High School Football Expert Predictions Presented By TLTSports Performance – 2023 Week 4

Each week Team UCR predicts high school football games across the Upper Cumberland, presented by TLTSports Performance. 

Note: These picks are all opinion-based and intended to foster conversation about high school sports. 


Rusty Ellis: Sports Director

Jacob Vinson: Livestream Director

Michael Lindsay: Senior Sports Reporter

Justin Matheney: Co-Owner/Lead Color Commentator

Noah McKay: Co-Owner/Lead Play-By-Play Commentator


Week 4, 2023:


GOTW: Stone Memorial at White County


Pick: Stone Memorial 31-24

Comments: Sparta’s played really well to start the season but I think the Panthers get the better of the Warriors in this matchup. Nick Osmun seems like he’s only getting better as the games wear on and Bear Eldridge is going to be tough to keep under control for the White County secondary. If Stone somehow (not likely) keeps Tripp Pinion from going nuclear, the Panthers could win by a few scores. 


Pick: White County 42-35

Comments: I’ll be the odd guy out and give the Warriors some love here. Both teams come into the contest having scored at least 25 points or more in each of their first three games. The offenses are both great, however, complete opposites of each other. Tripp Pinion is going to get his, but he’s going to have to be great defensively along with the rest of the Sparta secondary to slow down the potent passing Panthers. I like Sparta in a bounce back victory. 


Pick: Stone Memorial 34-21

Comments: A massive game of the week awaits UC fans in Sparta as the 3-0 Stone Memorial Panthers roll into town. White County quarterback Tripp Pinion leads the state in rushing with 794 yards and 13 total TDs. Through 3 weeks no defense has been able to slow him down, but look for an underrated Panther defense to have some answers for the most productive player in the UC. Offensively, Stone Memorial averages 33.3 PPG and throws it better than any team in our area, which could be an issue for the Warriors.


Pick: Stone Memorial 35 Sparta 21

Comments: The Panthers are deeper and older in this one. Stone’s offense has more ways to win a game than the Warriors’ offense does. I don’t think there is  a clear cut way to contain Tripp, but there are ways to cut down on his explosive TD runs (much easier said than done). The Panthers’ defense will have their hands full chasing number three around all evening. For White County to win this one, they have to be opportunistic defensively and create some take-aways against Stone’s potent passing attack. 


Pick: Stone Memorial 49-41

Comments: This game has bonkers written all over it. The best passing offense in the UC rolls into Sparta to take on one of the top players in the state in Tripp Pinion leading an explosive rushing attack. Sparta has not faced a team that can throw it like Stone with Nick Osmun, but the Panthers have not faced a player like Tripp Pinion. The Sparta secondary features several young players who will get thrown into the fire, and while they may rise to the occasion, I’ll take the experienced Panthers on the road in this one.


Upperman at Livingston Academy


Pick: Upperman 31-0

Comments: Upperman’s a state contender right now, Livingston just isn’t. I’m not making it more complicated than that. 


Pick: Upperman 28-3

Comments: The Bees looked a little sluggish offensively in the second half last, but they get the ship righted in Livingston as the Wildcats still search for that first win. 


Pick: Upperman 35-0

Comments: To steal a line from Noah, these are two programs in different places. Livingston has shown considerable growth in 2023, but the boys from Baxter are on another level right now. Look for Upperman to take control early and cruise through a running-clock second half to secure the region win.


Pick: Upperman 35 LA 7

Comments: Not a lot to say here. Bees can name their score in this one. Two programs in two different spots. 


Pick: Upperman 42-0

Comments: Livingston is much-improved, but Upperman is a machine. Very few teams will move the ball against that defense and I don’t expect that to change on Friday. The more intriguing thing is how does LA handle this game knowing they are playing again less than 24 hours later. 


Clay County at Monterey


Pick: Monterey 24-10

Comments: Monterey showed a lot of grit last week and especially in the trenches, they outplayed East Robertson. For that reason, I’m going with the Wildcats. Think Bruce Lamb’s squad will be up to the challenge, but I think Scott Hughes’ squad pulls this one out. 


