2019 record: 40-19
Last week: 1-0
What a run this has been for Springfield.
The Yellow Jackets have taken down Jackson South Side, Lexington, Hardin County and Haywood to advance to their second TSSAA Class 4A state championship appearance in the last three seasons.
Springfield was 4-3 after a 13-10 loss at Montgomery Central on Oct. 11. The Region 5-4A title looked like a long shot at that point, and the state title was even further out of mind.
Yet here they are. Springfield is set to tangle with undefeated Elizabethton (14-0) on Saturday, Dec. 7 in the BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech. The winner will capture the elusive Class 4A gold ball trophy.
Elizabethton won its only state finals appearance in 1938. Springfield took gold in 1993 with a 26-6 win over McMinn Central. The Yellow Jackets made their only other state finals appearance in 2017, when they lost to Greeneville 54-13.
More history will be made this weekend at Tucker Stadium. Here’s my breakdown of the matchup:
Elizabethton vs. Springfield (Saturday at 3 p.m.)
The Flying Cyclones have not lost since Nov. 9, 2018, when they dropped a 54-21 contest at Anderson County in the second round of the TSSAA playoffs.
Elizabethton has run through virtually all its opponents this season, averaging a 26-point margin of victory. Only the Science Hill and Greeneville games were decided by eight points or less. In playoff wins over East Ridge, Sullivan South, Greeneville and Nolensville, Elizabethton outscored its challengers 151-40.
The Fighting Cyclones are coached by Shawn Witten, the older brother of Dallas Cowboys All-Pro tight end Jason Witten. Shawn Witten is 120-41 since taking the Elizabethton job in 2007.
Dual-threat quarterback Bryson Rollins leads Elizabethton’s high-powered offense. He is 122-of-172 passing for 2,102 yards, 29 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The sophomore also has 821 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.
Senior tailback Cade Maupin has rushed for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns on 226 carries. Wideout Troy Parker Hughes touts 936 yards and 19 touchdowns on 49 receptions.
Springfield’s 2019 season is almost a mirror image of its 2017 campaign. In both cases, a slow Yellow Jacket start turned into a fast finish and a playoff run, before a meeting with an undefeated East Tennessee team in the finals.
I’ve given you my honest thoughts all season. I’ve picked for and against each of the Robertson County area teams at various points. My Springfield playoff predictions are 4-0 so far.
But Elizabethton is just too strong. While I expect to see a competitive game, the edge must go to the Flying Cyclones. They average 37 points and surrender about 11 per game. Something similar will probably happen Saturday, though Springfield’s never-say-die attitude will make things interesting.
Please save your pitchforks and torches for after the game.
PICK: Elizabethton 28, Springfield 17