published Monday, September 19th, 2011

Gossett: Big rivalries on tap this week

SPORTS BLOG

Where will you be on Friday night?

There are two marquee games, if you haven't heard: McCallie at Baylor, one of the area's ancient rivalries, and South Pittsburg at Signal Mountain in one of the area's newest showcases.

The Baylor-McCallie game is, of course, a Division II East/Middle contest with playoff implications while Signal Mountain's move up to District 7-AA has taken some of the importance from the Eagles-Pirates contest. Believe you me, though, that game at Signal Mountain will be a hard-knocking, laying-it-all-on-the-line affair.

You have to wonder which direction Baylor will turn when or if somebody is able to put clamps on Baylor quarterback Matthew Oellerich. His four-TD night against defending state champion Ensworth gives him 10 rushing TDs in just four games. He also had a touchdown pass in the convincing (42-14) win over the state's top-ranked Division II-AA team.

It could be a fun night watching the scoring duel between Oellerich and McCallie's Doug McClure, who shredded Father Ryan for 241 yards. McClure has 678 yards to date with nine rushing TDs.

South Pitt's visit to Signal Mountain matches some of the area's best players, from Pirates running back Jajuan Lankford, receivers Antonio Chubb and Matthew Allen and quarterback Jake Stone to Signal quarterback Reese Phillips, receivers Will Queen and Jon Patton and running backs Tim McClendon, Zack Bowman and Andrew Price.

Both games are highly anticipated but there are more games of this caliber to come between now and the end of October including:

Sept. 30 -- Bledsoe County at Sequatchie County, Ooltewah at Soddy-Daisy, Tyner at Hixson, Ridgeland at Dalton, Ringgold at Heritage.

Oct. 7 -- Bradley Central at Ooltewah, Cleveland at McMinn County, East Hamilton at Hixson, Signal Mountain at Polk County, Tyner at Central.

Oct. 14 -- Brainerd at Central, East Hamilton at Tyner, Dalton vs. Ringgold at Finley Stadium.

Oct. 21 -- Bradley Central at Cleveland, Red Bank at East Hamilton, Polk County at South Pittsburg, LaFayette at Dalton, Ringgold at Ridgeland.

Oct. 28 -- Signal Mountain at Sequatchie County, Hixson at Central, McMinn County at Bradley Central, Meigs County at Polk County and Red Bank at Tyner, LaFayette vs. Ringgold at Finley Stadium and Heritage at Ridgeland.

And then the playoffs, which won't end in Tennessee until the first week of December in the state championship series at Tennessee Tech.

Baylor (5-0) and South Pittsburg are two of the area's teams that remain undefeated. They're joined by Boyd-Buchanan (5-0) Red Bank (4-0), Calhoun (4-0), Heritage (4-0) and North Jackson (4-0).

• Nathan Simbeck completed 12 of 20 passes for 224 yards and two TDs as McMinn County handed Ooltewah its second straight loss Friday night. The Owls, who started off 3-0 before losing at Siegel two weeks ago, should be the favorite when they travel to hard-luck East Ridge. The Pioneers opened with a convincing win over Walker Valley but have since lost to Boyd-Buchanan, Red Bank and Tyner. The setback to Boyd was 7-6 in overtime and the loss to Tyner was 12-7 which backs up our thought that East Ridge has displayed a very salty defense but the offense hasn't been consistent enough to sustain long drives.

• Tyner's win over East Ridge was, surprisingly, its first of the season, giving Rams supporters a reason to think their team might still have a shot at the District 6-AA title. Of course, the Rams still have Central, Howard, East Hamilton, Hixson and Red Bank on the schedule. Congrats to Ram Bobby Hendricks, whose 80-yard kickoff return lifted Tyner out of winlessville. One man's opinion -- the Rams were too good for their losing streak to have lasted much longer.

• By my count, Copper Basin's 22-0 loss to Silverdale Baptist was their first setback by shutout since 2009 when the Cougars lost 35-0 to Boyd-Buchanan.

Boyd-Buchanan, by the way, is coming off its most impressive performance of the year -- a 54-6 District 5-A win over Grace Academy. It was the Bucs' most complete performance of the season and was anchored by the rebuilt offensive line's best showing to date.

• Did you see or hear about Heritage's comeback win? Tim James' guys have really gotten to 4-0 the hard way including Friday's rally for a 49-24 win over Pickets County. The Generals were down 21-0 with slightly more than 10 minutes gone from the first quarter. I guess panic is one of those "not here" words at Heritage.

• Saw Hixson for the first time Friday night and was definitely impressed with the offensive line, and that's not to take anything away from running back Clarencio Holmes. Of the 205 yards he picked up against Red Bank, I'd wager that at least 150 came after contact. The kid knows how to break a tackle. Just ask Red Bank.

• And speaking of Red Bank, you have to give the Lions credit for hanging in and coming up big when needed. But it is a point for discussion that if a couple of their guys would stick the attitude in a back pocket at the opening kickoff and leave it there until they left the field. Red Bank would be a much better ball club if certain people watched a little less NFL on Sundays, but I guess that could be said for any number of teams.

• Before I leave the Red Bank-Hixson game, though, I can't resist mentioning that the officiating team placed the ball on the 30-yard line after a kickoff went out of bounds. One of the officials told me there was a 25-yard penalty for an out of bounds kick. I checked with a couple of coaches just to make sure I wasn't losing my marbles and both agreed the choices were to take the ball where it went out of bounds, take it at the 35 or to make the kicking team back up and kick it again.

• In the something's gotta give category, winless North Murray (0-4) travels to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (0-4). Todd Windham might not like it -- he's dealt with his share of snake-bite this season -- but here's the first pick for the Warriors to end a 14-game losing streak.

• You might have missed it but one of North Alabama's big rivalry games was last week and North Sand Mountain came away with a 31-21 victory while handing Ider its first loss of the season.

North Jackson is still rolling, moving to 4-0 with a 23-21 victory on a 19-yard field goal by Desar Diaz. The Chiefs are on the road this week to play 3-1 R.A. Hubbard but if I read it right, Hubbard is a Class 1A school. Fort Payne takes on an undefeated team when it travels to 4-0 Cullman, which has scored 40 or more points in three of its four wins. The close one was a 17-14 victory over Walker, which is 2-2.

about Ward Gossett...

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 ...

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