TYNER RAMS (1-4, 1-1) at HIXSON WILDCATS (3-2, 1-1)
Last time: Tyner won 56-0 last year.
This time: Forget the Rams' output in this game last year. They haven't scored that many this season (53). In fairness, their rugged schedule has included three state-ranked opponents. The Wildcats started 3-0 -- all on the road -- but haven't won at home yet.
Time to shine: Tyner features a ground-oriented offense led by Joseph Sturkey's 312 yards on 42 attempts. Also he and Chandler Patrick and Lamonte Solomon have more than 40 tackles each. Hixson's offense is directed by quarterback Justin Mathieson, who has thrown for 474 yards and six TDs. He's also the second-leading rusher behind Clarencio Holmes. The two have combined to run for 1,242 yards and 14 TDs. Alex Shuford is the tackles leader with 23 solos and 22 assists.
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (6-0, 4-0) at BRENTWOOD ACADEMY EAGLES (4-1, 2-0)
Last time: Baylor won 21-20 last year.
This time: This one is between the only Division II-AA East/Middle Region teams with unblemished league records. The Red Raiders will be trying to gear up for another emotionally charged game after defeating archrival McCallie last week and then-No. 1 Ensworth the week before. The Eagles had last week off.
Time to shine: Dual-threat Baylor quarterback Matthew Oellerich has 1,171 yards of total offense and 20 TDs. Connor Davidson has contributed 476 rushing yards on a team-high 73 carries. Deosha McColley is the receiving-yards leader with 249. Landry Taylor has a fumble-return TD and an interception. BA relies heavily on running back D'Montre Wade, who outrushed Montgomery Bell Academy 162-145 on Sept. 2. He's aided by an offensive line featuring Stanford commitment Graham Shuler (6-5, 270). Quarterback Max Staver, a transfer from Pope John Paul II, is big enough at 6-5, 230 to be a lineman. Defensive end and Virginia Tech commitment Woody Baron (6-2, 250) had 25 tackles for loss last season.
McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (3-2, 1-2) at BATTLE GROUND ACADEMY WILDCATS (5-1, 2-1)
Last time: McCallie won 44-26 last year.
This time: The outcome could be decided by whether McCallie does a better job of stopping the pass or BGA does a better job of stopping the run. A 385-yard rushing effort was the catalyst in last year's game for the Blue Tornado, who led 21-0 before the three-minute mark of the first quarter.
Time to shine: McCallie running back Daniel McClure's 125 rushes have produced 778 yards and 10 TDs. Quarterback Trent Lusk has thrown for 609 yards and five TDs. Chad Toliver has a kickoff return for a TD and Chase Marsh has returned an interception for a score. BGA quarterback C.J. Beathard is an Ole Miss commitment and the grandson of former NFL quarterback Pete Beathard. He and wideout Jordan Smith have been a potent combo with Beathard throwing for 957 yards and 12 TDs and Smith having 10 TDs among his 30 catches for 427 yards. Beathard has a 63.3 percent completion rate in 120 throws with one interception. Linebacker Blake Thomson had more than 100 tackles last season and is a contributor at tight end.
BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (4-1, 1-1) at SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (5-1, 2-0)
Last time: Sequatchie won 35-34 in opening round of 2010 playoffs.
This time: There is motivation for each from 2010 when Bledsoe won the regular-season game and Sequatchie rallied for the playoff win. The series has been tight, especially since former teammates and current coaches Jason Reel (Bledsoe) and Chad Barger took over the respective programs. Sequatchie has been banged up but has slowly been getting back its offensive line, which at one point was occupied by four reserves. Both coaches expect this one to be a seven-point game or less.