Pick: Monterey 14-7

Comments: It’s so hard to pick against both of these coaches. With it being a home game and coming off of an emotional loss, the edge goes to the Wildcats. The Bulldogs figured a lot out offensively against Jackson County last week, but the Monterey defense is a much taller task. I like the Wildcats to win their fourth in a row in this series. 


Pick: Monterey 21-7

Comments: Two traditional UC powers meet in non-region play Friday on the plateau as Monterey hosts Clay County. The 2-1 Wildcats went toe-to-toe with Class 2A title favorite East Robertson last week while Clay County got back in the win column against Jackson County. Monterey’s control of the line of scrimmage is the difference Friday.


Pick: Monterey 21 Clay County 20

Comments: Go ahead Coach Lamb, here’s your bulletin board material. Print it off. Show it to your team. Tell them what a bunch of idiots the guys at UCR are. I do feel as if this is a 50/50 game there on the mountain, though. Both of these teams have replaced a ton of offensive and defensive production at the skill positions. However, the Bulldogs have the advantage at the QB position in experience coming back. I do believe the Wildcats have been more impressive through the first three weeks of the season, especially defensively. This is a game that can go either way for me. 


Pick: Monterey 21 – Clay County 14

Comments: This game should be a slugfest between two well-coached teams. I really like this Monterey defense, and I think they are the best unit in this contest. Clay County is improving each week, but playing in Monterey is tough. Defense + homefield advantage leads me to take the Wildcats.


Lebanon at Cookeville


Pick: Lebanon 28-20

Comments: Sorry Cavalier fans, I need to see this one happen to believe it. I think the Cavs have come a long way but this Lebanon team is who I’m leaning toward this week. Another win here will lead to me trusting the Cavs more, but I need to see it just one more time. 


Pick: Cookeville 24-21

Comments: I’m going to team up with the Cavalier alum this time. Cookeville showed that they can win a big win and it was on the road last week against Sparta. The offense went blow for blow with a great offense led by Tripp Pinion. Of course with the Blue Devils coming to town it’ll be a different animal. However, it’s a great opportunity to open up region play with a win and keep the momentum rolling for the Cavaliers. Give me the Cavs by a field goal. 


Pick: Lebanon 35-21

Comments: The Cookeville Cavaliers are riding high into their Region 4-6A opener as the Cavaliers have won two straight games for the first time since 2020. Lebanon enters Friday also at 2-1 and fresh off a 35-13 victory over Warren County. Cookeville has an excellent chance to keep the winning streak going, but Lebanon’s perimeter speed could spell trouble for a Cavs team that struggled with an athletic Stone Memorial offense earlier this year.


Pick: Cookeville 28 Lebanon 27

Comments: Your boy here is on a heater with the Cavaliers and there’s no need to stop it. This game, similar to the Stone/Sparta matchup, is a complete stylistic mismatch of offensive philosophy. Cookeville will look to run the ball 90ish percent of the time while Lebanon wants to air it out. If the Cavaliers have corrected some of their secondary missed assignments from week one, I see no reason for them not to have a great chance to win at home. My biggest question mark for the Cavaliers defensively is one-on-one open field tackling. Last week that man from Sparta (Tripp Pinion) won every one-on-one play in the open field. If that’s not better this week, look for the Blue Devils running back to have a big night. The Upperman Bees had their hand full with that task in week 2. 


Pick: Lebanon 28-21

Comments: The Cavaliers should be playing with a ton of confidence after their win last year, and this game is a fairly even matchup. Two things make me lean towards the Blue Devils. 1. Sean Heath and Key Crowell are explosive playmakers that keep LHS multi-dimensional. 2. The Blue Devils have more experience in winning games like this. In any rebuild there are steps, and the Cavs are checking boxes off, but winning a region game like this is another step. If they get it done, they’re a bonafide playoff team. 


Smith County at Macon County


Pick: Smith County 24-21

Comments: I have truly no idea on this one so I’m going with my gut and taking the Owls. I was really impressed with Macon in their loss to Upperman, and I came away with more solidified feelings about their standing in the region. That being said, I love what Riley Martin has done the last couple of weeks and I think the Owls have the advantage on the line where this game will be won and lost. 


