Tyner (5-2, 3-1) at East Hamilton (6-1, 4-0)
Storyline: Tyner is one of three teams one game behind the host Hurricanes in the District 6-AA standings. Any hope of earning another league title depends on winning tonight. Rams coach Wayne Turner expects turnovers to be pivotal in deciding tonight's outcome and said his team can't put the ball on the ground as often as it has the last two weeks. The defenses have registered two shutouts each, but perhaps no offense in the Chattanooga area is as potent as East Hamilton's. Tyner's average of 28 points per game equals the least the 'Canes, directed by quarterback Hunter Moore, have scored in a game. Coach Ted Gatewood admires the Rams' physical, aggressive approach so much he said his goal when he started East Hamilton's program was to be like Tyner.
Boyd-Buchanan (7-0) at South Pittsburg (6-1)
Storyline: Kickoff has been moved ahead by half an hour to 7:30 EDT to accommodate local television. Although it is no longer a district game, this has become the area's top small-school rivalry because both teams are annual state-title contenders -- Boyd-Buchanan in Class 2A, South Pittsburg in 1A. Both teams have been hit hard by injuries of late, with the Buccaneers losing leading rusher John Hale for the season with an ankle injury, while South Pittsburg's most versatile lineman, Stephon Mitchell, and big-play linebacker Payne Mosley both are out for the duration with ACL injuries. Both teams still have plenty of weapons. Boyd-Buchanan is led by dual-threat quarterback Jim Cardwell, who is on pace to rush and throw for more than 1,000 yards. Fullback Rance Harden has taken on more carries in Hale's absence. The Pirates have two of the area's leading rushers in Demetric Johnson and Jajuan Lankford, both on pace to surpass 1,000 yards and each averaging more than 10 per carry.
Ooltewah (5-3, 2-2) at Rhea County (1-6, 0-3)
Storyline: Ooltewah's Owls still are in the playoff picture, but while they have the second-best overall record in District 5-AAA, they're in fourth place and the pressure is on to win out. On the other hand, the host Golden Eagles should be carefree. After a year of crushing injuries, they're finally getting healthy, including linebacker Jacob York, tight end and defensive end Taylor Jenkins and two-way lineman Daniel Cochran. Still, there were more than a dozen players getting treatment before practice earlier this week. Freshman defensive tackle Mick Mullins has four sacks since stepping in as a starter a couple of weeks ago. The problem for Mullins and his defensive mates is Ooltewah's speed that complements powerful back Desmond Pittman.
Bradley Central (4-3, 2-1) at Walker Valley (4-3, 1-2)
Storyline: Although Bradley's Bears have dominated the county series, winning all seven games to date, tonight's matchup appears to be a prime opportunity for the Mustangs to pull off a victory. Bradley has a lot of injuries, and the Mustangs are riding high after ending a 19-game district losing streak. They've been led by their spread rushing attack and confidence infused by coach Glen Ryan. The Bears have been relying on quarterback Bryce Copeland, who has accounted for 87 percent of their offensive production the past four games.
Notre Dame (5-2, 2-1) at Sequatchie County (2-6, 0-3)
Storyline: There's good news at Notre Dame. An open date did wonders for the Irish health and morale. Running back Ricky Ballard, who sat out the loss to Signal Mountain with a shoulder sprain, is expected back along with linebacker and fellow freshman Kealey Greene. Their returns should greatly enhance Notre Dame's chances against the Indians, who will be celebrating senior night. It's a dangerous setting for Notre Dame, which has serious playoff aspirations for the second year in a row. Sequatchie might have a much better record if not for its inability to hold onto the football, even in the open field. The Indians hit their average last week, losing three of five fumbles. It's possible they will welcome back Dylan Harvey, the season-opening quarterback who was injured several weeks ago.
Cleveland (4-3, 2-1) at Soddy-Daisy (2-5, 1-3)
Storyline: Although coach Ron Crawford wouldn't want anybody thinking he said it, the Cleveland community likely is viewing this game against the Trojans as a tune-up for the Blue Raiders' all-important game next week at Bradley Central. However, coming off a loss to McMinn County, the Raiders are looking for redemption and an enhanced hand in the postseason jockeying. Cleveland has been more balanced offensively than most had thought, particularly with the passing ability of Austin Herink (131-219-1). However, C.J. Bryant averages 6.5 yards per carry. Soddy-Daisy has struggled to recover from a loss to Central three weeks ago, allowing 90 points the last two weeks. While defensive end Blaike Henry (hip) is 50-50, Trojans coach Kevin Orr is upbeat about the health of running back C.J. Blue, who has been extremely limited due to an ankle sprain.
Lookout Valley (5-3) at Silverdale Baptist (7-1)
Storyline: A win would double the host Seahawks' win total of last season and give them the most wins in a single season in program history. The SBA junior class, which took its lumps when several sophomores started last year, has become the backbone of the team. Senior quarterback Spencer Mossburg also has more than two years of starting experience and showed how important he is to the offense with 149 passing yards and two rushing touchdowns last week. Lookout Valley has speed and more weapons than any opponent the Seahawks have faced, led by seniors Vann Scribner at quarteback and running backs Jamal Jones and Toney Summerow. Defense has been a struggle for the Jackets this year, however. Lookout Valley has just one regular-season game remaining on its schedule, next week against state-ranked Copper Basin, and coach Tony Webb knows his team can ill afford a loss as it fights for its playoff life.
