By Michael Lindsay
The first round of the 2023 high school football playoffs wrapped up Friday night with 8 Upper Cumberland teams picking up victories. UCR takes a quick look at each first-round playoff game on the Upper Cumberland:
Cookeville Cruises to Playoff Win Over Siegel, 35-14
Cookeville’s impressive 2023 season now includes a playoff victory as the Cavaliers defeated Siegel in the Class 6A first round, 35-14. Cookeville rushed for 340 yards Friday behind a 133-yard performance from quarterback Blake Owen, 92 by Thomas Johnson and 85 from Caden Outlaw. Owen and Johnson scored 2 touchdowns each while Outlaw tacked on another. The 8-3 Cavs will hit the road to Riverdale (9-2) for the second round.
Stone Memorial Wins Road Playoff Game at Hixson, 34-14
The Stone Memorial Panthers got back in the win column when it mattered most as they won at Hixson in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday, 34-14. Stone Memorial jumped out to a quick lead in the first half and held off the Wildcats the final two quarters. The 7-4 Panthers will travel to Baxter next week for a rematch with Region 4-4A foe Upperman (11-0) in the second round.
Macon County Routes Loudon, 41-7
Macon County jumped ahead early and never looked back Friday as they ran away with a 41-7 victory over Loudon. The Tigers found the end zone 3 times in the first quarter as Zach Borders, Gabe Borders and Luke Gammon each rushed in a score to give Macon a 19-0 advantage entering the second quarter. Each Borders brother scored again in the second period as Macon County led 34-0 at halftime before winning 41-7. Class 4A Mr. Football semifinalist Gabe Borders finished with 188 offensive yards and 3 touchdowns in the win. Macon County hits the road to Red Bank next week for the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Upperman Cruises to 56-14 Victory Over East Ridge
The Upperman Bees never struggled against East Ridge as they dominated the Pioneers by a 56-14 margin. The Bees scored 3 times in the first quarter as Jaxson Rollins, Ethan Palk and Ja’Lyric Cullom each found the end zone to give Upperman a 21-0 lead. The Bees doubled their point total in the second quarter as Braxton Speck, Bronzden Chaffin and Rollins crossed the goal line to give Upperman a 42-0 lead at halftime. The 11-0 Upperman Bees will host region foe Stone Memorial in the second round on Friday.
Smith County Advances To Second Round Via 40-14 Win Over Forrest; Ethan Madewell Rushes In 3 Touchdowns, Riley Martin Throws 3 More
The Smith County Owls’ 2023 postseason run got off to a strong start Friday as they defeated Forrest, 40-14. Ethan Madewell rushed in a first-half touchdown along with freshman quarterback Riley Martin throwing two touchdown passes to Wyatt Claywell and Harris to give the Owls a 19-0 halftime advantage. Madewell rushed in 2 third-quarter touchdowns, including one from 80 yards out, to give Smith County a 33-0 lead midway through the third quarter. Martin threw his third touchdown pass of the day late in the quarter as Harris caught his second touchdown pass from 35 yards out to put Smith County up 40-0 entering the fourth. The 9-2 Owls will now host 7-5 Fayetteville, who has won 6 of their last 7 games.
AP #1-Ranked York Institute Houses Eagleton, 61-7
A 33-point second quarter led the York Institute Dragons to a dominant 61-7 victory over Eagleton to start postseason play Friday evening in Jamestown. Riylin Miller scored 3 touchdowns in the victory as he rushed in scores from 78, 11 and 5 yards. Bryson Bilbrey and Tanner Tallent recorded back-to-back pick sixes in the second quarter less than 1 minute apart in the victory. York rushed for 433 yards while not attempting a pass in the victory. Miller racked up 185 rushing yards along with 103 by Logan Pannell. The 11-0 Dragons are set to host Oneida (8-3) on Friday.
Gordonsville Survives First-Round Battle With Chattanooga Prep, 13-12
The Gordonsville Tigers avoided the upset Friday as they narrowly defeated Chattanooga Prep, 13-12. Caanan Musgrove got the Tigers on the board in the first quarter as a touchdown gave Gordonsville a 7-6 lead. The Sentinels took the lead in the second quarter as they held a 12-7 halftime advantage, but Gordonsville responded as Musgrove again found the end zone to give his team a 13-12 lead with 8:23 remaining. Gordonsville’s Kyle Adams blocked a Sentinel field goal attempt followed by a Waylon Kennedy interception to seal the victory. Gordonsville is set to host Whitwell (8-3) on Friday.
Clay County Pulls Away From Sale Creek, 38-19
The Clay County Bulldogs are in familiar territory as they won their first-round playoff game over Sale Creek, 38-19. Clay County scored early to take a 6-0 lead before a scoop-and-score by Sale Creek gave the Panthers a 7-6 advantage. An Aiden Soto touchdown gave Clay County a 12-7 lead after one quarter before Bulldog QB Nate Adams hit Nolan Adams for a touchdown pass in the second quarter to give Celina an 18-13 halftime lead. Following a scoreless third quarter, Clay County poured it on in the fourth as Nate Adams threw touchdown passes to Lance Burchett and another to Nolan Adam to put Celina ahead 31-13. Sale Creek fumbled a kickoff in the fourth quarter to set up an 8-yard Leighton Brown touchdown, giving Clay County a 38-13 lead before winning by the eventual 38-19 final. Clay County is set to travel to South Pittsburg next week.