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SF-UC might be play-in game in complicated playoff format

SF-UC might be play-in game in complicated playoff format
By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
The playoffs will essentially start two weeks early for both South Fulton and Union City.
Though the loser of their critical Friday night District 14A matchup could still somehow get into the postseason in the state’s complicated playoff system, the winner will take a huge step toward ensuring their livelihood come Week 11.
If the season ended today, both the Red Devils and Tornadoes would be a part of the 24-team Class 1A bracket. SF (4-5) is currently No. 19 on that list, with Union City (3-5) close behind at 22nd.
Each would qualify as a ‘wildcard,’ though the Twisters still have the opportunity to earn one of the district’s two automatic bids by finishing in the Top 2 in the district.
To do that, Union City would need to beat both South Fulton, then front-runner Humboldt in Week 10 and have H’boldt beat Lake County this week.
Friday’s showdown will complete South Fulton’s regular season schedule with the Redmen having an open date in the final week after playing 10 consecutive weeks from Aug. 19 until now.
The Devils will either be 5-5 or 4-6 and will wait to discover their official fate when the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association reveals its official brackets on Saturday morning, Oct. 29.
In a season where several teams will qualify with mediocre or worse records, 5-5 appears to be close to a lock with one game under the .500 mark on the bubble of getting in.
“We’re not guaranteed anything if we lose,” South Fulton head coach Kelly Spivey said. “There are far-bigger implications for us other that it just being a rivalry game or one against your next-door neighbor.
“We’ll use every motivational tactic possible with our kids. It’s that important, I believe.”
Union City will finish anywhere from 3-7 to 5-5 and will be in the same boat if it doesn’t earn one of the automatic bids.
“I told our guys, ‘This is where it (the postseason) begins,’” said Union City skipper Darren Bowling. “If we lose, we’ll still have a remote chance, I guess, but we don’t want to put ourselves in that position where we have to beat a state-ranked double-A team (Humboldt) just to have a chance to get in.
“It has all the feel of a playoff game, and that’s how we’re preparing.”
If the two local entries end up with the same record and qualify, the Tornadoes will be ranked higher as the second criteria after overall wins is number of opponents with .500 or better records.
UC’s schedule, which ranks among the Top 5 in the state in Class A, would give the Purple and Gold the nod. Four of the Tornadoes’ five losses have come vs. state-ranked foes (Obion Central, Wayne County, Huntingdon, Dresden), with the other against 6-2 Lake County.
In all, the Twisters have played six teams with current .500 or better marks. The Red Devils have faced three such opponents.
Neither Union City nor SF has beaten a team with a winning record this season.
The six-team brackets for each of the four quadrants will be seeded with the automatic qualifiers getting the higher seeds, followed by the wildcard entries. The two seeds will receive first-round byes with No. 3 facing No. 6, and 4 vs. 5.
If South Fulton and/or Union City qualify, they would be placed in the West quadrant where No. 1-ranked Huntingdon is expected to be the top seed.
South Fulton made the playoffs last season with a 6-4 regular season slate, while the Tornadoes got in at 5-5 after winning the Class 1A state championship the year before. Both bowed out in the first round.
Seventeen of the 41 Class 1A teams will not make the postseason.
• Obion Central’s playoff fate is secure.
The Rebels are now concerned with positioning.
OC, which lost for the first time in eight games to Covington last week, is a lock to reach the postseason for the 10th time in school history.
What seed the Rebs will have remains up in the air.
Wins against 1-7 Haywood this week and suddenly-hot Dyersburg (6-2) in a Thursday night regular season finale would put Central in line for the No. 1 spot in the West quad  with a 9-1 mark.
Should Covington beat Milan this week in a showdown that likely will decide the District 13AA championship, though, the Chargers would gain that position and bump Obion Central to number-two via the strength of schedule tie-breaker.
If OC were to lose either of its last two games or both, it could fall further down the seeding list.
There are 32 teams in the Class 4A field — broken down into four eight-team quadrants. Twenty-five programs will not make the playoffs in 4A.
The Rebels will almost certainly be placed in the West.
Published in The Messenger 10.19.11

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