As Oakland continues its march through the TSSAA playoffs, the Patriots have proven something some already knew. With a convincing 31-14 beat-down of Blackman in a class 6A quarterfinal contestOakland (13-0) is the last school standing from Rutherford County. So that means they are the best in a tradition rich area. But why is it that for six consecutive years the Patriots have earned a semifinal berth on the road to the BlueCross Bowl?
Rivals within the County confines point to certain factors like recruiting and favorable calls from game officials. Is there any validity to these accusations? I don’t think the zebras are herded in by the Patriots and convinced to hold or fling the flag. Anyone that has competed understands good teams that do things the right way will seem to get the benefit of questionable calls. Is that anyone’s fault or just the way it is? How can one school be luckier than another when it comes to the whistle? Luck can be defined as opportunity meeting preparation. Oakland is usually always prepared.
The recruiting is a hot topic in such a competitive county. In Rutherford County all schools recruit. With such a massive influx of people and the desire to win, every school wants to convince kids to come and be part of their program. Given the society we live in, if you are not trying to raise your bar perhaps you should be in a different business. As long as things are done within the framework of the rules, you can’t blame Oakland for wanting to be good.
Next question…why are they good? The answer can be summarized from another Oakland philosophy that was popularized years ago. The NFL Raiders and Al Davis had a motto of “commitment to excellence”. A proud athletic tradition has been built since the school opened in 1972. Over the years, coaches and administrations have changed, but these ideals have not.
“When we start the season we talk about wanting to play football past Thanksgiving,”says head coach Kevin Creasy. “At that time it seems like it’s a long way off but this program has high expectations and it becomes engrained in these kids. This group has worked hard to live up to the tradition of Oakland football. If we didn’t make it this far we would be disappointed.”
Having good players is always a key ingredient, but a commitment to execution of the basics of the game normally equals success. Discipline and the ability to execute the fundamentals have been strong points during the Creasy era. Not trying to be a rocket scientist, the current Patriot mentor has used basic math while finishing as state runner up (2016) and state champ (2018) to go along with trips to the final four in each of his five seasons.
“Good defense, sound special teams, and executing on offense is how you win,”says Creasy. “Now we have to go on the road and try and do something special.”
For the sixth consecutive year the Patriots will battle another perennial state powerhouse in Maryville for the right to play in the class 6A “Ship. Creasy has beaten the Rebels twice, but both wins came in Murfreesboro. The last time Maryville lost a playoff game at home it was to a Rutherford County school as Smyrna headed east in 1995 and used a basic fundamental philosophy in an 18-0 triumph.
As Oakland flies the County flag on their way up Interstate 40, perhaps others can draw from their blueprint and join them with a fellow commitment to excellence. Kickoff for the November 29 game at Maryville is slated for 7pm eastern.