By Maurice Patton
Every coach thinks his league is the toughest.
But the football coaches in Region 5-1A probably have a legitimate claim.
With Fayetteville’s matchup against South Pittsburg in Friday’s Class 1A championship game of the BlueCross Bowl, the region will have been represented in three of the last four title clashes.
“We’ve said it every year,” former Mt. Pleasant coach Bronson Bradley said. “A lot of times, they say it’s just coach-speak, but I think our region continues to prove it.”
Over the past four seasons, each team from the region – seven during the 2017-18 campaigns, six for the last two years — has made at least one postseason appearance, and they’ve been relatively successful upon their arrival. Led by Cornersville, which advanced to the finals in both 2017 and ’18, the region boasts a 22-15 playoff record over that four-year time frame.
“Playoff appearances, championship games … Our non-region records are probably pretty high,” Bradley said. “And it’s not just the players; the coaching is pretty good. We’ve beaten up on each other.”
In that ‘iron sharpens iron’ vein, it’s feasible that Fayetteville’s league affiliation will be beneficial as the Tigers head into their first state championship contest against a program that has appeared in at least one each of the last seven decades.
“We played five region games in a row, and it was like a ‘murderers’ row’ – trying to stay healthy, with a very physical region that’s going to bring their very best every time you line up,” said second-year coach Kenny Morson, whose 12-2 squad lost only to non-region foes Marion County and Gordonsville.
“We hope that amount of physicality is going to help us and has helped prepare our young men for a tough road. We know what South Pitt is going to bring to the table, what a phenomenal football team they’ve got. We hope we’re prepared, and our region definitely stands out throughout the state.”
Region 5-1A typically had three teams listed in the Associated Press Class 1A statewide Top 10 through the regular season, with the Tigers, Moore County, Cornersville and Huntland each drawing attention at some point.
Three of the four won their opening-round playoff games, with Fayetteville having to get past Huntland in the second round and defeat Moore County in the quarterfinals, prior to last week’s semifinal victory over Lake County.
“Fayetteville’s had a hard schedule, twice with Moore County,” Bradley said. “They’ve had to show up every week. That says a lot about them.”