Copper Basin (6-1) at Marion County (6-2)
Storyline: This is not a district game, and both teams are pretty much locked into the playoffs already, but the winner will be on its way to a much better seed in the postseason and possibly a first-round home game. Both teams have made dramatic turnarounds after combining to win just four games last season. Marion's Warriors will finish second in District 6-A, while Copper Basin will settle the District 5-A title when it travels to Boyd-Buchanan for the final regular-season game in two weeks. After starting the season with several key injuries, Marion County has gotten healthier and has had three straight games with at least five touchdowns. Warriors sophomore running back Blake Zeman leads the area with more than 1,100 yards so far, averaging nearly 9 yards per carry.
Signal Mountain (5-3, 3-0) at Chattanooga Christian (1-6, 1-2), 7
Storyline: The 7-AA-leading Eagles are two games from the district championship and coach Bill Price is eager to get in, score enough points and get out with everybody healthy. He is hopeful of keeping fullback James McClellan (hip pointer) on the sideline so he'll be ready for the season finale in two weeks against Sequatchie County and the postseason. Chattanooga Christian gave the Eagles a scare last year before falling 76-35, and leading that surge was Chargers quarterback Levi Corbett, who threw for more than 300 yards in the first half. However, CCS has given up an average of 60 points in its three games with Signal, and the Chargers have scored more than 14 points just once this season.
Red Bank (3-4, 3-1) at Howard (2-5, 2-2)
Storyline: The visiting Lions are tied for second in District 6-AA and are squarely in the playoff scenarios, but their two toughest games are ahead of them — East Hamilton next week and Tyner the final week of the season — so coach E.K. Slaughter has worked doubly hard to make sure his team remains focused on Howard. He also has worked hard to break the Lions of having four or five good plays and then making a game-changing mistake. Howard appeared to be in line for a postseason appearance, but that fell apart last week in a loss to previously winless East Ridge. Still, as Slaughter pointed out, Tigers quarterback Terrance Brooks, who's passed for more than 1,000 yards and rushed for 359, is dangerous. The Red Bank coach is well aware that a fast opponent and a turnover here or there could spell misfortune for the Lions, whose Darrius Akridge has emerged in the last three weeks as a force in the backfield. The Lions will be without veteran center Tyler Phillips, who's having to sit out a game.
Baylor (4-3) at Columbia Central (6-1), 8:30
Storyline: The Red Raiders have had a week to recover from a devastating game on Sept. 28 against Brentwood Academy. Baylor players lost in that game included receivers Reggie Upshaw and Jeff Bowens and linebacker Blake Lane. Too, it appeared likely that quarterback Nick Tiano, who's been sharing time with Michael O'Connor, might have to sit out two weeks because of a concussion. The Lions, who'll be in the postseason in Class 5A, have averaged 39 points their last three games, but they haven't played a team with a winning record since the season's third week. Their lone loss is to unbeaten Class 4A power Dickson County. Lions quarterback Matthew Markham has completed 62 percent of his passes with nine TD tosses against just three interceptions. The team also has five backs with at least 100 yards led by Chris Martin (478).
McCallie (2-2, 3-3) at Pope John Paul II (3-4, 1-3)
Storyline: The Knights are 1-3 at home while McCallie is 1-1 on the road this year. Both teams lost to Ensworth and the Blue Tornado clubbed Battle Ground Academy, which won 21-3 over PJP II. McCallie is 3-1 since opening the season with consecutive losses to Ensworth and McMinn County. The Knights' leading rusher is Vincent Perry (79 ypg) and he'll get most of the carries. Quarterback Jacob Pullman is completing less than half of his passes and has more interceptions (four) than TD passes (three). McCallie, which had an open date last week, has four backs, led by Chad Toliver, with at least 200 rushing yards. While his completion rate is less than 50 percent, Tornado quarterback Nelson Johnston has four TD tosses against three interceptions.
Northwest Whitfield (4-1) at Dalton (2-3)
Storyline: The county-versus-city rivals have not met in the regular season in three years, but much more than area pride is on the line tonight. Northwest's Bruins (1-0 in league play) can improve their playoff stock in Region 7-AAAA and at the same time deal the Catamounts (0-1) a death blow. Dalton's defense has given up 83 points in the last two games and looked a step slow last week against Ridgeland, so the Catamounts will be looking for a quick defensive start tonight. Northwest, while no offensive juggernaut, will pound the Dalton defensive middle with 230-pound running back O'Shea Hill and look to hit big pass plays with quarterback Silas Ledford. The big story with the Bruins, however, is a rash of injuries on the defensive unit, including three linebackers that may not play tonight.
Heritage (0-5) at LaFayette (0-5)
Storyline: Despite the double-bagel in the win column, the winner of this game still has a playoff pulse. Neither Heritage coach Tim James nor LaFayette's Tab Gable expected such lack of success at this point, but each team's offense showed at least a spark last week. Three teams from each subregion in 7-AAAA will be playing for the postseason in week 10, something each of these teamsweb will use as motivation.
Get breaking news from the Times Free Press on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timesfreepress