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By Josh Peterson, editor
Cookeville has been the proverbial elephant in the room for most of District 6-AAA since the district formed in 2009.
Before the new district formed, the Raiders upset the 10th ranked Cavaliers 19-17 in 2007 in Manchester – meaning the Cavaliers are 0-2 in their last two trips to Carden-Jarrell Field. Coffee County traveled to Cookeville in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009.
Here are five big things to watch for Friday’s game:
1.Run Rozier, run. Red Raider junior tailback Deangelo Rozier needs to keep eating the same pregame meals he enjoyed in each of the last two weeks.
After struggling for most of the season to get a consistent running game going, the big tailback has suddenly put the home run back in his repertoire, busting touchdowns runs of 34, 65, 72 and 78 over the past three weeks. He has accounted for six touchdowns and 387 yards over that stretch. Granted this week’s defense will be the toughest he has seen in that stretch.
“Cookeville’s defense is fast and flows to the ball so this week you will see a lot of different formations from us,” Rozier said after Coffee County’s walkthrough Thursday.
2.Cookeville struggles to win in Manchester. For as good as Cookeville has been over the years, dating back to the old Region 3-5A days, the Cavaliers haven’t dominated the Raiders as well as other common opponents – especially at Carden-Jarrell Field.
In 2007, the Cavaliers were ranked 10th in the state by the Associated Press and Coffee County scored a late touchdown to take a 19-17 win.
In 2010, the Raiders provided a bigger shock in an expected Cavalier blowout with a 12-7 upset. Cookeville was driving to a potential game-winning score but fumbled the ball away for the third time with two minutes to play to end the game. That night was similar to tonight’s game – senior night with a two-win Raider team hosting.
3. Cookeville is unproven. A win Friday would give the Cavaliers a 5-5 record for the season. Entering tonight at 4-5, is decent, but is also misleading. The Cavaliers’ four wins are against teams with a combined record of 5-31. Three of those wins are by White County. Two wins are against winless Cumberland County and Lebanon.
In comparison, in just two wins the Raiders’ victims have a combined record of 5-13.
4.Nothing to lose. Neither team has anything to lose, really. But the Raiders are playing for more – senior night, a third straight win to take into the offseason and for a building block into next year.
Cookeville, meanwhile, should guard against entering this game stagnant with a playoff spot already locked up.
“We are treating this week like a bowl week,” said Rozier. “I mean it’s our seniors’ last week and it’s just going to be different. We’ve worked hard this week in practice.”
Raider quarterback Peyton Meeker followed that sentiment.
“We’ve had a very intense week and we know it’s our last game,” Meeker said. “It gives us that mentality that we only have our seniors to play for.”
5.Throw the sink early. Why not? You could save a bullet or two for late, but conventional wisdom says a quick lead holds here if you are Coffee County. With a playoff berth in the bank, Cookeville could lay down quickly with a 14-21 point deficit.
If coach Lee Davis has anything he hasn’t put on film it might be a good time to show more than we have seen. Getting too silly with onside kicks and too many trick plays can be counterproductive, though. Cookeville probably won’t be fooled by that.
“Cookeville is pretty solid all the way around but I know we can put up points and our defense can stop their offense.”
How I see it. A win for Coffee County was probably farfetched until the Raiders put on their big boy cleats and upset Franklin County last week.
That being said, it’s obvious Coffee County hasn’t laid down after a miserable 0-7 start and Cookeville isn’t the Cookeville of old. I see the Raiders winning and it shouldn’t even be considered an upset.
Cookeville – 20
Coffee County – 27