(All kickoffs at 7:30 EDT unless noted)
BELL COUNTY (Ky.) BOBCATS at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES, 8
Storyline: Class A state finalists a year ago, the Pirates are looking for their sixth season with 10 or more wins in the last seven years. While the Bobcats, perennial Kentucky Class AAA state-playoff performers, haven't won an opener since 2010, South Pittsburg hasn't lost one since 2004. RB Corbin Fitzgerald is a key to the Pirates offense, which will use his talents to set up QB Kitt Grider and the passing game.
COMMUNITY VIKINGS at SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS, 8
Storyline: The Indians opened the season a year ago with a 40-3 victory over the Vikings in a rain-soaked and storm-delayed game. They begin their second year under coaching veteran Ken Colquette looking to improve on last year's five-win season. Colquette wanted a stronger and more physical team, and the Indians spent a lot of time in the weight room.
CUMBERLAND COUNTY JETS at BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS, 8
Storyline: Bledsoe has struggled each of the past two seasons, but two of its four wins in that span have come over Cumberland County -- 28-27 two years ago and 12-6 last year. The Warriors have won five straight season openers. They were locked in a QB battle in early preseason practice but settled on sophomore Chase Sorrow. Connor Boynton and Nathaniel Collins give Bledsoe two 6-foot-5 WRs.
HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS at BAYLOR RED RAIDERS
Storyline: The Tigers will be the first target of Baylor QB Nick Tiano, who has committed to Mississippi State, but the Red Raiders will be the first to get an up-close look at that monstrous Tigers offensive line that averages more than 300 pounds per player. A key for Howard will be avoiding offensive miscues in its new pistol triple-option offense. Former East Ridge defensive coordinator Mark Teague makes his head coaching debut with the Tigers.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES
Storyline: Signal won the first two games in the young series but East Hamilton has taken the last two, including a 55-14 win the last time they were hosts. The Hurricanes are breaking in a new QB as Nicholas Woods replaces departed three-year starter Hunter Moore but are likely to have a salty defense, something that's been a staple the last couple of seasons. Signal is seasoned but will take the wraps off new starters FB William Franklin, a converted DT, and sophomore RB Skye Wilson.
FRANKLIN COUNTY REBELS at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS
Storyline: The Pounders have been stingy with coordinator Cortney Braswell's new defensive scheme, and the question is how their athletes will jell around QB Scout Morgan, who described his job as getting the offense aligned and then getting the ball to athletes in space. Central beat Franklin County 18-9 a year ago. This is the first game as a head coach for the Pounders' Ryan Mallory.
KNOXVILLE CATHOLIC IRISH at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Storyline: Notre Dame enters the game without QB Alex Darras, but backup Nicholas Coronis started off hot in July 7-on-7s and has kept it up. The Irish are loaded with skill players, including Louisville commitment Kareem Orr, who'll pop up at numerous spots offensively. But their list also includes 2013 1,000-yard rusher Auston Banks and RB/DB Ricky Ballard. Tyler Enos and Joe Dossett are defensive keys. Both teams advanced deep into last year's state playoffs.
OAKDALE EAGLES vs. SALE CREEK PANTHERS
At Finley Stadium
Storyline: In its first year of varsity competition, Sale Creek went winless including a season-opening 44-12 loss at Oakdale. The Panthers lost all three QBs from last season but looked much more skilled and comfortable in their jamboree quarter last week against Boyd-Buchanan with sophomore Jeb Hart under center.
POLK COUNTY WILDCATS at BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS
Storyline: Polk County won by two points in last year's opener for both schools, but this year's teams will have quite a different look. The most notable loss for the Wildcats is 2,000-yard rusher Zach Miller. Sophomore Seth Sloan moves into the vacated FB position. They have a new QB in senior Isaac Smith. Bradley graduated four-year starting QB Bryce Copeland. Younger brother Cole, a sophomore, is the heir apparent. Defense may be the strength of both teams, especially at the beginning of the season.
RED BANK LIONS at BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCHANEERS
Storyline: The Lions will begin a new era with Chad Grabowski taking over as head coach for the the first time in the Chattanooga area. He had been coaching the past five years in the Orlando, Fla., area, where he went 38-23 and sent 26 players on to college ball. The Bucs are in a different situation with veteran coach Grant Reynolds and 14 returning starters.
SILVERDALE BAPTIST ACADEMY SEAHAWKS at LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS
Storyline: The Seahawks have newcomers in several positions, but QB is not one of them. Nathan Keylon and Tanner Webb are both veterans of the position. Each will be on the field when the other plays QB. K Connor Eischeid has recovered from a soccer-season leg injury and can be a difference-maker. Lookout Valley coach Tony Webb has some experience returning. He's trying to find what positions will maximize those players' abilities. The coach is hoping the additions of Ooltewah transfer Kahliel Peoples and freshman Moses Houston will be impactful. Both play RB and LB.
GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES at CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS
Storyline: Grace's "Tenacious 20" are led on offense by sophomore QB Jared Thompson. And despite low numbers on the squad, he has more than a couple of capable receivers. Stopping the run is a big concern, particularly this week with the Chargers' 200-pound junior RB D.J. Toney. This game ushers in the Rob Spence coaching era at CCS.
