In light of the stakes and quality of teams, these are the Chattanooga area's best high school football games since 1990:
"It was so cold that Keith said later the ball felt like catching an ice cube," said Benny Monroe, who coached Cleveland to three state titles. "We were going to run one more play and then try a field goal, but Keith made a great catch and dove out to stretch the ball over the goal line and score.
"We had taken some starters off the kickoff coverage team to rest earlier, and they returned it for a touchdown. After that last score, we had all our starters back in. I've coached a bunch of games, but none were more exciting than that one."
McCallie 17, Brentwood Academy 16 (Nov. 17, 2001): The unbeaten Blue Tornado had fought back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. But with 3:38 remaining, McCallie found itself trailing again when Eagles kicker John Vaughn connected on a 42-yard field goal. McCallie countered with a 16-play, 76-yard drive, converting a fourth-and-16 with 1:11 remaining when Ryan Moore passed to Haddon Kirk for a 21-yard gain. That play set up Trey Meyer's winning 22-yard field goal with 11 seconds to left.
Marion County 28, Brentwood Academy 26 (Dec. 12, 1992): After trailing nationally ranked BA by two touchdowns in the first half of the state-title game, Marion began the third quarter by driving 75 yards in 13 plays to get within one score. Guy Hansard then capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 39-yard touchdown reception that tied the game late, and less than two minutes later he returned an interception 33 yards for the go-ahead score. Donnie Pemberton added the two-point conversion that proved to be the deciding points for the Warriors after BA scored with 48 seconds remaining but failed on a conversion pass. The Eagles got one final opportunity, but a long field-goal attempt fell short as time expired.
Calhoun 38, Brooks County 35 (Dec. 5, 2008): As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Brooks County fullback Arlester McKinnon had a full head of steam as he took the handoff at the 3-yard line. He was met at the goal line by several Yellow Jackets, who stopped him just short of scoring and salvaged the Georgia Class AA semifinal win. The Brooks sideline erupted when McKinnon put the ball over the goal line, but officials already had ruled his knee was down, inches from scoring. The game had gone back and forth throughout, with big plays by each team. Both scored touchdowns in the final 49 seconds of the first half, and Brooks opened the second half by returning the kickoff for a TD. After the Trojans drove 65 yards in 12 plays to take the lead, Calhoun answered with a 66-yard scoring drive to regain the advantage with four minutes remaining. Brooks County then went 65 yards before the goal-line stop as the final buzzer sounded.
McCallie 33, Riverdale 27 (Aug. 25, 2006): Trailing by 14 with 2:44 remaining, and beginning a drive from its own 10-yard line, McCallie needed a miracle. Quarterback B.J. Coleman drove the Blue Tornado 90 yards in just over a minute to pull them within seven. With barely more than a minute remaining, top-ranked Riverdale recovered the onside kick. However, Warriors quarterback Scott Thomas was stripped of the ball by Josh Bain, and John Wells recovered for McCallie at its 48. After converting a third-and-10, Coleman hit Johnny Newman for a 2-yard TD and Joel Bradford's extra point tied the game with 22 seconds remaining. Rather than kneeling on the ball and forcing overtime, Riverdale opted to throw, despite its last two passes having fallen incomplete. A.J. Busby hit Thomas as he threw the ball and Thomas Green intercepted the pass near midfield. Two plays later, Coleman launched a pass that traveled 54 yards in the air before coming down at the goal line. The ball was batted four times by three Warriors defenders, each of whom could have knocked it down to force overtime. That allowed Walter Dozier to reach out and make a sensational catch in the end zone to steal the win.
Signal Mountain 40, South Pittsburg 36 (Sept. 17, 2010): The game had six lead changes and the teams combined for 895 yards. The Eagles, ranked No. 2 in 2A, and the Pirates, top-ranked in 1A, went on to claim state championships in their respective classifications. After trailing by seven at halftime, Signal Mountain opened the third quarter with a pass and nine straight runs to tie the game, then needed just two plays to take the lead on its next possession. The Pirates reclaimed the lead on a 23-yard touchdown pass that converted a fourth-and-6, but Signal Mountain countered on Hogan Whitmire's 7-yard scoring run with 7:59 remaining. The win wasn't secured until the Eagles forced a fumble at their own 20 yard line late.
Cleveland 18, Red Bank 16 (Nov. 9, 1990): Loaded with future college talent - including quarterback Marty Lowe, receiver Cory Simpson, running back Gerald Ware and kicker John Becksvoort - Red Bank's Lions were unbeaten and ranked No. 12 in the USA Today poll. Cleveland came into the first-round playoff game 8-1 and led by future UT signee Quincy Prigmore, who threw for one touchdown, ran for another and kicked an extra point and a 25-yard field goal. Becksvoort missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired, giving Cleveland the upset.
North Jackson 30, Scottsboro 27 (Nov. 5, 2004): Both teams were state-ranked in Alabama, and nearly 10,000 people filled North Jackson's R.D. Hicks Stadium for one of the biggest rivalry games in the area. With the host Chiefs trailing 21-12 in the fourth quarter, future Alabama signee Ali Sharrief turned a toss sweep into a one-man mission to score, stiff-arming one Wildcat to the ground, jumping over another, then outrunning everyone else for a 29-yard touchdown. He followed that on the next possession by taking a screen pass and outrunning the defense for a 68-yard score. After the Wildcats drove to tie the game, Ty Shrader blocked the extra point and North Jackson marched 43 yards in the closing minute to set up Josh Smith's deciding 28-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 42, Northwest Whitfield 41 (Oct. 29, 2004): The teams traded touchdowns eight times through regulation, and in overtime each scored twice. They combined for nearly 800 yards, with four TDs covering more than 30 yards. Northwest forced overtime with a fourth-down scoring pass with three seconds remaining in the Region 7-AAAA game. In the second OT, LFO's Dexter Scudgins blocked an extra point, and then Jermaine Williams scored and Adam Blevins converted the extra point to give the Warriors the win.
Marion County 6, South Pittsburg 0 (Sept. 2, 1994): On the opening series, Eric Westmoreland returned an interception 65 yards for the only touchdown. Both defenses refused to budge, as the teams combined for just 229 yards of offense. Even the extra-point kick was blocked. Neither team scored fewer than four touchdowns in a game the rest of the year until the state finals, as Marion went on to a 15-0 season and the Class 3A championship and the Pirates finished 14-1 with the Class 1A title.