It is a nondistrict affair but Polk County's visit to South Pittsburg on Friday should mean a turnaway crowd.
Yes, the game starts a half-hour late (8 p.m.) for those of us on Eastern time and, yes, the traffic will jam in Ooltewah and at the I-24/I-75 and I-24/Hwy. 27 junctions, but these are two of the toughest and most disciplined teams in the Chattanooga area. And they will light up and have lit up -- opposing teams with blocks, stiff-arms, lowered shoulders and pad-splitting tackles.
South Pittsburg has the edge is both speed and big-name players but Polk County has faced speed teams like McMinn Central and survived. It's a matter of discipline.
Both already have locked up their respective district championships. South Pitt went through District 6-A unscathed and the Pirates' only loss is to Boyd-Buchanan, which has been ranked No. 2 in Class 2A most of the year. Polk is looking to hand coach Derrick Davis the first unbeaten regular season of his career.
* The other teams in South Pittsburg's District 6-A with playoff designs are Signal Mountain, Lookout Valley and Marion County. Signal is in the Class 2A playoffs by virtue of a win over Marion County and just the one loss to South Pittsburgh. Lookout Valley (6-2 overall) needs a win over Copper Basin this week and Marion County next week to have a shot at a Class 1A wild card. Marion will have to secure a wild card if the Warriors (5-3) are to get in but they are at Boyd-Buchanan this week and play Lookout Valley next week with both teams desperate for a win.
* Boyd-Buchanan is in the playoffs but Silverdale Baptist also has qualified by finishing second. Copper Basin has a wild-card shot but probably needs a win over Lookout Valley this week or Boyd-Buchanan next week. Silverdale qualified by finishing second in District 5-A behind the Buccaneers.
* In District 5-AA, Polk County can finish in no worse than a first-place tie and it would take a loss next week to Meigs County for even that to happen. The Wildcats, even with a loss to Meigs, would get the top spot because of a win earlier this season over runner-up McMinn Central, which finished with a 3-1 district record. Both Polk and McMinn are in the playoffs.
* In District 6-AA, the top 4A spot goes to Red Bank, which bested Brainerd 34-8 Friday night. But Nos. 2 and 3 are still up for grabs between Brainerd, Central, East Ridge and Hixson. Brainerd and East Ridge are 3-2 in the district while Central is 2-3. This one may not be decided until the final week. East Ridge, which defeated Brainerd, still has games with the aforementioned Purple Pounders (Friday) and Howard. Central will have East Hamilton, winless in district games, next week to finish its regular season while Brainerd plays Hixson and Tyner. Even Hixson is the picture although the Wildcats are a darkhorse at best. They have games remaining with Brainerd and Red Bank and even with wins against each it appears that they would still need help because of losses to Central and East Ridge.
* Bledsoe County secured the 7-AA championship, its first title since 1983, with Friday's win over Grundy County. Sequatchie County also is in the playoffs because it finished second behind Bledsoe with a 3-1 record.
* Will it be Ooltewah or McMinn County in District 5-AAA? Both have secured the Class 6A playoff spots by gaining the district's top two berths. But who'll be No. 1? Who'll gain a definite host role? Those answers likely won't come until next week when the two meet in Athens. Cleveland is 3-5 overall and 2-2 in the district. Even though they shut out Walker Valley, the Blue Raiders haven't yet secured the district's lone Class 5A berth. Walker Valley would have to win both of its remaining games -- McMinn County and Bradley Central -- to keep Cleveland at home, and even though the Blue Raiders would have to lose each of their remaining games (Ooltewah, Soddy-Daisy).
* Don't know when it the decision was finalized but Howard and Tyner will be playing at Finley Stadium Friday night rather than at Tyner. However, Tyner's field will still be used because homeless East Hamilton will use the site to host Red Bank.
* Congrats to Boyd-Buchanan's Grant Reynolds. The Buccaneers head coach went through a couple of rough years - call them transition or injury-decimated seasons -- but the team's win 10 days over South Pittsburg was his 25th head coaching victory. He now stands 25-18, getting seven games over .500 this season with the team's 7-0 start. Boyd-Buchanan, already assured of a playoff spot, hosts Marion County this week and ends the season at Copper Basin next week.
* Speaking of personal marks, Polk County (8-0) could give Wildcats coach Davis his first undefeated regular season and his 75th career victory with wins Friday night at South Pittsburg and next week at home against Meigs County. East Ridge coach Mike Martin collected career win No. 40 last week as the Pioneers humbled East Hamilton, and Rhea's Jason Fitzgerald got No. 60 earlier this year but the Golden Eagles have struggled all season other than their second-week, 25-3 win over Wilson Central. McMinn County's Bo Cagle, in his third year as head coach with two regular season games to go, is now sitting on 20 victories following the Cherokees' home win over Soddy-Daisy.
* Hixson's 16-14 win over Howard was quite close but the difference again was quarterback/safety Zach McCarter. He threw TD passes on both of the Wildcats' TDs and came up with nine tackles including one game-saver on the Howard's final offensive series.
"If he isn't considered among the best 20 football players in Chattanooga then something's wrong," Hixson coach Houston White said.
The Wildcats' lead might not have been as precarious but White had three starters along the sidelines with him for disciplinary reasons in the first half. If you don't know it yet, that's the way White is. He sincerely believes there are things more important than wins and losses in the game of football. If he can teach those lessons and win, then so be it. If not, well, so be it.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...