WHITWELL TIGERS at MT. JULIET CHRISTIAN ACADEMY SAINTS
Storyline: The Tigers return starters to eight positions on offense and defense. Senior QB Tyler Tate directs the offense for Whitwell, which averaged 33 points per game last year -- 47 in its five victories. RB Clay McHone, now a junior, averaged more than 150 rushing yards per game in 2013. Mt. Juliet Christian first-year head coach Dan Davis inherits a youthful team, but the Saints have a veteran QB in senior Rikesh Vanmali.
* RIDGELAND PANTHERS at ADAIRSVILLE TIGERS
Storyline: This could be the youngest team Mark Mariakis has put on the field in his successful tenure at Ridgeland, and that youth will be put to a quick test by the athletic Tigers in what could be an entertaining nonregion opener. The Panthers will run the ball behind Cadarius Word and flashy freshman "Butter" Montgomery, but it's the defense that will win or lose this one. Specifically, how do the Panthers stop electric Adairsville QB Marcus Childers, who is a run-pass threat? The Tigers also have a solid RB in Sidnee Johnson and a downfield threat in WR DeAndre Applin.
* GORDON LEE TROJANS at TRION BULLDOGS
Storyline: Thanks to reclassification, these rivals are no longer in the same region. However, the area's longest continuous rivalry is still as bitter as ever and now goes from the end of the season to opening night. This game is almost always played within a touchdown and defenses usually rule in a matchup of offenses that are are focused on running the ball. That means lots of action for each team's star LB, Malik Martin of Trion and Gordon Lee's Dallas Goodlet.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS at SCOTTSBORO WILDCATS, 8
Storyline: Dalton crosses the state line full of optimism after a strong summer and with plenty of experience in this first meeting between the programs. The Catamounts and QB Payton Veraldi were successful in throwing the ball this summer. Why not throw it, with targets such as 6-foot-3 Zek Cobb and 6-4 Chase Westfall? But it's the ground game and senior RB Kelvis Rhodes where this offense is focused. Scottsboro and second-year coach Patrick Nix had a breakthrough season a year ago, but the Wildcats graduated their top three offensive playmakers, including Trey Lewis with 1,800 yards of total offense. The defense should still be strong with leading tacklers Jordan Whitehead, Stephen Jackson and Junior Lyons back.
COAHULLA CREEK COLTS at SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS
Storyline: The Colts just want to play. They lost their coach, had another hired -- that didn't work out -- resulting in Chad Barger taking over the program. He is coaching a team that has a total of four wins during its two years of existence. The Raiders open the season with state-playoff aspirations -- a goal they haven't reached since 1986 -- under second-year coach Sean Gray.
McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES at McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS
Storyline: The Cherokees have owned this rivalry, having not lost since 1988 -- a span of 21 wins. This season's team will rely on three-year starting quarterback Corbin Powers, who has D.J. Kimpson in the backfield and athletes on the perimeter. McMinn Central will have to replace the production of all-state running back Denzell Boyd by committee. Jordan Brooks, Jackson Long, Luke Davis and Matt Hale will get opportunities in the run game.
BRAINERD PANTHERS at OOLTEWAH OWLS
Storyline: The Owls get their first opportunity to unleash their wide array of athletes on the area. Junior London Elrod will get the first snaps under center for Ooltewah, but coach Mac Bryan said Thursday that senior Kelvin Leon will "get time in the game early." The Panthers finished the 2013 season strong, with three wins in their final four games, and have some big-play potential of their own led by receiver/defensive back Kaylen Stewart.
HIXSON WILDCATS at SODDY-DAISY TROJANS
Storyline: The Trojans try for their second consecutive win in the series, led by quarterback Hunter Maynor and receiver Tre Carter, who hooked up for nine touchdowns a season ago. Hixson gets the Dan Duff era started at the school for the second time, only this time coming off a run to the Class 4A state quarterfinals. Duff will run a variation of the veer offense, but Duff promised that the Wildcats "will throw it some."
EAST RIDGE PIONEERS at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS
Storyline: The Mustangs started the last two seasons 3-1, with wins over the Pioneers in the season openers to get rolling. Walker Valley has switched to a spread offense directed by junior Josh Jones, who can make plays with his arm and his legs. The same can be said for East Ridge senior Jojo Tillery, who finished the 2013 season with 2,000-plus yards of total offense, helping the Pioneers advance to the Class 4A playoffs.
RINGGOLD TIGERS at NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS
Storyline: This Saturday night special features high-powered offenses with different approaches. The Tigers, fresh off a Class AAA state-semifinal appearance, will rely on a ground game featuring senior RBs Kile Sholl and D.L. Goins and a physical line. Ringgold will get its first look at new QB Devin Lancaster and must play defensively without rehabbing star lineman Zach Morris. Northwest coach Josh Robinson was still waiting word on whether QB Caleb Shiflett will play after suffering a non-throwing shoulder separation. If he can't go, freshman brother Luke Shiflett would get the nod. Either way, RB Kyle Fleming and WR Clay Phillips will get plenty of action and the key is likely the play of five new starters up front.
LANDMARK CHRISTIAN WAR EAGLES at CHRISTIAN HERITAGE LIONS
Storyline: The War Eagles, located in Fairburn, Ga., went 8-4 last season and have QB Stockton McGuire returning. The Lions, who joined the GHSA three years ago, enter a new era once again. It goes on without record-setting QB Trevor Brown. Junior Tyson Cooper takes over there. Cooper, a baseball player, has some experienced help in the backfield with Ahmaad Turner and Matt Cook to alleviate some of the pressure on him.
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 ...