Cleveland High, Walker Valley and Polk County all have a full slate of 10 games, while Bradley Central has nine and is awaiting conformation on one more.
“It was a headache. We’ve got some very tough opponents and some long trips to make, but at least we’ve got it done,” declared first-year Cleveland coach Ron Crawford.
Along with their six District 5-AAA opponents, the Blue Raiders will have home-and-away series with teams from Knoxville, Cookeville and Lebanon, plus Chattanooga private school McCallie.
“We were 5-5 this year but we still had a hard time filling our schedule,” coach Crawford expressed. “With a six-class playoff system it’s tough to get people to play. Every win is important toward making the playoffs, so teams are less likely to play up (against a higher class team). That means we had to reach out to teams outside our area.”
With the addition of East Hamilton into the district, nine of Cleveland’s opponents made the TSSAA playoffs this season. Two of the teams — East Hamilton (11-2) and Ooltewah (9-4) — advanced to the state quarterfinals, while three others — McMinn County (10-2), Knoxville West (9-3) and McCallie (5-6) — made it to the second round. Wilson Central (8-3), Bradley (6-5), Walker Valley (5-6) and District 6-AAA champion Cookeville (5-6) all dropped their opening round playoff games.
The Blue Raiders will open the 2013 season Aug. 23 at home against McCallie. Road trips to two-time 5-AAA champion McMinn County and Cookeville will follow before Wilson Central and Soddy-Daisy come to Benny Monroe Stadium.
The second half of the season will start with back-to-back trips to Knox West and East Hamilton before games against county rivals Bradley and at Walker Valley on consecutive October Fridays.
Having drawn the short straw with a Week 10 bye, Crawford’s Raiders will conclude the season a week before most everyone else with Ooltewah coming to town on Oct. 25.
“It’s a tough schedule but we’re going to line up and play the best we can,” Crawford proclaimed.
For the fifth straight year Bradley and Polk County will open the season against each other with the Aug. 23 clash returning to Benton next season.
“Because of the rest of his schedule, (Polk coach) Derrick (Davis) needed one more home game and we agreed to go back over there next year. They’ll come to us the following year,” explained Bradley head coach Damon Floyd.
The Bears, who already have seven playoff teams on the slate, have Week 1 open and have been talking with CAK (12-1), Powell (12-1), Knox Catholic (4-6), Jefferson County (8-3), Alcoa (11-2), Ensworth (12-0) and Baylor (8-4), all but one of which made the playoffs with three of them advancing to tonight’s semifinals.
Bradley has added playoff teams Hixson (7-4) and Signal Mountain (7-4) to the schedule, traveling to coach Jason Fitzgerald’s Wildcats in Week 3 before hosting coach Bill Price’s Eagles Week 5.
After drawing the Week 2 bye, the Bears will open district play Sept. 20 against county rival Walker Valley, before closing with five straight 5-AAA games, at Ooltewah and Cleveland, home against McMinn County and Soddy-Daisy and finishing up at East Hamilton.
Polk County also has eight playoff teams on tap next season, including all four of its district opponents.
After opening with the Bears, the Big Red Train will roll into Chattanooga twice, facing coach John Allen’s Central squad Aug. 30 and East Ridge Sept. 13, after a Week 2 bye.
McMinn Central (5-6) will come to Benton to open 5-AA play on Sept. 20 before Walker Valley gallops in the following week.
Polk will make district trips to Sequoyah (6-5) and Sweetwater (8-4) in October, with Notre Dame (9-3) paying a visit in between.
Coach Davis will take his crew to South Pittsburg in Week 9 before closing out the regular season at home against district newcomer Loudon.
“Our schedule really fell into place quickly,” coach Davis expressed. “After we did our district draw (last Friday) I had it completed that night. We wanted to keep the game with South Pittsburg and everybody else is fairly close, so the travel won’t be too bad.”
After making the postseason for the first time since 2008, coach Glen Ryan’s Walker Valley herd will face seven fellow playoff teams in 2013.
For the third straight year the Mustangs will open against East Ridge, but then have a couple of newcomers on tap the following two weeks. After traveling for the first week, the Mustangs will face Sequoyah in an Aug. 30 home opener before welcoming East Hamilton to the district the following Friday at “The Corral.”
Capping a three-game home stand, Walker Valley will entertain former 5-AAA member Rhea County in Week 3.
The Mustangs will hit the trail for three straight games, plus a bye week in the middle of the season, galloping to Bradley and Polk County before getting a rest and then going to Ooltewah.
Walker Valley will host Cleveland and McMinn County the last two Fridays in October before closing the regular season at Soddy-Daisy on Nov. 1.
“I feel like we have a good, solid schedule that should be a good test for us,” commented coach Ryan. “The district is going to be extremely tough with the addition of East Hamilton, plus we’ll be competing for a spot in the Class 6A playoffs instead of 5A.”
The kickoff for the 2013 season is less than nine months away.