yonel

Springfield linebacker Yonel Rodriquez (center) celebrates a fumble recovery during a 28-21 win over Hardin County on Friday, Nov. 22. 

2019 record: 39-19

Last week: 1-0

Springfield just keeps finding ways to win, and that means the picks are back for another week.

The Yellow Jackets are riding a six-game win streak, the latest of which came in thrilling fashion – a 28-21 victory over Hardin County in the TSSAA Class 4A quarterfinals.

Springfield (10-3) hosts Haywood (12-1) this Friday in the semifinals. If that sounds familiar, you have a good memory.

These two teams met in the semifinals in 2017 and 2018, with Springfield taking the first matchup (35-28) and Haywood getting its revenge last year in blowout fashion (49-14).

That makes this season’s meeting a rubber match of sorts. The victor will play the Elizabethton-Nolensville winner for the 4A state championship on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Tennessee Tech.

Here’s my breakdown of the semifinal:

Haywood at Springfield (Friday at 7 p.m.)

This Haywood team is different from the one Springfield faced in each of the last two seasons.

The biggest change? Coach Steve Hookfin left for a job in Arkansas and was replaced by Chris Smith.

What has not changed? Haywood is still really, really good.

The Tomcats have reeled off 10 straight victories since suffering their lone loss to Olive Branch (Miss.) 42-7 on Sept. 6. Haywood beat Craigmont in the first round, Ripley in second round and Crockett County in the quarterfinals last week.

And Haywood did it without Tennessee commitment Darion Williamson and standout tailback Atlex Evans, who were both lost to ACL injuries earlier in the season.

That has forced senior quarterback Andrew Stanley to shoulder more of the load for an offense that averages 39 points per game. Stanley likes to target 6-foot-6 tight end Markeston Douglas, who has offers from Kansas, Akron, UT Chattanooga, Austin Peay and others.

This is a matchup of good offense (Haywood) meeting good defense (Springfield). During their current win streak, the Yellow Jackets have surrendered just 11 points per game. Senior linebacker Mikie Neal leads the way with 126 total tackles.

But Haywood also has a capable defense – the Tomcats allow 20 points per contest. And Springfield’s offense has been ignited by dual-threat QB Kevontez Hudson and senior tailback Kevontay White.

Springfield is helped by having home-field advantage. The Yellow Jackets are 20-2 at their place since opening the new stadium in 2017. Meanwhile, Haywood will have to make the three-hour trek from Brownsville.

I’m calling for another Springfield win on Friday. At this point, why not?

PICK: Springfield 35, Haywood 30

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