By Jesse Smithey
Believe it or not, the last week of the 2020 high school football season is here.
Despite the formidable obstacles that Covid-19 placed in the season’s path, the finish line will be crossed.
Nine state champions will be crowned this week in Cookeville, beginning with three Division II games on Thursday.
And should you plan to watch one or all nine of the contests, here’s a quick viewer’s guide — plus our predictions — for the 2020 BlueCross Bowl State Championships.
Thanks to Thrivent Financial for their support this week of all our championship coverage.
TSSAA ATTENDANCE INFO
Tickets are $12 for school-age children and older and are good for one game only. All tickets must be purchased in advance at https://gofan.co/tssaa. The stadium will be cleared following each game. Gates will open 1.5 hours prior to the each game.
Parking is $10 per vehicle (cash only). Signage and volunteers will direct drivers to numerous lots reserved for spectators.
Temperature check required for entry. No one whose temperature measures above 100.4°F will be permitted to enter. Temperature checks begin 1.5 hours before the first game. Look for RED flags at ticket booths and temperature tents.
MASKS ARE REQUIRED on TTU campus. Social distancing is encouraged throughout all games.
All spectators must wear facial coverings if within 6 feet of others and if using a projected voice within 15 feet of others at all times while on-site (except children under age 2) and maintain social distancing (six feet, or the equivalent of two empty seats between themselves and other fans) from anyone other than those living in the same household.
Thursday, Dec. 3 at Tennessee Tech
Division II-A Championship
FINAL SCORE: Davidson Academy 53, University School of Jackson 35
WHAT HAPPENED: Davidson Academy won its third consecutive Division II-A BlueCross Bowl championship, knocking off USJ in the season finale for the second year in a row. Davidson Academy finished the season 13-0 with all wins by 10 points or more. USJ finished runner-up for the seventh time. The Bruins still do not have a state title but seemed poised to get that first one early in this contest. They stormed to a 21-6 lead with 3:44 left in the first half. But Griffin Swinea took over from there. The DA running back won game MVP honors with 26 carries for 284 yards and four touchdowns. QB Jared Vetetoe threw for 182 yards and three scores. Davidson Academy outscored USJ 34-14 in the second half.
Division II-AA Championship
FINAL SCORE: CPA 35, Lipscomb Academy 28
WHAT HAPPENED: CPA (11-1) avenged their 20-14 loss to Lipscomb Academy (10-3) from late October to win a second state title in the last three years. Cade Law got the game MVP by rushing for 168 yards, a touchdown and also passing for a touchdown that gave the Lions a 35-28 lead with 2:31 to play. CPA’s Reid Williford sealed the victory with an interception on the first play of Lipscomb Academy’s final drive. Langston Patterson led CPA with 191 yards rushing and three TDs on 34 carries.
Division II-AAA: McCallie (8-3) vs. Memphis University School (10-2)
FINAL SCORE: McCallie 44, Memphis University School 0
WHAT HAPPENED: McCallie (9-3) repeated as Division II-AAA state champion, intercepting five passes and holding MUS (10-3) to 97 yards of offense. Meanwhile, Mr. Football finalist and Missouri commitment B.J. Harris rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns in the win, garnering game MVP honors.
Friday, Dec. 4 at Tennessee Tech
Class 3A Championship
FINAL SCORE: Alcoa 35, Milan 0
WHAT HAPPENED: Alcoa (14-1) won its sixth consecutive state championship in 3A behind a masterful performance from junior quarterback Caden Buckles and another shutout from its defensive unit. Buckles, the game MVP, threw for 288 yards on 19-for-24 passing with two touchdowns and 62 yards rushing. His favorite target, Brayden Anderson, snagged seven passes for 138 yards and a TD. Alcoa held Milan (13-2) to 85 yards of offense and four first downs, forcing three turnovers.
Class 1A Championship
FINAL SCORE: Fayetteville 20, South Pittsburg 14
WHAT HAPPENED: Fayetteville (13-2) won its first championship, staking a 14-7 halftime lead and fending off a final-second pass that would have won the game for South Pitt. Freshman tailback Kenardo Jackson ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries for Fayetteville. South Pitt drove inside the red zone for one last attempt to tie the game, but the Pirates (13-2) couldn’t convert on a pass from the 16. Fayetteville limited Hunter Frame, the Mr. Football finalist running back from South Pitt, to 94 yards on 23 carries.
