COOKEVILLE — It would stand to reason that Summit’s biggest challenge would come in its biggest game.
Averaging 35 points in postseason play, the Spartans (13-1) will have to overcome a defensive-minded Oak Ridge squad to conclude the year with its first football state championship.
The two face off in Friday’s 7 p.m. finale of the three-day BlueCross Bowl, the Class 5A matchup, following the Class 3A finals between Alcoa and Milan at 11 a.m. and the South Pittsburg/Fayetteville Class 1A title tilt at 3 p.m.
Oak Ridge has pitched five shutouts through its 11-3 campaign, including a 14-0 semifinal victory over South-Doyle – its second blanking of the playoffs.
“They’re very strong defensively,” Summit coach Brian Coleman said of the Wildcats, who barely allowed 14 points on average through 13 on-field contests. “They stop the run, they pressure you with man-to-man (coverage) and stop the passing game. Their middle linebacker is aggressive.
“Their opponent last week scored nothing. If you’re going to do that in the semifinals, there’s something to be said for that. You can tell by their previous games, their previous scores, (defense) is what they hang their hat on.”
Junior linebacker Jacob Berven anchors that unit for Oak Ridge, along with defensive end Jaxson Adams and safety Cole Adams.
“Our defense has played well in every game except one, and it’s gotten better and better as we get deeper into the season,” Wildcats coach Joe Gaddis said. “We know the challenges Summit brings are certainly different from a week ago. South-Doyle had a great team, but they were more one-dimensional.
“Summit will be a lot more difficult to prepare for and more difficult to stop and slow down, because they do so many different things.”
For the Spartans, everything starts with junior quarterback Destin Wade. The Mr. Football finalist heads into the matchup averaging 268 total yards per game – a number that has increased to 315 in the playoffs – with 34 total touchdowns.
“Coming from last year, he relied more on his legs,” Coleman said. “We felt like to give him the best opportunity to play quarterback collegiately, was for him to get better in the passing game. He has all the athletic ability; he just needs to fine-tune those things. He’s worked hard, and his teammates have helped him get better.”
That ability to put pressure on even the best defensive units may be the decisive factor in Friday’s contest.
Mostradamus’ pick: Summit 28, Oak Ridge 24.
Class 3A — Alcoa (13-1) vs. Milan (12-1), 11 a.m. Friday: The Tornadoes are pursuing their sixth consecutive state championship – after winning seven straight from 2004-10 — following their 42-7 semifinal win at Red Bank. Milan spoiled a title game rematch from last season with its 27-13 semifinal victory against visiting Pearl-Cohn. Back-to-back upsets aren’t likely for the Bulldogs. Alcoa 35, Milan 13.
Class 1A – South Pittsburg (13-1) vs. Fayetteville (12-2), 3 p.m. Friday: South Pitt’s only loss came to Class 2A finalist Meigs County, a 28-21 decision on Oct. 9. Since, the Pirates have run off six straight on-field victories, including a 37-7 semifinal win over Gordonsville – the same Gordonsville team that defeated Fayetteville 21-14 on Oct. 16. Making their first state title game appearance, the Tigers may be a bit out of their element. South Pittsburg 28, Fayetteville 20.
Class 4A – Elizabethton (14-0) vs. Haywood (10-3), 11 a.m. Saturday: After going unbeaten en route to the 2019 state crown, the Cyclones – led by Mr. Football finalists Troy Parker Hughes and Bryson Rollins — are looking for a second such finish in Saturday’s opener after decisively defeating host Nolensville in the semifinals (56-21) last week. Haywood slipped past Lexington 17-14 to claim the spot opposite Elizabethton, but the Tomcats will have an uphill climb. Elizabethton 41, Haywood 20.
Class 2A – Meigs Co. (14-0) vs. Peabody (13-0), 3 p.m. Saturday: In the only championship clash between unbeatens, Meigs looks to cap a fall full of adversity with a title. The Tigers advanced with their closest game to date, a 16-13 decision at Trousdale County. Peabody has allowed just 17 points in three playoff games, throttling Waverly 42-7 in the semifinals. Meigs Co. 35, Peabody 21.
Class 6A – Oakland (14-0) vs. Brentwood (11-3), 7 p.m. Saturday: Since the program’s 1972 establishment, the Patriots have never put together an unbeaten season – even with four title campaigns in 1984, 1998, 2008 and 2018. The final hurdle to doing so is a Brentwood team that Oakland defeated 37-0 in Week 7. The Pats warmed up for Saturday’s contest with a 49-7 semifinal victory over Maryville, while Brentwood won 24-14 at Bartlett. Oakland 27, Brentwood 14.
Last week: 10-2 (.833)
Season: 85-28 (.752)