Would someone stand up and take command of the DII-AA Middle/East race?
Four teams could justifiably jump up and uniformly shout out “Yes!” with lots of credibility as they head into huge pair of football games.
Much will come into focus late Friday when the top four teams in the standings play each other, highlighted by MBA’s visit to old rival Brentwood Academy. Another showdown comes 125 miles down I-24 in Chattanooga where red-hot Ensworth challenges first-place Baylor.
Playoff positioning is on the line.
A glance at the standings shows the jumbled up picture. First-place and top-ranked Baylor (5-0, 7-0) has a one-game lead over Ensworth (4-1, 5-2). MBA (4-1, 7-1), which is tied for second with Ensworth, is one game ahead of Brentwood Academy (3-2, 6-2).
It’s very possible there could be a three-way tie for first when the dust clears Friday, heading into Week 10 of the season.
Even though all DII-AA 12 teams make the playoffs, the top two teams in both Middle/East and West receive byes and don’t have to play until the second round.
“It’s so tough in DII with every game such a challenge,” fourth-year MBA coach Daniel McGugin said. “In the big picture, you know you’re going to face these teams again in a month (the playoffs). That’s what so exciting – preparing for a team the first time, then making the necessary adjustments for the rematch.”
Strangely, MBA is ranked 6th in this week’s AP poll in DII, one behind fifth-place Ensworth, a team the Big Red has already beaten. Brentwood Academy, which opened up 6-0, has fallen to No. 3 after tough losses to Ensworth and Baylor.
BA is very close to being 8-0.
The Eagles were throwing into the end zone on the final play before a Corn Elder interception ended the threat and preserved a 21-14 Ensworth victory. Last week, they had two long touchdowns called back against Baylor, one on a late 95-yard kickoff return by Weldon Garlington after Baylor’s go-ahead touchdown, then missed a last-minute two-point attempt and lost 21-20, ending a streak of 15 straight wins over Baylor.
“Brentwood Academy has the most talented team across the board of any team we’ll play this season,” McGugin said. “I don’t know how they’ve lost two games, and I mean that in the most complimentary way.”
Last year, MBA lost to BA in the regular season, then beat the Eagles 42-41 in double OT in the playoff semifinals.
BA’s Matthew Hamby is only 150 yards short of 1,000 yards passing. MBA tailback Tyler Frank needs 255 more yards for 1,000 rushing.
• Region volleyball: White House-Heritage avenged two regular season and a district tournament finals loss to Nashville Christian with a two-hour 25-10, 14-25, 25-21, 25-18 win over the host Eagles to win the Region 5-A title Tuesday night.
Led by tourney MVP Katelyn Atkinson, Goodpasture won a marathon five-game decision over Hume-Fogg to win the Region 5-AA tournament at David Lipscomb. The Cougars knocked out host David Lipscomb in the semis.
In 6-AAA at McGavock, Ravenwood beat Independence in three tough games for the title. Ravenwood beat McGavock, and Independence tripped Hillwood in the semis.
Sectional pairings (all matches start 7 p.m. Thursday) include: AAA -- Independence at Wilson Central and Portland at Ravenwood; AA -- Harpeth at Goodpasture and Hume-Fogg at Page; A -- NCS at Summertown and Loretto at White House-Heritage.
In DII-AA sectionals, Ensworth hosts Memphis Hutchison, 5 p.m. Saturday. In DII-A, DCA hosts Harding Academy.
All winners advance to state.
• District soccer finals at CPA: Christ Presbyterian Academy broke open a close game with four second-half goals and beat Goodpasture 6-1, and Lipscomb upset No. 2 seed Hume-Fogg 3-1 in the semis of the District 9-A/AA tournament.
Top seed CPA will host Lipscomb, 6 p.m. Thursday, the title.
In the DII-A Middle/East Region, FRA will hosts sectional matches Saturday. Top seed USN will play DCA at 2 p.m., followed by No. 2 seed FRA vs. St. Cecilia at 4. Finals are Monday at 7 at FRA, following the third-place match at 5.
• Ezell gets forfeit: Ezell-Harding has received a forfeit Friday over St. Andrews-Sewanee, which had to cancel the rest of its season for lack of players due to injuries. The Eagles (4-5) next host FRA Oct. 29 in their regular season finale.
• Simpson gets honor: Ex-Maplewood star quarterback Chris Simpson of Cumberland University has been named the Mid-South Conference and national NAIA defensive player of the week after he intercepted two passes (he ran one back for a touchdown) and recovered a fumble in a 22-14 win over Shorter.
• Gunn named top preseason player: Former Antioch High standout guard and Tusculum College star Jasmine Gunn has been named the national Division II preseason player of the year by Women’s Division II Bulletin.
Heading into her senior season, the tiny 4-foot-11 Gunn averaged 21.8 points and 5.1 assists last year when she was named South Athletic Conference player of the year. She ranks in top 10 in nine Tusculum categories including fifth in career scoring (1,619 points).
BGA at Pope JPII
Brentwood High at Blackman
Cane Ridge at Overton
Columbia at Centennial
Davidson Academy at Knox Webb
David Lipscomb at Pearl-Cohn
Ensworth at Chatt. Baylor
FRA at DCA
Father Ryan at McCallie
Hunters Lane at Glencliff
LaVergne at Independence
Maplewood at Stratford
McGavock at Antioch
McEwen at NCS
MBA at Brentwood Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Ravenwood at Smyrna
Sycamore at Goodpasture
Whites Creek at East Lit