Down to the nitty, gritty

Tornadoes, Rebels host playoff semifinals

The following are the pairings for Friday’s Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association state football playoff semifinals by classification.

Class 1A

Hampton (13-0) at South Pittsburg (13-0)

Mt. Pleasant (11-2) at McKenzie (12-1)

Class 2A

Donelson Christian Academy (12-1) at Alcoa (12-1)

Peabody (10-3) at Goodpasture (12-1)

Class 3A

Fulton (11-2) at Pearl-Cohn (11-2)

Lipscomb (12-1) at Mitchell (10-3)

Class 4A

Sullivan South (12-1) at Maryville (13-0)

Maplewood (11-2) at Henry County (12-1)

Class 5A

Bearden (12-1) at Smyrna (10-3)

Independence (10-3) at Millington (13-0)

This one puts you in the show.

Three-time defending Class 2A champion Alcoa and three-time defending 4A champion Maryville both host state playoff semifinal games on Friday.

The Tornadoes (12-1) host Nashville’s Donelson Christian Academy (12-1) for the right to advance to next week’s BlueCross Bowl at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. The Rebels (13-0), riding a 58-game winning streak, will vie with Sullivan South (12-1) to secure one of two spots in the 4A final.

Both kickoffs are 7 p.m.

The following is a brief look at Friday’s matchups.

Donelson Christian at Alcoa

Alcoa has proven a runaway storm the first three rounds, blowing through Sweetwater, 49-0, Christian Academy of Knoxville, 56-21, and Gatlinburg-Pittman, 59-36, with equal ease. Quarterback Randall, running back Troy Hodge and deep threat Sam Thompson have never looked better during the romp. The Wildcats will present a considerably stiffer challenge.

Donelson quarterback Chris Pierce, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior, directs a balanced Wildcat attack that mirrors the Tornadoes in many respects. Pierce has been fierce through the air, completing 148 of his 242 passes for 2,203 yards and 26 touchdowns. Seniors Braden Anderson (39 catches, 626 yards, 10 scores) and Reed Williams (30, 597, six) are both big-play receivers.

Jeremy Worden, a 5-10, 190-pound senior, powers the running game, pounding on opposing defenses this season for 1,674 yards and 15 touchdowns on 218 carries.

Donelson won three Class 1A titles — 1988, 1996, 2004 — before moving to 2A three years ago. Wildcat coach Dennis Goodwin is in his 15th season at the helm.

Sullivan South at Maryville

The votes for Class 4A Mr. Football Back of the Year have likely already been cast. Pity.

This would be a great game to decide things.

Rebel quarterback Brent Burnette has riddled opposing secondaries this season, throwing for better than 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns in his final campaign at Maryville. Of the three finalists, Burnette’s numbers are as strong as any.

Burnette’s Mr. Football finalist counterpart Friday, South senior Curt Phillips, has blown up the stat sheet this season as well. The Wisconsin commitment, operating out of a University of Florida-style spread offense, has rushed for 1,733 yards and 36 touchdowns this season. Through the air, Phillips has accounted for another 2,000 yards and 16 scores.

He also returns punts.

Both quarterbacks have ample weapons at their disposal. Burnette has a receiving corps that includes tight end and University of Tennessee commitment Aaron Douglas and big-time wide outs Tyler Clendenen and Stephen Shiver. And Chris Jordan is so dangerous.

When he puts it up, Phillips is likely looking for Houston Martin (24 catches, 338 yards, three touchdowns), Caleb Kitzmiller (31, 577, four) or Seth Johnson (30, 381, three). Taylor Fletcher adds 600 yards rushing out of the backfield, but the South Rebels don’t get real fancy.

Phillips, 6-3, 215, has been electronically timed at 11.2 seconds at 100 meters. He’s big; he’s fast, and he can move.

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