(All kickoffs 7:30 Eastern unless noted)
Cleveland (5-3, 3-1) at Bradley Central (5-3, 3-1)
Storyline: In addition to county bragging rights, there are huge district implications in this game. The winner is all but assured of no worse than second place in 5-AAA -- earning an automatic berth in the playoffs. The visiting Blue Raiders have won five of six since an 0-2 start, and although the Bears have been riddled by injuries, they've been finding ways to win, led by quarterback Bryce Copeland. The last time a home team prevailed in this rivalry was 2007, when Cleveland won 40-21.
East Hamilton (7-1, 5-0) at Red Bank (4-4, 4-1)
Storyline: The visiting Hurricanes are hitting their playoff stride and can officially defend their District 6-AA championship with a win. But the Lions, who struggled early, have rebounded to win three straight -- all against district foes -- and still woulc win the district or finish second. East Hamilton has won its five district games by at least 29 points each, and while Logan Jackson ranks among the area's rushing leaders with more than 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns, the Hurricanes defense has been just as impressive. Only two opponents have scored more than one touchdown on East Hamilton's starting defense, including just one district opponent.
South Pittsburg (6-2) at Polk County (6-2), 8
Storyline: It's another power football team for the visiting speedy Pirates, who got muscled and knocked from their state Class 1A top ranking by 2A No. 1 Boyd-Buchanan last week. Polk, which has been handicapped at quarterback the last two weeks, got 411 of its 444 rushing yards last week from fullback Zach Miller, when he and the offensive line dominated Sequoyah in a key 5-AA matchup. Their quarterback, Duncan Coffey (collarbone), remains sidelined, and backup Josh Silas has been dealing with turf toe. The Pirates offer Polk trouble in running backs/receivers Jajuan Lankford and Demetric Johnson. The two are averaging 14.2 and 16.4 yards per carry, and fullback Corbin Hale is getting 8.1. Over the last three years the home team has won, including South Pittsburg's 34-14 decision in 2011. Both already have won district championships and secured playoff berths.
Rirdgeland (5-1, 2-0) at Northwest Whitfield (4-2, 1-1)
Storyline: On paper this might not appear to be a challenge for the visiting Panthers, but the Bruins have two major things in their favor. One, they run the spread, against which Ridgeland struggled in its opening-game loss to Calhoun. Two, the Bruins have size along the defensive front and are better equipped than most to deal with the Ridgeland line. The big key for Northwest is tackling, something it lacked in last week's loss at Dalton. A Ridgeland win all but locks up the top seed from the "B" subregion, while a Northwest win would throw the race into a dogfight.
Brainerd (1-7, 0-5) at Hixson (5-3, 4-1)
Storyline: After a four-game win streak early, Hixson's Wildcats have gone 2-2, leaving them needing one win this week or next week against Central. The Panthers had Central at halftime but went scoreless in the second half and couldn't hold on. They're winless in the last three weeks. The Panthers have enough playmakers -- quarterback Sam Caffey and running backs Tre Davenport, Jacoby Ramsey and Christopher Davis -- to make it tough on any defense that doesn't remain disciplined. Hixson has relied on receiver Allante Novene and running back Kedrick Bradley, but first-year quarterback Gil Brown has progressed and gets more comfortable as each week passes. Brainerd has a six-game win streak against the Wildcats, last losing to them in 2005.
Tyner (5-3, 3-2) at Howard (2-6, 2-3)
Storyline: The postseason remains in the sights of the visiting Rams while Howard can only play the role of spoiler. These are the only Class 3A teams in District 6-AA, the rest playing Class 4A, but this game also is a huge game for each of the fan bases. While talk may be cheap, it's often plentiful on the message boards and out in the neighborhoods. Depth could be an issue. Wayne Turner throws running backs at opponents in waves. Including rushing leaders Joseph Sturkey and Lamont Solomon, the Tyner coach has eight backs with double-digit carries. The Rams have six passing TDs and three times that many rushing scores. Howard tends to rely more on the pass via quarterback Terrance Brooks, who has thrown for more than 1,000 yards. The junior also is the Hustlin' Tigers' leading rusher. Howard tackle Brandon Walters, who has been among the area leaders in tackles, sacks and lost-yardage hits, has been invited to make an unofficial visit to Tennessee for the Alabama game.
Maplewood (5-4) at Boyd-Buchanan (8-0)
Storyline: Boyd-Buchanan's Buccaneers are riding high after reinforcing their hold on the No. 1 ranking in the state Class 2A poll by knocking South Pittsburg off the No. 1 1A perch last week. Coach Grant Reynolds is wary of Copper Basin looming next in what will be a matchup for the District 5-A title, making this a "sandwich" game. Reynolds said his 17 seniors have been good about keeping the team focused from week to week and believes fighting to stay undefeated should serve as motivation. Class 4A Maplewood appears to have dropped off some after rising from state quarterfinalist in 2009 to semifinalist in 2010 to runner-up last year. The Bucs' secondary will be tested by quarterback Ladarrius Wimberly (1,034 passing yards) and 6-foot-5 receiver Ladarius Malone (32 catches, 507 yards, 7 TDs). The Panthers' top rusher is Cortez Adams with 637 yards, and Ronald Wilbert is the leading tackler.
