The Upperman Bees have reached this point of the TSSAA State Football Playoffs three times before. All three times, the Bees had their season ended.
The State Semifinals have been unkind, to say the least, to Upperman in their program history, dating back to their first final four appearance in 1996. Led by recently retired Cookeville head coach Jimmy Maynord, the ’96 Bees (11-2 entering the semis) had cruised through the first three rounds of the Class 2A playoffs, having out-scored Whitwell, Sweetwater and Sequatchie County a combined 102-0. The semifinals, however, brought about a Knoxville Webb team that was en route to its second of eight State Championships. The Spartans handed Upperman a 28-13 defeat in the semis, then proceeded on to knock off Goodpasture, 27-20, in the title game.
Upperman’s next appearance in the State Semis came in 2013. The Bees were an offensive juggernaut under then-head coach Ben Herron, having rolled to a 13-0 record behind 568 total points. Upperman put 70 points on the scoreboard in a Class 3A second-round shootout win over Tyner, but the 70-point total went against the Bees in the semis. The Alcoa Tornadoes blew past Upperman, 75-18, on their way to their 13th State Championship, and began a run that has seen them win seven of the past eight gold balls in Class 3A.
Alcoa would also be Upperman’s nemesis in the 2018 State Semis, as the two teams met again representing Class 3A. This game did not have the same offensive flair as the meeting five years earlier, as Bees’ head coach Adam Caine’s squad was able to hold the high-flying Alcoa offense to 27 points in a 27-14 defeat. Still, Upperman was left at the doorstep, one win away from competing for a State Championship.
This season, the Bees will head deep into East Tennessee to do battle with two-time defending Class 4A State Champion, Elizabethton. Most expected Greeneville to be the representative on the other side of the bracket, but the Cyclones upset the top-ranked team in the State, 13-7, in last week’s quarterfinals. With its 42-28 win over Red Bank last Friday night, Upperman has now reached the State Semifinals in three different classifications.
Upperman (12-1) will count on its two-headed rushing monster of Jaxson Rollins and Terrance Dedmon – who combined for 350 yards on 45 carries last week with four touchdowns – to continue the same damage they’ve been inflicting all season, while the defensive unit must be prepared to face dynamic Cyclone QB Bryson Rollins, who can get it done with his arm as well as his legs. Upperman QB Ty Dutchess will be a game-time decision after suffering a head injury early in last Friday night’s win at Red Bank.