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District 1 still searching for football state title

Douglas Fritz • Nov 26, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Since the TSSAA adopted a statewide playoff plan for football in 1976, District 1 schools haven’t enjoyed a lot of deep-run success.

Elizabethton will try to become just the second area team to reach the state championship game when it plays host to Nolensville on Friday in a Class 4A semifinal contest.

In 44 years over various classifications, a team from District 1 has made an appearance in the semifinals 20 times. The record going into Friday’s game? One win, 18 losses.

Cloudland, which beat South Pittsburg 44-6 in 2001, is the only team to reach the state championship game. The Highlanders lost to a private school, Ezell-Harding, in the finals. Cloudland was also the only public school in the semifinals in 2002, losing to Boyd-Buchanan — which then lost to Christ Presbyterian Academy in the finals.

Elizabethton will try to make history in an already historic season. The Cyclones (13-0) set a school record for wins in a single season by defeating two-time defending state champion Greeneville 24-13 in last week’s quarterfinals. The Cyclones also beat Greeneville 24-21 during the regular season.

Here’s a look at the state semifinal appearances for District 1 schools with home games designated by (H). As a note, Cherokee reached the Class 4A semifinals in 1994, but the Chiefs were in District 2 at the time.

(Elizabethton, 0-6)

1997 — Maryville 42, Elizabethton 21 (H)

1998 — Maryville 20, Elizabethton 16

1999 — Knox Central 20, Elizabethton 17, OT (H)

2009 — Alcoa 34, Elizabethton 7

2010 — Alcoa 55, Elizabethton 20

2012 — CAK 44, Elizabethton 34 (H)

(Dobyns-Bennett, 0-4)

1976 — Bradley Central 24, D-B 18

1998 — Oakland 21, D-B 7

2000 — Red Bank 21, D-B 13

2002 — Riverdale 14, D-B 9

(Cloudland, 1-1)

2001 — Cloudland 44, S. Pittsburg 6 (H)

2002 — Boyd-Buchanan 38, Cloudland 9

(Hampton, 0-4)

2005 — Trousdale 35, Hampton 0 (H)

2006 — Friendship Christian 24, Hampton 7

2007 — South Pittsburg 42, Hampton 28

2015 — Marion County 55, Hampton 17 (H)

(Sullivan South, 0-3)

1993 — Cleveland 21, South 0 (H)

2007 — Maryville 48, South 21

2009 — Columbia 24, South 0


Even though the bus ride from Nolensville to Elizabethton is close to five hours and despite the fact the school didn’t open until 2016, the Knights and Cyclones have an athletic history.

Nolensville defeated Elizabethton twice in last year’s Class AA baseball tournament. The Knights won 2-1 and 4-3, the second result eliminating the Cyclones.

Nolensville, which produced its first graduation class in May, is playing its third season of varsity football.


Thanksgiving is Thursday, and that’s a good thing for the Cyclones, Elizabethton coach Shawn Witten said.

“A lot of times there’s nothing better than faith, family and football,” Witten said. “It really is something special. It’s great to be able to practice the week of Thanksgiving. You know you accomplished a lot to get there.”


Elizabethton has played teams with a combined record of 72-75, adding Greeneville and Sullivan South twice because the Cyclones played them a second time in the postseason.

Nolensville’s opponents went a combined 69-76.

Both the Cyclones and Knights played six games against teams that finished with a winning record.


Nolensville receiver and defensive back Tim Coutras is a Mr. Football finalist, making it the second straight week the Cyclones will face a team with a player from the prestigious list.

Coutras, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, has committed to Liberty, but he recently received an offer from the Southeastern Conference’s Missouri. East Tennessee State has also offered. With close to 1,000 yards receiving on the season, Coutras is a major offensive threat. But he may be even more dangerous on the defensive side after recording 16 interceptions and four “pick-6s” over the last two seasons.

Also, 6-4, 221-pound linebacker C.J. Ware has committed to Miami, Ohio.

Elizabethton has a Mr. Football semifinalist in quarterback Bryson Rollins, who didn’t get the nod for the final three but helped his team beat Greeneville and its Mr. Football finalist, Ty Youngblood.


Elizabethton 27, Nolensville 20

There should be plenty of offense with the kind of firepower both of these teams possess. That means each team will be looking for the key defensive stops to create a turning point.

Picks record: 11-4.


After a week of Hall of Champions games, basketball’s regular season arrived Monday.

Included in this week’s mix are a bunch of games in Jonesborough, for the Hardee’s Classic, and Bluff City, where the Food City Thanksgiving Classic will be played. Boys and girls teams are involved in both events, and games will be played through Saturday night.

Contact Douglas Fritz via email at dfritz@johnsoncitypress.com.