Baylor (3-2, 1-2) vs. McCallie (2-2, 1-1) at Finley Stadium
Storyline: Baylor has a three-game winning streak in the series that dates back to 1908. The Red Raiders are ranked eighth in the latest Division II-AA poll but also are in a two-game funk, having lost to Montgomery Bell Academy and Ensworth. Conversely, McCallie has won consecutive games over Tyner and Father Ryan. The two streaks have given reason for debate among their respective followings. While Baylor is running the ball close to 66 percent of the time, nearly 75 percent of McCallie's offensive yardage and eight of its TDs have come via the run, thanks mostly to Chad Toliver. He has six rushing scores. Baylor continues to play two quarterbacks, and Michael O'Connor will be tonight's starter ahead of Nick Tiano.
Signal Mountain (2-3) at South Pittsburg (4-0)
Storyline: Both defenses have struggled this season, with South Pittsburg allowing 20 points per game and the Eagles giving up an average of 31. Given that, both offenses are loaded with talented and big-play potential, so this could be another back-and-forth highlight-reel game. The Pirates average 500 yards of total offense and 56.3 points, while the Eagles average 340 yards and 26 points. Eagles quarterback Reese Phillips, a Kentucky commitment, has thrown for more than 700 yards, almost exclusively to Madison Byrd and Chris Abernathy. A collection of runners is averaging 196 rushing yards. But Signal Mountain has been its own worst enemy on offense at times, losing six fumbles and throwing two interceptions. The Eagles are averaging seven penalties per game. South Pittsburg's biggest concern could be depth. Unlike in previous seasons, most of the Pirates starters play both ways. The Pirates have thrown just 16 passes all season but have three backs — Demetric Johnson, Jajuan Lankford and Corbin Hale — who each is averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game.
Donelson Christian (2-2) at Boyd-Buchanan (5-0)
Storyline: Boyd-Buchanan has a two-game winning streak in an on-and-off series that has been mostly dictated by playoffs. DCA's last win came in 2004 when the Wildcats edged Boyd-Buchanan 34-31 in overtime for the state title. Quarterback Jim Cardwell has led the Buccaneers' option offense, rushing for 419 yards and passing for 493. He and Rance Harden (121.2 yards per game) have formed a strong rushing tandem. Harden also leads the Bucs in tackles. DCA is led by Nathaniel Stewart (46 rushes, 239 yards) and Shannon Fayne (24-145), while quarterback Will Reddick has completed 33 of 61 passes for 344 yards. This is the biggest team Boyd-Buchanan will have played this year with two linemen around 270 pounds.
Notre Dame (3-1) at Lookout Valley (4-1)
Storyline: Both coaching staffs are looking at this game as a measurer, although the visiting Fighting Irish have an edge in numbers and perhaps in the number of athletes they'll put on the field. Behind running back Jamal Jones and quarterback Vann Scribner, Lookout Valley has been balanced offensively, as evidenced by it win over Whitwell that included 267 rushing yards and 251 passing. The Yellow Jackets will face an offense led by freshman quarterback Alex Darras, who has five TD passes with one interception. Depth allows Darras to hand off to no fewer than a half-dozen candidates. Both teams now have uncontested wins on their schedules because each will receive a forfeit due to the closure of Taft Youth Center.
Central (0-4) at Soddy-Daisy (2-2)
Storyline: Soddy-Daisy's Trojans eked out a win on the road at Rhea County last week. It was a win that coach Kevin Orr said was harder to come by than it should've been, but he then quickly lauded his group's "don't quit" attitude. He will probably see the most athletic bunch he has seen this year in the Purple Pounders, who have doomed themselves by averaging three turnovers per game to date. "You'd think they're going to 'out-athlete' a team before long. I just hope it isn't us," Orr said, adding that assignment football for his defense will be a must. Pounders coach John Allen countered by saying, "I'm hoping we've put the young and dumb behind us." One player noticeable on video is Central noseguard James Metcalf. The Pounders' tenuous depth situation should be better with three starters returning after missing last week's loss to Howard. Soddy-Daisy won this one in overtime last year.