Class 5A Championship
FINAL SCORE: Summit 28, Oak Ridge 7
WHAT HAPPENED: Summit (14-1) won their first state championship, making amends from their 5A state-title game loss to Central a season ago. Summit stormed to a 21-0 lead. Destin Wade, a junior QB, went 7-for-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 93 yards and two scores to win game MVP. With Summit leading 21-7 early in the fourth, Summit returned an interception 29 yards for a score with 11:01 to play and sealed the victory. Oak Ridge was denied its first title since 1991.
Saturday, Dec. 5 at Tennessee Tech
NOON, Eastern – Class 4A: Elizabethton (14-0) vs. Haywood (10-3)
What To Know: Elizabethton enters with a 29-game win streak, having won the 2019 Class 4A state championship. Head coach Shawn Witten is a former Elizabethton player and 1999 alum who played at Virginia Tech. He was a grad assistant at Virginia Tech in 2003 and then a grad assistant at Tennessee from 2004-2007. He has been the head coach at Elizabethton since 2007. His brother, Jason, is a former Tennessee tight end who’s been in the NFL since 2003. He played for the Cowboys from 2003-2017, took a year off to do broadcasting, returned to the Cowboys in 2019 and now plays for the Raiders. Haywood finished runner-up to Greeneville in the 2018 Class 4A state championship, marking the third time the Tomcats have claimed silver. They have never won a state championship.
Players to Watch: Elizabethton features two Mr. Football finalists in junior quarterback Bryson Rollins and senior all-purpose athlete Parker Hughes. Rollins has 2,124 yards passing, 29 passing touchdowns, 927 yards rushing and 21 rushing touchdowns. Hughes has 1,252 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns but has taken on more of a presence in the backfield the last three weeks. Hughes has 31 carries for 386 yards and four TDs in the last three weeks. Haywood junior Jaylen Lewis (6-2, 180, WR/DB) recently picked up offers from Arkansas, Louisville, Virginia, Indiana and UAB. Junior tailback Ja’Kylon Taylor (5-8, 195) can pick up hard yardage but also likes to jump-cut into open space and use agility to manufacture scores.
Prediction: Elizabethton 24, Haywood 22.
4 p.m., Eastern – Class 2A: Meigs County (14-0) vs. Peabody (13-0)
What To Know: Peabody seeks a three-peat in Class 2A. The Golden Tide knocked off Meigs County, 27-16, in last year’s 2A BlueCross Bowl rallying from a 16-7 halftime deficit. Meigs County, conversely, is out for revenge and after its first state title in program history. The Tigers are three times a runner-up and have done well this season when many thought they might slide back a bit after losing longtime QB Aaron Swafford, who signed with Navy.
Players to Watch: Meigs County running back Will Meadows has been fantastic this season, rushing for 1,780 yards and 31 scores en route to being named a Mr. Football finalist. Peabody has a Mr. Football finalist, too, in 5-10 junior Khalik Ganaway. He rushed for 278 and three touchdowns last week on 27 carries. He has a big offensive line, spearheaded by left tackle Blake Minnis (6-3, 315) and left guard Connor Meadows (6-5, 250). Ganaway’s brother, Malik, leads the wide receiving corp (42 catches, 698 yards, seven TDs).
Prediction: Meigs County 28, Peabody 22.
8 p.m., Eastern – Class 6A: Oakland (14-0) vs. Brentwood (11-3)
What To Know: Oakland returns to the 6A final after routing rival Maryville, 49-7, in the state semifinals last week. The last time the Patriots topped Maryville in the semifinals, they went on to win the 2018 Class 6A gold ball. Their opponent, Brentwood, has made just one appearance in a championship game, and they won it all in 2002. This matchup with Oakland is a repeat of a 37-0 win by Oakland on Oct. 2.
Players to Watch: Oakland has two 1,000-yard rushers, the most notable being junior Jordan James (1,521 yards, 20 TDs) who is one of the nation’s top players. Fellow Class of 2022 tailback Antonio Patterson (1,065 yards, 15 TDs) leads the team in yards per carry at 11.3. Junior receiver Isaiah Horton (32 catches, 635 yards, seven TDs) from Oakland is a four-star prospect with SEC offers galore. Brentwood receiver Walker Merrill is a Tennessee commit. Brentwood QB Cade Granzow (6-3, senior) is an Auburn baseball commit but was the Region 6-6A MVP this season. Defensive back John Howse is a Vandy football commit.
Prediction: Oakland 31, Brentwood 7.