McCallie (4-3, 3-2) at Montgomery Bell Academy (5-3, 3-2), 8
Storyline: MBA had won four straight before last week's loss at unbeaten Ensworth, which also beat McCallie's Blue Tornado. Since its 0-2 start, McCallie has won four of five and scored 40-plus in three of the four wins. Its offensive pace-setters have been junior Chad Toliver, who has lost just 4 yards all season while gaining 826 and scoring 14 TDs, and Alex Trotter, whose lone touchdown was a 96-yarder. Andrew Busby and Eric Wolf lead Tornado tacklers, and Samir Usman leads the team in sacks. Between backs JeTari Donald and Gary Jackson and kicker Landon Bullock, MBA's Big Red offense scores 80 percent of the time it gets inside the opponent's 20-yard line. McCallie is 2-1 in road games this season. By winning out, McCallie could finish as high as second, but with two games remaining on a nine-game schedule, the Blue Tornado could wind up fifth.
Baylor (5-3, 2-3) at Pope John Paul II (3-5, 1-4), 8
Storyline: With Reggie Upshaw (broken ankle) gone for the year, Baylor turned to his freshman brother Gage, and he filled in nicely with two catches for 37yards as a slot receiver. Quarterback Nick Tiano (concussion) is back after missing a game, but Red Raiders coach Phil Massey said linebacker Blake Layne (hip) and cornerback Josh Smith (ankle) will remain on the sideline and kicker Rafal Gaglianone (hip flexor strain) likely will miss this game. He'll be replaced by sophomore Colin Brewer. PJP, which lost to McCallie last week, got its Division II-AA East/Middle Region win two weeks ago, 10-6 at Father Ryan. Baylor is 2-3 in its last six five games. The Red Raiders have finished their home schedule and will try to pin down a postseason home game in next week's game at Battle Ground Academy. Baylor, 3-1 in road games to date, needs to win this week and next to finish fourth. If the Red Raiders do that, they'll likely host BGA on the following week.
Chattanooga Christian (1-7) at Marion County (7-2), 8
Storyline: Marion County can cap off one of the most impressive turnarounds in area history by simply taking care of business as it has each of the last four weeks. A win tonight would give the Warriors seven more than last season. They already have qualified for the Class 2A playoffs, but an eighth win would likely earn them the right to host a first-round game. Sophomore Blake Zeman is the area's leading rusher with more than 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns for Marion and is coming off a 250-yard performance in a shootout win over Copper Basin in which the teams combined for 90 points.
Copper Basin (6-2) at Lookout Valley (5-4)
Storyline: This is the second of what will be three straight road games to end the season for the Cougars, who lost at Marion County last week and have a winner-take-all District 5-A championship game at Boyd-Buchanan next week. Copper Basin has doubled its win total of last year, and a victory tonight would assure a return to the state playoffs after missing out last year. And while this isn't a district game, it could determine whether Lookout Valley makes the postseason or not. Both teams have shown an ability to score fast -- Lookout Valley has scored at least three touchdowns six times, and Copper Basin has scored at least four TDs in all but one game -- but the Jackets are coming off being shut out last week.
McMinn County (7-1, 4-0) at Soddy-Daisy (2-6, 1-4)
Storyline: The Cherokees enter the game needing a win to clinch at least a tie for the District 5-AAA championship, and they can claim the title outright if Cleveland defeats Bradley Central tonight. They've been spearheaded by their dual backfield combo of Kelvin Wells and Dre Sanders, who have combined for 1,988 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Trojans have some skill players led by efficient quarterback Brett Standifer but haven't been able to put it together and have dropped four straight after a 2-2 start.
Walker Valley (4-4, 1-3) at Rhea County (1-7, 0-4)
Storyline: The visiting Mustangs have a chance to put themselves in a position for a playoff spot with a win. They already have one more win this year than the three previous seasons combined and could ensure nothing less than a .500 record by doing something they never have done -- win in Evensville. The Golden Eagles have been battered and bruised for much of the season but could really boost spirits in the community by spoiling Walker Valley's playoff chances with a victory on senior night.
North Murray (4-2, 1-2) at Ringgold (3-3, 1-2)
Storyline: With three games to go after tonight, the loser of this game basically is out of the playoff conversation in 5-AAA. The other storyline is the return of former Ringgold offensive coordinator David Gann, who will face off against mentor Robert Akins for the first time as a head coach. Gann has led the Mountaineers, who were 0-10 a year ago, to one of the best turnarounds in the state behind the trio of quarterback Brady Swilling, fullback Christian Buckle and tailback Jacob Mays. Ringgold, as usual, will need a quick start from its defense and avoid the early offensive turnovers that plagued the team in its three losses.
Gordon Central (6-0, 3-0) at Cartersville (6-0, 3-0)
Storyline: The Region 5-AAA title might be on the line tonight between a team, Cartersville, most believed would be here at this point and one that has been one of the major surprises in the state. Each offense is averaging 39 points per game, but it will be on the defensive side where this one will be won or lost. Gordon Central's Warriors come in giving up just six points per game, led by linemen LaRons Winston and D.J. Prather. The key will be in making the Purple Hurricanes and quarterback Brooks Barden one-dimensional.
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