Pick: Macon County 21-14

Comments: This is going to be another tremendous contest in Lafayette for a second straight week. The Tigers fell in a hard fought game to the Bees last week, but Gabe Borders leads them to victory this week. The Tigers had a good chance to tie the Bees in the second half last week, but thanks to a plethora of penalties were unable to do so. Clean up the unforced errors and the Tigers are getting a big statement win. 


Pick: Macon County 26-21

Comments: Lafayette hosts yet another UC top-5 matchup this week as Smith County makes the short drive north to Macon County. The 3-0 Owls dismantled Liberty Creek 47-28 last week while the Tigers lost a physical, down-to-the-wire contest against Upperman. This one could go either way, and a big Macon County special teams play could be the difference.


Pick: Macon County 28 Smith County 21

Comments: The best player on the field in this match-up is Macon County’s Gabe Borders, who will be one of the best players the Owls will face off against all season. The Tigers showed out defensively in a big way against a talented Upperman offense last week and I wouldn’t expect them to take a step back on that side of the ball. 


Pick: Smith County 23-21

Comments: This is a great non-region matchup. Smith County continues to roll, while Macon County looked as good as you can in a loss last week. The Tigers have the most explosive playmaker in Gabe Borders, but the Owls have a balanced attack that can get it done on the ground or through the air. I lean towards the Owls due to their size up front and ability to win in several different ways, but this is the hardest pick of the night.


DeKalb County at Watertown


Pick: DeKalb County 27-24

Comments: The way Briz Trapp looked in the second half against LA, Steve Trapp might’ve unlocked this offense. I’ll trust the hard-nosed style of the Tigers to be the difference in a close game. 


Pick: DeKalb County 28-14

Comments: Briz Trapp, I see you. Don’t let me down this week. Watertown has been a little bit of a surprise to start the season with big wins against Forrest and Gordonsville. However, with the Tigers starting QB back, it’s hard to go against that offensive firepower. Tigers get a big win on the road. 


Pick: Watertown 27-20

Comments: A tough road non-region game awaits the DeKalb County Tigers Friday as the 2-1 Watertown Purple Tigers are fresh off a nail-biting loss to Sequatchie County. Brizz Trapp came to life in the second half against Livingston last week and will need another big performance on Friday. Your guess is as good as mine as two good football teams face off. I’ll give the home team a slight edge.


Pick: DeKalb County 28 Watertown 14

Comments: Brizz Trapp lives! With that, the Tigers in Smithville have a heartbeat and a shot at the playoffs. This is a matchup where both teams step outside of region play but is still important to build momentum for the next month of games. DeKalb should be too much for the Purple Tigers in this one. 


Pick: DeKalb County 27-21

Comments: Reports of the Tigers’ death were greatly exaggerated. Briz Trapp will give them a chance every week, and now they have tasted victory and I expect them to be motivated to begin a run. Watertown looks much-improved compared to last year, but the Tigers are eager to prove they are still legit, and I’ll take them in this one.


York Institute at Bledsoe County


Pick: York Institute 37-7

Comments: Ho hum, York rolls. Next question. 


Pick: York Institute 33-0

Comments: I just wanted to be different and say the Dragons get a shutout on the road to open region play. They’re poised to make another deep run in 2A and continue their dominance after a week off last week. 


Pick: York Institute 42-7

Comments: After a rare early-season bye week, the York Institute Dragons hit the road to Region 2-2A foe Bledsoe County. The Dragons were firing on all cylinders in their first two weeks and should keep it rolling in week 3. Bledsoe County (2-1) squeaked a 14-13 overtime win out over Cumberland County two weeks ago and defeated Sale Creek 27-0 last Friday. The Dragons’ defense has given up only one touchdown in 2 weeks, and look for that trend to continue this week.


Pick: York 35 Bledsoe 7

Comments: After a week 2 bye look for the YAI Dragons to come out crisp and ready to play. York could be one of the top 2A teams across the state and for sure the cream of the crop in their region. 


Pick: York 49-7

Comments: York should be hungry after having an early off week. There is no doubt in my mind who the better team is in this one, and I expect the Dragons to continue to prove why they are a 2A state championship contender.