published Friday, November 15th, 2013

Tonight's greater Chattanooga area high school football matchups

All Tennessee kickoffs at 7 p.m. local time

KNOXVILLE CATHOLIC IRISH FIGHTING IRISH (8-3) at SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (8-3)

Key players: Signal FB James McClellan is the offensive focal point, but the Eagles had two more with 100-plus yards last week (Diamez Franklin, Kaleb Menzel); Catholic QB Zac Jancek was back last week after missing two games with ashoulder injury and threw for a career-high 255 yards.

Key matchup: Jancek and his receivers against Signal's sometimes maligned secondary. Signal has a decided size advantage up front on each side of the ball.

Up next: The Hixson-Sequoyah winner.

SEQUOYAH CHIEFS (9-2) at HIXSON WILDCATS (7-3)

Key players: Chiefs QB Brett King is completing 65 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,300 yards and 23 TDs, but Sequoyah also has a quality RB in Drew Carson (1,276 yards) and WR Garrett Dalton is just 67 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season. Hixson has depended heavily on a defense that pitched a shutout last week and RBs Isaiah Robinson and Kedrick Malone. Robinson is approaching 1,600 yards, and Bradley is close to 1,000.

Key matchup: King has used multiple receivers and Hixson defenders will need to ball-hawk while getting pressure on King, Sequoyah's second-leading rusher with close to 500 yards.

Up next: The Signal Mountain-Catholic winner.

No. 5 CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (8-3) at No. 6 RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (10-1)

Key players: Cleveland QB Austin Herink went over the 3,000-yard mark last week, while his two primary targets, Tyler Davis and D.J. Jones, have combined for 98 catches, 1,853 yards and 25 touchdowns this year. T.J. Parker has come into his own in the run game. Rhea has been led by the trio of Jobe Berry, Jacob York and Dimitrius Patterson, who have combined for 2,001 yards rushing. QB Austin Dotson keeps teams honest, with 17 touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards passing.

Key matchup: Cleveland's defense against the Rhea wing-T attack. The Eagles prefer to run the ball, but Dotson's ability in the passing game adds a challenge. If the Blue Raiders can't get off the field on third down, Rhea will be able to eat more clock and make its offense even more effective because of the added threat throwing the ball.

Up next: The Eagles would host the winner of the Ooltewah-East Hamilton game, while the Raiders would visit the winner.

No. 8 EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (9-2) at No. 7 OOLTEWAH OWLS (9-2)

Key players: East Hamilton QB Hunter Moore has gone from a game manager to a playmaker this season for the Hurricanes. His main target has been Tony Francois, who is nearing 1,200 yards receiving with 16 TDs. H-back/LB Austin Gatewood contributes offensively but has been a force defensively with 17 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, as has Tre Herndon, who locks down one side of the field from his cornerback position. The Owls have been balanced offensively, and even with the loss of RB Desmond Pittman haven't missed a beat. QB Brody Binder has playmakers in WRs Mike Williams, Edward Hayes and Anthony Turner, and freshman Omari Kendrick rushed for more than 100 yards last week.

Key matchup: The Ooltewah run game against the East Hamilton defense. Kendrick provides a much different challenge than Pittman -- who rushed for more than 200 yards in the Owls' 28-26 win on. Sept. 20 -- but containing him becomes the new primary concern.

Up next: The winner will host Cleveland or visit Rhea County.

No. 10 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (8-3) AT No. 7 POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (9-2)

Key players: The Wildcats beat the Irish 12-10 on Oct. 11, but Notre Dame junior RB Auston Banks (1,194 rushing yards) was out for that game. Junior WR Kareem Orr has 1,059 receiving yards and LBs Tyler Enos and Kealey Green have teamed for more than 250 tackles. Polk County senior Zach Miller, in addition to being a force defensively, has rushed 324 times for 1,903 yards and 24 TDs. WB Chris Wimberley is another key option offensively.

Key matchup: Polk County is a proven rushing team. The Irish pride themselves in defending the run. Therefore, how well Wildcats QB Josh Silas takes advantage of his throwing opportunities could be the deciding factor.

Up next: The winner will either host Tyner or play at No. 3 Upperman.

