TSSAA State Playoffs – #4 Cleveland vs #1 Farragut PREVIEW

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TSSAA State Playoffs – #4 Cleveland vs #1 Farragut PREVIEW

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Clinching a playoff berth did not come easy for Cleveland. And boy, it was ugly.

But they’re in, no matter how ugly of a season it’s been. And now, it’s a new season. Everyone’s 0-0.

Cleveland travels to Farragut this Friday to begin the TSSAA playoffs for the third time in the last four years(!!!). In 2015, the Blue Raiders fell victim to the high powered Farragut offense and lost 50-20. But last year, Cleveland could have, and very well SHOULD have knocked off the Admirals.

It’s a similar story for the Blue Raider faithful to read. Cleveland was leading by 14 in the fourth quarter at Farragut last year 28-14, but the Admirals came charging back. Led by University of Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren, Farragut quickly erased their 14-point-deficit and had a 14-point-lead of their own. This time, the 14 point lead stood. Cleveland was eliminated by a score of 42-28.

Now, the Blue Raiders hope to rewrite history.

It feels like a brand new team this year for Cleveland in this matchup. Last year, Keegan Jones stole the show. But he and Micaleous Elder are obviously not here. In fact, QB1, RB1 AND 2, AND WR1 are all different than a year ago.


The Cleveland offense has been inconsistent as of late. The last three games, they’ve averaged just over 15 points a game. Against an team like Farragut, they can’t afford to be off their game this week. And I don’t think they will be.

Jackson Moore has certainly had rough games this year, and he’ll tell you that himself. But Moore not only has the ability, but he has the football IQ to go on the road in an atmosphere like Farragut and come out with a win. He’s going to have to have the best game he’s had this year, but I believe he can.

Offense X-Factor: Darius Howard, WR — As many of you know, Darius missed the majority of the regular season due to injury. But Darius is one of the most talented athletes to walk through the doors of Cleveland High School. I think this is the game where Darius breaks out. Much of the attention for Farragut defensively will be on Robert Flowers, so I think Darius is going to make a name for himself this week. Give him nearly a hundred yards receiving and two touchdowns this week.

The Cleveland defense has been just as “up and down” as the offense has been, but boy, they’ve shown some big strides from years past. The talent for the Blue Raiders defensively is there, but we’ve not seen them come together in a big game and hold strong just yet. Yes, they looked elite against Walker Valley and Heritage, but just about every defense in the region looked elite against those struggling teams.

With all that said, they’ve looked really good in some moments that the scoreboard mayn’t reflect. Look for the Palelei brothers to continue to take the region by storm this year. Leo Palelei is going to play Division I football when it’s all said and done, and he’s going to leave his mark on this game one way or another.

Defense X-Factor: Wilson Benefield, DE — Wilson’s a guy I’ve failed to mention this year thus far, and that’s on me. He’s quietly had a great year. He started out the year a little antsy on the line, jumping offsides a bit too much(he’ll tell you the same), but he’s a big time player on the Cleveland defensive line. If he can get to Farragut quarterback Gavin Wilkinson, get some sacks and/or make him step up in the pocket for fellow lineman Alex Higgins to clean up, a big game for Benefield and the D-Line could bode well for the Raiders.

I’m unsure of what’s going to happen Friday, but I know the Blue Raiders are going to be ready. I’ll be pulling for them like always, and I believe, either way the game goes, it’ll be close.