It’s a brave new world across the Tennessee High School football landscape this fall. The long debated separation of private and public school athletic programs has occurred for all but a few schools across the state. Regardless of your opinion on the issue, a byproduct of the split has been the creation of several exciting new regions across the Midstate. One of the most intriguing groupings resides in the D-II AA Middle Region. There are no lightweights here. BGA, FRA, Lipscomb Academy, Goodpasture, and CPA all have rich traditions and passionate followings. Each campus is host to a beautiful stadium and terrific game atmosphere. The longest distance between schools (Goodpasture-BGA) is less than 30 miles while Lipscomb Academy and FRA are separated by a mere 3 miles. This guide will feature a game for each week of the season and include a road trip to every stadium within the region along the way. Check out each team’s individual preview page for a more in depth look at each school’s outlook this season.
Stratford @ Christ Presbyterian Academy
Before Christ Presbyterian Academy moves into their new regional home, they open the season with a rival from recent seasons. Stratford defeated CPA 7-6 last year in route to a perfect regular season record and region championship. However, CPA would get revenge in the second round of the playoffs when they eliminated Stratford by a score of 10-7 in another defensive showcase. CPA has a reputation for difficult scheduling and this season is no exception. The Lions need to build momentum from this opening matchup before games against Ensworth, Smyrna, and Pearl Cohn in the following weeks. This will also mark the first game for new Spartan head coach Jerrell Cogman after the departure of former coach Maurice Fitzgerald to Hillsboro High School.
Nashville Christian School @ Battle Ground Academy
Battle Ground Academy has a lot of returning starters this fall and hopes to build upon a solid 2016 campaign. The Wildcats finished the regular season at 8-4 last year and should be a contender for the regional title this fall. BGA is fortunate to have experienced players entering the year as Nashville Christian School will provide an early season test. NCS has stud defensive tackle Brant Lawless who has committed to play for the University of Tennessee next season. Lawless is currently rated the 11th best Senior prospect in Tennessee by Rivals.com. The offensive line for BGA will be the key to this matchup as they must slow Lawless down long enough to let talented QB Drew Martin go to work.
Lipscomb Academy @ Franklin Road Academy
Lipscomb Academy makes the short trip southeast to visit Franklin Road Academy in the D-II AA Middle Region opener for both teams. The FRA Panthers had a difficult 2016 but have reason for optimism in the large number of returning starters on both sides of the ball this fall. This includes the QB position where Eric Stoxsdill-Diggs returns for his senior season. Stoxsdill-Diggs connected on some explosive deep passing plays last year but the offense as a whole must be more consistent in 2017. Franklin Road Academy boasts an artificial playing surface that is a rarity in the Midstate and an elevated stadium with views of the surrounding country. Lipscomb Academy will have to replace star lineman Rutger Reitmaier from last season who will be suiting up for the Oregon Ducks this fall. The Mustang’s defensive unit will be anchored by hard hitting Senior OLB Caleb Silva. Silva’s tape shows him to be an aggressive run stopper who doesn’t ever shy away from contact. FRA will have to account for #46 if they hope to find success on the ground in this game.
Friendship Christian @ Goodpasture
Goodpasture enters 2017 feeling much different than before the start of last season. The Cougars went winless in 2015 but persevered to earn 10 victories in 2016. Now, Goodpasture will bring their brand of disciplined football to Division II. The Cougars are primarily a rushing team and will be led this fall by RB Julius Elders. Elders was part of a stable of rushers last year but will have to be the feature back this year with the departure of fullback Cameron Tompkins and playmaker Jermaine Mason. Friendship Christian has a long history of success but will be stepping up a classification to face Goodpasture.
Goodpasture @ Lipscomb Academy
This game feels like it could be a separation game for region title contention. Expect it to be a physical defensive contest as both teams like to impose their will on opponents. Major renovations to the athletic field at Lipscomb Academy will be completed by the start of the season and look to add to an already electric football atmosphere. The impressive McCadams Athletic Center overlooks the field and is evidence to the commitment these Division II schools make to their athletic programs. Goodpasture head coach Jerry Joslin is one of the most respected head coaches in the area and will be entering his third year as the Cougars head coach this fall.
Evangelical Christian School @ Battle Ground Academy
Evangelical Christian School travels the almost 200 miles to Battle Ground Academy in Week 6 for a rare regular season matchup between the Middle and West D-II AA Regions. One of the top playmakers for BGA is Senior WR Ollie Reese. Reese is a crisp route runner with excellent hands. His game tape is full of examples where his quick route cuts create great separation from the defender. The Wildcats have every reason to believe in their offense again this season. Most of the skill position players have returned from an offense that scored 306 points in the regular season in 2016.
Lipscomb Academy @ Christ Presbyterian Academy
CPA’s offense will once again be keyed by returning QB starter Ryan Eledge this fall. Eledge showed substantial growth and leadership last season as he helped the Lions overcome a 1-5 start to the season to make a deep run in the 3A state playoffs. Now a Junior, he should be primed for a breakout year in 2017. The Lipscomb defense will have to stay disciplined throughout this matchup. CPA runs the ball the majority of the time but hit some big plays with the play action pass a year ago. Senior dual threat QB Logan Sakarapanee will lead the Mustang offense when Lipscomb Academy has possession. Sakarapanee has a good arm but his real danger lies in his elusiveness and speed on the ground. If he is allowed to escape the pocket and make plays on his own, it could be a long night for CPA.
East Nashville @ Lipscomb Academy
Lipscomb Academy will have only one regional game left at this point of the season. The Mustangs have this contest against East Nashville, a bye week, and a game against Kenwood before wrapping up the regular season by hosting BGA. East Nashville’s spread offense will be a different look for the Lipscomb Academy defense from what most of their opponents will run this year. The Eagles have a number of athletes and can turn any defensive mistake into six points. Every team in the D-II AA Middle plays a non-region opponent this week as they gear up for key late season contests and the playoffs to come.
Christ Presbyterian Academy @ Goodpasture
I had the privilege to attend both games between CPA and Goodpasture in 2016 and both turned out to be classics. Goodpasture had a miraculous fourth quarter rally to topple CPA 31-28 in Week 10 a year ago to earn a home playoff game. The Lions would return to Cougar Stadium in the Class 3A Quarterfinals and fight their way to a double overtime win. These teams showed a respect for each other but certainly not any good feelings. This will be an electric atmosphere and a must see game between two teams that may very well still be competing for the region title.
South Pittsburg @ Goodpasture
Week 10 provides an opportunity for Nashville area high school football fans to see a storied South Pittsburg program without the travel. The Pirates make their way up to Goodpasture from Marion County for another late season public/private school crossover game. Goodpasture is roughly the size of a 3A public school so the 1A South Pittsburg squad will be at a depth disadvantage. This is especially true because the Cougars have the ability to rotate skill position guys and continually present a fresh player to their opposition. Look for Goodpasture to wear down South Pittsburg but the Cougars can’t afford to look past the Pirates to the matchup with Pope John Paul II in the final week.
Christ Presbyterian Academy @ Franklin Road Academy
A key member of the FRA offensive attack this year will be the versatile Canaan Catlett. Catlett lines up primarily from the wing position and this allows him to be motioned into a handoff or to go downfield as a receiver. He has good power and does a good job of finding the rushing hole on film. The misdirection employed by the Panther attack forces the defense to account for all options. If the season goes to plan for CPA and head coach Ingle Martin, this could be the final hurdle between the Lions and a region crown.
That’s a quick look around D-II AA Middle Region. The summer sports drought has passed. It’s football time in Tennessee once again.