No. 6 SILVERDALE BAPTIST ACADEMY SEAHAWKS (10-1) at HAMPTON BULLDOGS (7-3)

Key players: Silverdale is a run-first team with four RBs having rushed for at least 375 yards, but QB Nathan Keylon has thrown for 889 and fellow junior Tanner Webb has played some and added another 383. Senior Lincoln Phillips has made 17 sacks. Hampton is led by sophomore QB Coby Jones, whose passing is near the 1,300-yard mark. Freshman RB Adam McClain ran for 224 yards against South Greene. Junior Dylan Ford is a playmaker from RB, DB and KR. Senior Tristan Robinson is a key defender.

Key matchup: The Seahawks have registered four shutouts this season. The Bulldogs are averaging 42.2 points during their five-game winning streak. It seems something has to give there.

Up next: The winner will either host No. 10 Oneida or play at No. 1 Knoxville Grace.

MOORE COUNTY RAIDERS (6-5) AT No. 1 SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (9-1)

Key players: Jajuan Lankford is South Pittsburg's career rushing leader with more than 5,100 yards and is averaging 13 yards per carry this season. FB/LB Kahlil Mitchell is also a 1,000-yard rusher and leads the team in tackles. Moore County QB Dillon Davis is a dual-threat leading the team's spread offense.

Key matchup: Moore County LB Jack Evans against South Pittsburg FB Kahlil Mitchell. How well Mitchell can block Evans will determine how clear the running lanes are for Lankford and whether the Pirates take control early.

Up next: The winner will play the winner of Fayetteville (5-6) at Monterey (7-4). South Pittsburg would host either.

TYNER RAMS (5-6) AT No. 3 UPPERMAN BEES (11-0)

Key players: Upperman QB Connor York is one of the top dual-threat players in the state, having rushed for 1,693 yards (avearging 11 per carry) and thrown for 1,577. His backfield mate, Austin Butler, has run for 1,025 yards. The Rams have four players with more than 320 rushing yards, led by QB Willie Stewart and including Jarrett Watson, who also leads the team in tackles.

Key matchup: How well Watson and the Ramz linebackers can contain the Bees' running tandem of York and Butler.

Up next: The winner will play the winner between Notre Dame and Polk County.

No. 8 MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (9-2) AT BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (4-6)

Key players: Marion RB-LB Blake Zeman ranks among the area's leading rushers, tacklers and lost-yardage tacklers, and sophomore QB Logan Walters adds a dual-threat aspect to the offense. Boyd-Buchanan QB/FS Jim Cardwell is equally important on both sides of the ball, and as he goes, so go the Bucs.

Key matchup: Cardwell against Zeman is the easy choice here simply because whichever of these players has the better night on both sides of the ball most likely will lead his team to a win.

Up next: The winner will play the winner between No. 2 Trousdale County (11-0) and Goodpasture (6-5).

Division II-AA

BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (7-4) at MONTGOMERY BELL ACADEMY BIG RED (9-1)

Key players: Baylor RB George Porter (hamstring) should be 100 percent after sitting out last week, and sophomore Ryan Parker has led the Red Raiders defense all season. MBA QB Cole Euvarard, the coach's son, has 12 TD passes while completing 57 percent of his attempts, while RB Ty Chandler is the Big Red's leading rusher and scorer.

Key matchup: Baylor is nowhere near as big in the lines, so schemes and speed will be huge factors on both sides of the ball. The Red Raiders, who suffered their first loss of the year at MBA (28-14) in Week 3, may be looking to hang close early and win it late.

Up next: The winner will face the MUS-McCallie winner.

McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (4-7) at MEMPHIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OWLS (8-2)

Key players: LBs Carrington Wilson, Andrew Busby have keyed the McCallie defense, which was completely healthy last week for first time in almost a month. MUS QBs James Sexton and Blake Bennett have about the same numbers, and RB Colton Neel is 110 yards shy of 1,000.

Key matchup: McCallie QB JaVaughn Craig (knee) is questionable, so it could the MUS defense against the player who takes Craig's place if he's unable to go.

Up next: The winner will play the Baylor-MBA winner.

Georgia (all kickoffs at 7:30)

ALEXANDER COUGARS (6-4) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (8-2)

Key players: Dalton's run-first offense, which has racked up 2,659 yards, is led by a strong line anchored by tackle Jake Roberts and featuring TB Kelvis Rhodes, who has 878 yards in eight games, and emerging QB Payton Veraldi, who has 1,271 total yards. Alexander is paced by junior RB Mikell Lands-Davis, who has 1,759 yards and 21 touchdowns, including 209 yards against top-ranked Sandy Creek. Defensively, LB Taylor Schartle leads the team with 105 tackles.