Polk County (4-1) at Walker Valley (3-1)
Storyline: The Wildcats and host Mustangs enter this game in completely different frames of mind. Polk County must guard against letting down after beating Sweetwater 26-19 last week in a key District 5-AA game. Walker Valley is trying to bounce back from a 56-28 District 5-AAA loss to rival Cleveland that spoiled its undefeated start. Led by fullback Zach Miller's more than 700 yards, the Wildcats are pretty stubborn when it comes to rushing the ball. The Mustangs have some sizable players along the line of scrimmage who will try to slow that attack, and the big guys also have helped spring their leading rusher, Justin Ware, to 404 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Polk coach Derrick Davis said in addition to the way his team executes as being a pivotal concern this week, the Wildcats could use a few monstrous efforts like the one they got from defensive end Matthew Triplett last week. He had 11 solo tackles, 12 assists and two quarterback hurries and blocked an extra point.
East Ridge (0-4) at Ooltewah (2-3)
Storyline: Although East Ridge has had some struggles, Pioneers coach Tracy Malone claims his players have remained upbeat. Some bumps and bruises should be feeling better coming off a bye week. The Owls, losers of three straight, don't have a bye week until after their ninth game. Because of injuries, perhaps the most damaging losing leading rusher T.J. Davis to a twisted ankle, they likely need a bye month to help get their starting lineup back intact. Since the injury to Davis, Johnathan Hill has become a bigger part of the runninb-back rotation that also includes fellow senior Phillip McClain and junior Desmond Pittman. If the Pioneers can stifle the running game, Ooltewah would have to turn to junior quarterback Brody Binder, who has been a 36-percent passer (43-of-119).
Cartersville (3-0) at North Murray (3-0)
Storyline: This game would have not registered on the state of Georgia's radar a year ago, but the Mountaineers' surprising start has changed everything. North Murray will keep doing what's worked so far, and that means establishing the run with quarterback Brady Swilling, tailback back Jacob Mays and fullback Christian Buckle. Doing so against the eighth-ranked Purple Hurricanes, however, won't be so easy in this Region 5-AAA opener for both teams. Cartersville, with leading rusher Tiamon Pennymon out with a broken leg, will rely on the playmaking ability of quarterback Brooks Barden.
Cedartown (3-0) at Ridgeland (1-1)
Storyline: This Region 7-AAAA crossover game has a couple of storylines and could be an early preview of the week 10 region championship game. Both teams feature explosive run games, so the key question is which defense can make the other offense uncomfortable? The other storyline to pay attention to is the individual matchup between two of the state's most explosive playmakers. Cedartown's Nick Chubb leads the state in rushing with 938 yards and has scored 13 touchdowns, while Ridgeland hard-hitting safety Vonn Bell, one of the country's top recruits, will make stopping Chubb his No. 1 priority.
Ringgold (2-1) at Gordon Central (3-0)
Storyline: Are the Warriors for real? It's hard to tell since Gordon Central's opponents are winless three weeks into the season. Ringgold, on the other hand, has played a challenging early schedule. Quarterback play will be the key in this one, and each team has a dynamic one. Ringgold junior Slade Dale leads the Tigers in rushing and is at his best when a play breaks down. The Warriors' M.J. Reynolds is a true dual threat and has more proven weapons than Dale in star receiver Tyshaun Clemmons and tight end Dre Prather. Can someone else step up and take some of the heat off Ringgold's quarterback?
BLACKMAN (3-2) at BRADLEY CENTRAL (2-2)
Storyline: Bradley's Bears spent last week regrouping after a sound defeat at the hands of Class 4A fourth-ranked East Hamilton, and things don't get easier as the Blaze come to town. The Bears have been balanced when they've won but have become one-dimension in their losses, relying on quarterback Bryce Copeland's arm. The game will hinge on Bradley's ability to establish the run game early, as well as get pressure on the quarterback to prevent the ball from getting in the hands of playmaking receiver Quindell Cousin.
RED BANK (1-3) at CLEVELAND (3-2)
Storyline: Whereas this game means nothing as far as district championships are concerned, it will have a slightly personal feel as Lions coach E.K. Slaughter returns to the opposite sideline where he roamed for the past three seasons as the Blue Raiders' coach. His Lions come into the game reeling, having found ways to lose their last two games, including blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead last week against Hixson. The hosts are on a three-game win streak led by quarterback Austin Herink and the receiving corps but will be without leading receiver D.J. Jones. He is serving a suspension for being ejected last week.
Get breaking news from the Times Free Press on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timesfreepress
related articles »
Copper Basin (7-2, 1-1) at Boyd-Buchanan (8-1, 2-0)
(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 ...
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN (3-3, 2-0) at NOTRE DAME (5-1, 2-0)
Bledsoe County (1-1, 0-0) at Signal Mountain (0-2, 0-0)