What a difference a year can make?
There are some similarities and striking differences for the three private school football programs this year compared to 52 weeks earlier.
The main similarity being that all three teams are still in the playoffs. That’s a big one and probably the most important one.
But all three are in different situations.
In 2022, Jackson Christian, Trinity Christian and University School of Jackson were all in the same classification and region. USJ had claimed the region championship with Jackson Christian finishing runner-up and TCA playing its way into the playoffs.
When it came to their respective prospects as far as making it to the next round of the state playoffs (semifinals), USJ and Jackson Christian were more hopeful because they were both playing at home in the second round, while TCA was hitting the road, hopeful to set up a semifinal matchup with Jackson Christian if they were to win their game.
But what actually happened was TCA did lose its game on the road while the other teams won at home – USJ with a rout of Lakeway Christian and Jackson Christian with a big comeback over Middle Tennessee Christian – before they both would be eliminated a week later in the state semifinals.
Since then, TCA and USJ have had coaching changes. USJ has officially made the move to Division II-AA (a move which was known this time last year).
The programs have had different trajectories to the season that have created their different situations this week.
USJ has battled well in the bigger classification but is on the road this week as a third-place team in its region with a tough test on the other sideline.
Jackson Christian has met challenge after challenge throughout the year before dealing with its biggest adversity here in the last couple weeks, and they find themselves back on the road this week but in familiar territory even if it’s not at Ronnie Fowler Field, where the Eagles have won 16 consecutive games.
TCA has consistently developed as a team from the spring to its current state now – a region champion coming off a first-round bye set for a home game in the state quarterfinals.
After another perfect 3-0 week last week, my record is 51-13 for the year.
Here’s a look at this week’s games:
TCA 21, Nashville Christian 20: Don’t let Nashville Christian’s overall record of 5-6 fool you. Yes, they did drop a couple of region games, but their non-region schedule was brutal with some quality teams and teams from bigger classifications (or both) handing them losses. This is still a typical Nashville Christian team we in rural West Tennessee have come to expect to see in November with a number of quality athletes with scholarship offers all over the field. This will be a tough matchup for the Lions, and they’ll need to play like it is for a spot in the state semifinals to pick up the win.
Jackson Christian 24, Columbia Academy 13: I nearly picked this one going the other way, but then I did some research on Columbia Academy. Their 7-3 record looks good, but their three losses are against the three best teams they’ve played and their most impressive win was when they secured their region championship against 7-4 Donelson Christian. They’re still good enough to win their region, so Columbia Academy could come out healthy after a bye week and ready to run all over whomever they play this week no matter who that is, but Jackson Christian’s defense is still as good as it’s been all season – it showed that last week. And that means the Eagles will always have a chance to win as long as that’s the case. Did they lose the biggest weapon in their arsenal two weeks ago when Jay’Len Mosley got hurt? Of course, but there are still plenty of guns to fire on the offensive side too. This game will be a tough, hard-fought affair (it’s the state quarterfinals, so what else would you expect?). But Jackson Christian comes out on top.
Christ Presbyterian Academy 35, USJ 7: CPA brings an impressive resume into this one. Their one loss is to Nashville Class 4A power Pearl-Cohn, and that loss was 15-11. This team’s strength is its defense. They allowed 16 points in Week 1 to Brentwood Academy, 15 to Pearl-Cohn in Week 2 and 20 against Pope John Paul II in Week 3 (a 49-20 win). Since then, they’ve recorded one shutout, five opponents scored once, and Antioch and Goodpasture Christian scored twice after CPA scored 52 and 41 points, respectively. So asking the Bruins to compete with this team may be asking a little much, but like I was reminded a few weeks ago during a near-upset here in Jackson by an official on the sideline: “There’s a reason they actually play these games.” Sometimes the sports writers have no idea what they’re talking about. Here’s hoping USJ goes to Nashville and proves me wrong.
Brandon Shields, email@example.com