Key matchup: Dalton FS Eder Mora against Lands-Davis. Mora, who has 137 tackles, will be responsible for keeping the 215-pound Cougars star from breaking big plays.

Up next: The winner will play the winner between Lanier and Carver. Dalton would host either opponent.

NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (9-1) at CARROLLTON TROJANS (9-1)

Key players: Northwest's balanced offense is led by QB Caleb Shiflett, who has passed for 1,641 yards; RB Jacob Webb, who has 957 yards and 16 touchdowns; and WRs Tevin McDaniel and Andy Whisenant, while DL Isaiah Mack is a terror with 17 tackles for loss. Carrollton's physical wing-T attack features three backs -- Malik Sheppard, Trey Chivers and Jarvis Terrell -- with 600-plus yards, but it's the defense, paced by lineman Brandon Walton, that sets the Trojans apart.

Key matchup: The Bruins' offensive line against Walton and his DL mates will determine whether Northwest can pull off the upset.

Up next: The winner will play the winner between Banneker and Monroe Area. Northwest would travel to Monroe Area or host Banneker.

NORTH HALL TROJANS (8-2) at RINGGOLD TIGERS (8-2)

Key players: Ringgold's explosive offense is triggered by QB Slade Dale, who has passed for 1,323 yards and rushed for 939, while junior WR/RB Kile Sholl has totaled 1,038 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Tigers' defense is strong up front, where DE Zach Morris has 16 1/2 tackles for loss and LB Dakota Baer leads the team with 122 tackles. North Hall's offense, which averages 42 points per game, revolves around QB Andrew Smith, who has 1,500 total yards, and RB Zac Little, who has rushed for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Key matchup: The Ringgold defensive line vs. the North Hall offensive front. Morris, Ryan Emmer and company have their hands full against a unit that features three players weighing 260-plus pounds.

Up next: The winner will play the winner of the Cedar Grove at Elbert County game. Ringgold would host Cedar Grove but travel to Elbert.

SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (4-6) at BUFORD WOLVES (10-0)

Key players: Sonoraville's run to its first playoff appearance is due in large part to two first-year starters in QB Cody Long, who has rushed for 800 yards, and senior TB Andrew Slaton, a speedster who has 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns. Among Buford's multiple major college football recruits are LB Korie Rogers, who is headed to Clemson, Missouri RB recruit Thomas Wilson and junior RB Joshua Thomas, who has Tennessee among his suitors.

Key matchup: If the Phoenix want to make it into the second half without a running clock, they must neutralize the ferocious Wolves' defensive front seven.

Up next: The winner will play the winner of the North Oconee at Woodward Academy game. Sonoraville would travel to either opponent.

MANCHESTER BLUE DEVILS (7-3) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (9-1)

Key players: Calhoun's spread offense has another top QB in Fields Chapman, who has quietly thrown for 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns, and two elite receivers in Tydus Curtis (38-827) and Chandler Curtis (23-513). The Jackets' strength, though, lies on the defensive side, where end Austin Byrd and LBs Austin Bennett and Will Conley lead an aggressive unit. Manchester has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Anthony Bell and Devante Davis, while QB Quin Prather has added another 850 yards.

Key matchup: Calhoun linebackers against the talented Blue Devils backs. The Jackets usually thrive against option-oriented offenses, but one slip against the speedy Manchester group and points could follow.

Up next: The winner will play the winner of the Rabun County at Greater Atlanta Christian School winner. Calhoun would host either.

KENDRICK CHEROKEES (6-4) at DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (7-3)

Key players: Dade's return to the playoffs after a two-year absence revolves around a power running game featuring sophomore RB Zac Freeman and junior WBs Blake Lynn and Brett Swader behind a physical line anchored by sophomore Reid Hulgan. Kendrick, also with one playoff appearance since 1999, is much like the Wolverines offensively and relies on the playmaking ability of QB Jonathan Hines and RB Reno Lee.

Key matchup: Dade LBs Daniel Pickering, Grayson Sharp and Tanner Avery against Lee. The Dade defensive front will be outmanned in size, meaning the linebackers need to have a good tackling game.

Up next: The winner would play the winner of the Union County at Lovett game. Dade would host Union but travel to Lovett.

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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