As the playoffs get underway in Tennessee and our Southwest Virginia teams jockey for position in the final week of the regular season, our Kingsport picking panel is in near complete agreement over how this week’s high school football slate will shake out. Only three high school games — and three college games — divide them at all this week.
But before we break that down, let’s take a look at where everyone stands.
WHERE THEY STAND
Leader and prep guru Douglas Fritz (150-46) went 16-3 last week to hold on to his two-game lead over Joe Avento (16-3, 148-48). Tanner Cook (14-5, 143-53) held serve in third place, while Jeff Birchfield (11-8, 140-56) stumbled a bit to fall into fourth. Kevin Mays (13-6, 139-57) moved within one game of getting out of the cellar.
In Johnson City, where Jamie Combs (11-3, 105-43) tags in to pick the all Tennessee slate of high school games in Mays’ place, Fritz (10-4, 106-42) also holds the lead with Combs just one game back. Birchfield (8-6, 102-46) and Avento (9-5, 102-46) are tied for third with Cook (9-5, 100-48) in last place.
In Kingsport, where our crew tackles a slate of high school games in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia along with a few college games and the NFL Titans, our guys are on the same page with 13 games this week.
🏈 NET PLAYOFF GAMES: All five panelists are picking Dobyns-Bennett over William Blount, Maryville over Science Hill, Tennessee High over Gibbs, South Doyle over Cherokee and Oneida over Sullivan North.
🏈 SWV REGULAR SEASON FINALE: All five panelists predict Castlewood over Eastside, J.I. Burton over Thomas Walker, Union over John Battle, Wise Central over Grundy and Twin Springs over Rye Cove.
🏈 COLLEGE AND PRO: All five pickers also believe: Tennessee beats Kentucky and Virginia beats Georgia Tech on Saturday, and the Chiefs beat the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
LONE WOLF PICKS
Four lone wolf picks bear mention.
🏈 PIONEER POWER: In 5A action, Cook is the lone panelist putting his faith in David Crockett to get back on track and defeat Knox Central. Our panel: Knox Central, 4-1.
🏈 ALWAYS A REBEL: In 4A action, Sullivan South has played tough teams tough and Avento believes the Rebels will do it again with an upset of East Hamilton on the road. Our panel: East Hamilton, 4-1.
🏈 BETTING AGAINST THE BUCS: Cook is the only panelist who expects Western Carolina to add to the Bucs’ woes. Our panel: ETSU, 4-1.
🏈 HOKIE HOPEFUL: Maybe it’s a Virginia thing... or maybe Mays just believes the Hokies will deliver. Our panel: Wake Forest, 4-1.
THE 3-2 SPLIT
🏈 BLAZING A TRAIL: This week’s biggest split comes in the opening round of 5A play where red-hot Daniel Boone faces Knox Halls. Cook, Avento and Mays are riding shotgut with the Blazers; Fritz and Birchfield believe Halls wins a close one. Our panel: Daniel Boone, 3-2.
🏈 UVA-WISE WOES: Another 3-2 split in the college ranks where Fritz, Avento and Mays believe Catawba beats UVa-Wise. Cook and Birchfield are banking on the Cavs. Our panel: Catawba, 3-2.
Check out this week’s football picks every week in the Thursday papers ~ both Kingsport Times News and Johnson City Press ~ and share your thoughts about them in social media where you can find us @tnsportslive. Be sure to give us a follow for all the latest sports coverage throughout the year, and join us every Sports Live Friday Night for scoring updates, game coverage, photo galleries and more.