signal Mountain (7-3) will entertain Page (6-4). Coach Bill Price’s Eagles got blown away by the ’Canes 55-14 in the season opener and would love another shot at coach Ted Gatewood’s squad.
The other end of the bracket finds Notre Dame (8-2) taking on coach Jason Fitzgerald’s surprising Hixson (7-3) squad, while top-seeded and No. 1 ranked Giles County (10-0) will face David Lipscomb (5-5).
In the 2A playoffs, third-ranked Boyd-Buchanan (9-1) will host Rockwood (6-4) and eighth-ranked Silverdale Baptist Academy (9-1) will have to travel to Hampton (9-1) Friday evening.
The Division II AA brackets has both sixth-ranked Baylor and McCallie involved. The defending state runner-up Red Raiders (7-3) will open at home against Battle Ground Academy (4-6), while the Blue Tornado (4-5) will entertain St. Benedict’s (4-5).
Playoff action will continue throughout the month of November with the Blue Cross Bowl state championship games set for Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.