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 5, 2023:
GOTW: White County at Upperman
Pick: Upperman 31-14
Comments: White County’s going to do a lot of growing up over these next few games, and this week sees them take on the Bees. A slow start at LA last week is slightly concerning, but they still turned it up when it mattered. I’ll take the Bees in a game that I think will be close for awhile before the running game spreads the score out.
Pick: Upperman 28-14
Comments: The gauntlet for White County continues as they head to Baxter for their first region match up with Upperman. The Bees defense has been tremendous this season only allowing 8.8 ppg to opponents. That defense is going to be tested against Sparta’s offense and Tripp Pinion in particular. Tripp will break a couple of long runs, but the Bees defense stands tall and stay undefeated.
Pick: Upperman 26-19
Comments: The UCR Game of the Week is another thriller as the state’s leading rusher Tripp Pinion and the White County Warriors head to Baxter to face the undefeated Upperman Bees. Nobody’s had an answer for Tripp through four weeks, but Upperman’s defense has been statistically the best in the UC to date. A few big runs by the QB in red will be enough to keep it close, but ultimately Upperman prevails.
Pick: Upperman 35 Sparta 14
Comments: The Bees will have the best rushing attack Sprta has seen to this point in the season. Unfortunately for the Warriors, they are having a hard time defending the run. On the other side of the ball, Upperman very well could be the best defense White County plays all year. Tripp will have to have a Heisman like performance of the Warriors look to go on the road and win.
Pick: Upperman 28-14
Comments: This is a showdown between two teams that love to run the football. Tripp Pinion is incredible, and he’s going to get his, but this Upperman defense is the best Sparta has played so far, and the WCHS defense has struggled to stop the run the past two weeks. I expect a big game out of Ethan Palk on the ground as Upperman knocks off a potential developing rival in a physical game.
Meigs County at Stone Memorial
Pick: Stone Memorial 24-10
Comments: This is a BIG opportunity for Stone Memorial to get a signature win over an excellent program. We’ve seen the Panthers get better as the season’s gone on and I think that continues, as Nick Osmun, Bear Eldridge, Maddox Oquendo and company move to 5-0.
Pick: Stone Memorial 28-17
Comments: Stone Memorial dropped in the rankings this week through no fault of their own as they are still undefeated. They have a chance this week to bolster their undefeated record before a big matchup with DeKalb County next week. The Panthers showed that they can run the ball effectively last week against Sparta and they’ll need it against a good Meigs County defense that is only allowing 10 ppg to opponents so far. I like Stone to handle business against a good Tigers squad in this one.
Pick: Stone Memorial 28-14
Comments: The AP #4-ranked team in Class 3A visits Crossville Friday as Meigs County faces Stone Memorial. The undefeated Panthers have a good opportunity for a fantastic resume-building non-region win against a traditional East Tennessee powerhouse. Look for Stone to return to the air a bit more after a strong ground game led them to a win at Sparta last week.
Pick: Stone Memorial 31 Meigs Co 14
Comments: The Stone defense will be tasked to contain another dynamic player maker at QB in the form of Meigs County’s Easton Meadows. Luckily for the Panthers, we saw a version of that defense that can get the job done last week against White County’s Tripp Pinion. The Panthers are too big and now multiple on offense for the Meigs County Tigers. Comparing schedules, Stone Memorial beat Sweetwater 40-16 on the road in week two. Meigs County beat the same Sweetwater team 21-14 last week at home.
Pick: Stone Memorial 31-17
Comments: This is a sneaky tough game for the Panthers, but their offense is firing on all cylinders. The emergence of Maddox Oquendo adds yet another weapon, and Nick Osmun has been very efficient. Look for the Panthers to finish off an undefeated first half of 2023.
Monterey at Westmoreland
Pick: Westmoreland 20-13
Comments: I HATE picking against Monterey here and would love to be wrong. I just think this Westmoreland team will end up having a few too many weapons for Monterey to match and it’ll show in a close one-score loss. Prove us wrong, Wildcats!
Pick: Westmoreland 14-7
Comments: This is a huge opportunity for Monterey and one that keeps them in the running for a top-two seed come playoff time. However, Westmoreland has been playing some good football the last two weeks putting up 83 points in their two wins. Monterey’s offense is going to have to step up in a big way. I think the Eagles get the job done at home against the Wildcats.
Pick: Westmoreland 21-14
Comments: Monterey hits the long road to Westmoreland Friday for a big region showdown. The Wildcat defense should travel, but points will be at a premium Friday and I see Westmoreland sneaking out a few more of them.
Pick: Westmoreland 10 Monterey 7
Comments: Westmoreland in a rock fight. The Wildcats have a two hour plus road trip before them this week. Unfortunately, for Monterey, there are too many question marks offensively against a good Westmoreland team. Westmoreland beat a Clay County squad 13-6. The Bulldogs took down Monterey 35-13.
Pick: Westmoreland 14-7
Comments: The Wildcat defense is for real, but the offense is looking to generate some bigger plays. This should be a physical football game, I’ll lean towards the Eagles because of home field advantage.
Cookeville at Mt. Juliet
Pick: Mt. Juliet 45-24
Comments: Cookeville’s offense has had some bright spots thanks to Blake Owen and Thomas Johnson’s production in the run-game, but I’m not sure the Cavs will have any answers for the Golden Bears defensively. I’d love to be wrong, as I think we all would.
