OK, folks, quick quiz. Without peeking at the standings, can you name which of the Chattanooga area's 39 high school football teams in Tennessee is the only one still undefeated?
Here's a hint, it's not a traditional bully such as Baylor, Marion County or South Pittsburg, and it's not even one of the newer powers like East Hamilton or Signal Mountain. Nope, all of those teams have at least one loss already this season, but Silverdale Baptist, in only its eighth varsity season, is still unbeaten (6-0) more than halfway through the regular season.
"We don't need to get a lot of attention yet," said senior running back Matt McCulley, one of two returning 1,000-yard rushers from last year. "Publicity is good, but it could also make people get the big head and not focus on the things that are important that got us here.
"We've got a lot of guys who played last year, and we're confident we can win big games and go further than we did last year. If we do that, we'll get noticed for sure."
Heading into tonight's game at Chattanooga Christian, the Seahawks, led by 14 seniors who play a lot, are ranked No. 6 in the Class 2A state rankings and have three shutout wins while outscoring opponents 200-40. That's the fewest points allowed by any team in 2A and is the third-fewest given up by any team in the state, regardless of classification.
"I'm real proud of the way the defense has played every game so far," Seahawks coach Al Rogers said. "We're holding teams to less than a touchdown per game, so that's tough to beat.
"I feel blessed to be with this group of kids. I've coached some of them since third grade and most since at least middle school, so I know how hard they work and how tenacious they are. It started last year with a couple of big wins, and you could see the kids start to believe in themselves. No matter who we play now, the kids don't think they're going to lose. They're willing to do whatever it take to keep winning."
Last fall's football success carried over into the spring when the SBA baseball team, with a lineup loaded with multisport athletes, knocked off the three-time defending state champion to reach the Class A championship final.
With a roster that's doubled in size from last year, including eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, the Seahawks have proven they can take care of business against outmanned opponents, winning four games by 30-plus points, and have the grit to win the close ones as well. They rallied for a three-point win over 3A Sweetwater and held off Hayesville (N.C.) 6-0.
Aside from remaining unbeaten and making a deeper run into the playoffs, the biggest prize looming this season would be the program's first district title, which will likely be decided in the regular-season finale at Boyd-Buchanan.
"We used to be everybody's homecoming game, but now the kids believe in what we're doing and in themselves," Rogers said. "I tell them all the time, 'The only thing you can control is effort and attitude.'
"We're on the verge, after football last year and baseball, of establishing a winning tradition. I like being the Cinderella story, but that was last year. We're not that anymore. The kids have established themselves and we want to accept the challenge of having the target on us now."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...