This coming Friday night the McKenzie Rebels’ football team has a big game.
Why so big?
For starters, because it’s the next one.
But this will be a battle of unbeatens, No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state with the winner having a good shot at getting to Chattanooga the first weekend in December. Rebel Stadium has hosted bigger games before.
I think back to 2001 when unbeaten McKenzie and unbeaten Martin-Westview met in the state semifinals. I remember the semifinal battle with Mt. Pleasant that came down to the wire in 2007. There was the controversial missed PAT call that cost McKenzie a shot a the state championship against TCA in 2010. Last year, McKenzie played Trenton-Peabody in an epic Class A semifinal that went down to the wire and resulted in a Rebel victory on a last-second interception.
But this game will be pretty big, perhaps the biggest quarterfinal game McKenzie’s ever played. Though, that’s sort of hard to quantify, isn’t it?
McKenzie had spent most of the year ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, but recently, Fayetteville ascended to that peak. So now, the No. 2 Rebels enter the game as an underdog.
The Rebels and Tigers have four common opponents, and the scores are similar. What does that portend? That it’s going to be a great game Friday night.
Get there early.
Some other musings:
- Tennessee woke up in the second half to bludgeon Missouri 66-24 at Neyland Stadium Saturday. There was some interesting conversation about Mizzou coach Eliah Drinkwitz’s remarks about the Vols perhaps having to “vacate wins” after an NCAA investigation. I’m sure that was whispered around the Vols’ football facility this week. My suggestion for Coach Drinkwitz: better mind your own team before popping off about others. You really haven’t acquitted yourself well during your three years in Columbia. The way things are going, you may find yourself in another zip code next year.
- Speaking of the drubbing against Missouri, some winced when Tennessee scored that last touchdown instead of taking a knee. Some people thought it was classless. I may stand in the short line, but correct me if I’m wrong, but Mizzou had every chance to stop Tennessee on the goal line, didn’t it? Last I checked, the Tigers weren’t wearing blindfolds and their limbs weren’t bound. It’s not Josh Heupel’s job to feel sorry for the other team, and, besides, he had his second string in there. Could it bite Tennessee down the road? Possibly, but it was interesting that for over a decade, other teams had run up the score at the Vols’ expense, with barely a protest. Suddenly, when the Vols have an opportunity to do the same thing, people are scrutinizing? Please. Heupel discovered during the Florida game that he can’t let off the gas. I had no problem with the late score. Lest you wonder, had it been Missouri running it up on Tennessee, I’d have said the same thing.
- What a mess in College Station, Texas. Jimbo Fisher has guided what was once purported to be a Top 10 team before the season began and perhaps a playoff contender into a program with seven losses. Texas A&M, after losing to Arkansas last week, has demonstrated it made a bad hire. Sure, Fisher had the best recruiting class in history, according to the pundits, last year. How many of them are going to stick around for this? When you watch A&M, you get the impression that these guys have quit. The offense is a mess. There is talent there to fix it, but will Fisher relinquish the controls? His buyout is $85 million and goes down to $75 million next year. Some are saying that the buyout is no longer prohibitive. Fisher has been there for five years and the program hasn’t gotten any better.
- I confess, I may have been wrong about Brian Kelly at LSU. I scratched my head over that hire and thought the Tigers might be headed in the same direction as A&M. But Saturday, LSU punched its ticket for Atlanta and the SEC championship. I was never impressed, completely, by what Kelly did at Notre Dame, but to be fair, the school hasn’t been competitive for 30 years because of academic policies put in place, policies that eventually ran Lou Holtz from his dream job. Funny what resources and administrative support can do for a program. Maybe we’ll have to give Kelly a shot at LSU.
Jim Steele is a correspondent for Magic Valley Publishing and the host of The Pressbox radio show, which airs 4-6 p.m. CT, Monday-Thursday on 95.9 FM, WRJB radio, Camden, Tenn.