Pick: Mt. Juliet 40-21
Comments: After a tough week last week against Lebanon, the struggles will continue against a very good Mt. Juliet team. The Golden Bears are 4-0 and put up 53 points in last week’s win against Warren County. The Cavs defense will have their hands full yet again this week. Mt. Juliet takes care of business in week five.
Pick: Mt. Juliet 48-14
Comments: Mt. Juliet is one of the best teams in Tennessee as the 4-0 Golden Bears look more like a small college team than a high school program. They’ve had one close game thus far and average more than 40 points per game. This pick says more about Mt. Juliet than Cookeville; they’d do this to almost every team in Tennessee.
Pick: Mt. Juliet 42 Cookeville 24
Comments: The health of Blake Owen for the Cavaliers is my biggest question mark in this one. If he can be closer to 100% the game could be closer that the predicted scores. Mt. Juliet isn’t a top-5 team in the AP Class 6A rankings for no reason. There are plenty of playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Pick: Mt. Juliet 42-17
Comments: Simply put, this Mt. Juliet squad is the best team on Cookeville’s schedule. They have Division 1 athletes all over the field, and while Cookeville is playing better football, I think they are a year or two away from being in the middle of a dogfight with a statewide top-5 team.
Pickett County at Livingston Academy
Pick: Livingston 41-7
Comments: Livingston wins their second game in a row, so that’s something to celebrate in Hogeye country!
Pick: Livingston Academy 35-6
Comments: The Livingston Academy Wildcats will finally get their first win in the state of Tennessee in 1,057 days. They officially got their first win last Saturday at Jenkins HS in Kentucky 41-14. The Wildcats have not won a game at their home field since November 8, 2019 when they beat Maplewood in the 4A Playoffs 27-8. The Wildcats finally get a win at Tom Davis Memorial Stadium 1,407 days later.
Pick: Livingston 47-6
Comments: Livingston enters Friday with some momentum after their win in the coal mines of Eastern Kentucky. The Wildcats should keep the good times rolling Friday against Pickett County, a program still in the early phases of their rebuild.
Pick: Livingston 35 Pickett County 7
Comments: Unfortunately if you’re a Bobcats fan Friday night you’re a little outgunned in Livingston. In all honesty LA needs this one more too.
Pick: Livingston 42-0
Comments: Livingston rolls to their second straight win. Great to see this game on the schedule between two bordering counties.
Gordonsville at DeKalb County
Pick: DeKalb 20-17
Comments: I’ll give the home team an advantage here, as this is a sneaky great game. If you love physical football with creative offenses, this is absolutely the game for you. I think the difference comes down to quarterback play and Briz Trapp will put together one of his best starts of the season in this win.
Pick: DeKalb County 17-10
Comments: Two teams who both had slow starts have now both won two in a row against some pretty good competition. The Tigers in Smithville have Briz Trapp back and that offense is humming. The defense is also cruising as they’ve only allowed 19 points combined in the last two games. Gordosnville is also figuring it out, but I think the home team gets the edge in this one as DeKalb County continues to roll.
Pick: DeKalb County 21-19
Comments: Two physical football teams meet in a great non-region game Friday in Smithville. These are two similar teams that know how to win games and nothing will come easy in this one. If I wasn’t at our game of the week, I’d be in Smithville for this awesome matchup.
Pick: DeKalb County 21 Gordonsville 20
Comments: 50/50 toss up game for me. This was the hardest game to pick in this week’s slate. Both teams have losses to Smith County. Smith County beat DCHS 21-0. With the caveat of Brizz Trapp being carted off the field in the first half. Gordonsville lost their week one match-up to the Owls 25-19. Here’s where it gets interesting. Gordonsville lost to Watertown in week two 17-7 and DCHS beat the same Watertown team last week 20-10. Looks to be a good one in Smithville this Friday evening.
Pick: DeKalb County 21-20
Comments: Toughest game of the week to pick. These are two similar teams. Good quarterbacks, good coaches, but some questions up front. Briz Trapp is playing good football, and he’s a little more experienced. That experience could be the difference in a tight game in Smithville.
Red Boiling Springs at Jackson County
Pick: RBS 41-10
Comments: One look at the schedule tells you that six, *maybe* seven wins isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility. Aubrey Link is an underrated talent at quarterback and the offense of the Bulldogs has been rolling this year. I’ll take them in a blowout.
Pick: RBS 35-14
Comments: How about Red Boiling Springs? 3-1 on the season and averaging 38.8 ppg on offense so far. Aubrey Link is a force to be reckoned with at QB and DE for the Bulldogs and he’ll lead the way to their fourth victory of the season in Gainesboro. Can RBS be the dark horse in Region 4-A?
Pick: Red Boiling Springs 27-20
Comments: A fun non-region showdown on the north end of the Upper Cumberland sees Red Boiling Springs take their passing attack to Gainesboro to face off against Jackson County. The Blue Devils have faced two tough defenses in a row and are looking to get their footing back, while Red Boiling Springs’ passing attack has been impressive through 4 weeks. I’ll take the Dawgs in a close one. Look for RBS QB Aubrey Link to connect on a deep shot for a touchdown at some point.
Pick: Red Boiling Springs 28 Jackson County 7
Comments: The only thing I know here is RBS has a legit QB. To the tune of 6’4” and two bills. Players like that do not often come through that high school and football program. Look for Aubrey Link to put up some big time numbers this Friday.
Pick: Red Boiling Springs 28-10
Comments: How bout them Bulldogs? Aubrey Link is the best player we don’t talk about enough, and RBS has some different juice about them this year. This could be a fun game, but I’ll go with the more explosive Bulldogs.