Time to shine: Bledsoe quarterback Cody Holloway, who had a 300-yard passing game earlier this season, will play. There was some question after he went down late in last week's win over McMinn Central and was slow to get up. Reel said his senior signal-caller had displayed flulike symptoms much of the season but is healthier now. Bledsoe defenders must keep the clamps on a Sequatchie running game anchored by Jerry Fain while keeping an eye on versatile Eli Stout and senior receiver Hunter Hudson, who has given the Indians a deep threat. Conversely, Holloway is more of a pocket passer, leaving the running game to Brandon Smith and Holden Boynton.
HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (0-4, 0-2) at BRAINERD PANTHERS (2-3, 1-1)
Last time: Howard won 42-12 last year.
This time: The Tigers are struggling and seem almost lackadaisical, several showing up late for practice earlier this week. Brainerd has had some personnel changes, but one can always count on a great show from the bands.
Time to shine: There are some outstanding individuals on each team, although the teams struggle at times to put together sustained drives. The Panthers' versatile Maleek Rooks is a threat on offense and defense and as a returner, and in the last stats update the Panthers entered, Samuel Caffey was completing 55 percent of his passes while Calvin Davenport and Isaiah Hayes were the leading rushers. Howard has lost offensive tackle Brandon Walters for the year, which definitely puts a crimp in the Tigers' running game. Quarterback Tevan Jackson has a strong enough arm but has been scrambling of late while looking for wideout Dedrick Lindsey or, out of the backfield, LaWayne Ruffin.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (4-2, 0-2) at SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (5-1, 2-0)
Last time: First meeting.
This time: It's another of those first-time-opponent games for Signal, caused in part by its move from District 6-A to 7-AA. After winning its first two games, Notre Dame has played .500 ball the next four weeks -- winning, losing, winning and losing. The teams have one common opponent to date. Signal beat Bledsoe County while Notre Dame lost a close one to the Warriors two weeks ago. The Irish already have a better record than they've had each of the previous two seasons. Signal and Notre Dame are the only district teams that are designated Class 4A for the postseason.
Time to shine: The game matches two of the area's top quarterbacks in Irish senior Josh Moore (1,271 yards, 17 TDs, 4 interceptions) and Eagles junior Reese Phillips (1,179 yards, 13 TDs, 4 interceptions). But where Moore has one primary target in Matt Reilly (13 TDs, 135 ypg), Phillips has senior prospects Will Queen and Jon Patton, who have combined for 52 catches, 1,025 yards and 11 TDs. The Irish also have a quality runner in Shaqualm McCoy, who is 80 yards shy of 1,000, but Signal can counter with up to a half dozen including Andrew Price, Zack Bowman, Tim McClendon and Mitchell Hall.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (4-2, 1-1) at SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (2-3, 1-1)
Last time: The Trojans won 19-0 last year.
This time: The matchup is an important district battle, as both teams are looking to enhance their playoff resumes going into the second half of the season.
Time to shine: Ooltewah has backfield weapons in Desmond Pittman and T.J. Davis and good receivers in Mikhail Creech and T.J. Warren. Creech also is a threat in the defensive backfield. Soddy-Daisy is led by running back Cedric Edwards, while quarterback Brett Standifer has improved as the season has gone along.
McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (3-2, 2-0) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (0-5, 0-1)
Last time: McMinn won 43-6 last year.
This time: This matchup always has the makings of an intense battle, as the schools are separated by only 15 miles.
Time to shine: The Cherokees boast a physical receiver in Cedric Nevins, and a speedster in Dorian Edwards, both of whom sport 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. Quarterback Nathan Simbeck has done a good job of getting them the ball over the course of the season. The Mustangs are hoping to ride the legs of Kelvin Wells Jr. and Gabe Cartwright back into the win column, as well as break an 11-game losing streak.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (1-5, 1-1) at LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (3-3, 1-1)
Last time: Marion County won 42-20 last year.
This time: Second place in District 6-A and a likely playoff berth is on the line. Both teams already have beaten Whitwell but lost to South Pittsburg, so this is the final district game for each. Lookout Valley hasn't beaten Marion since 1978, losing the last seven meetings. The Yellow Jackets have scored 30-plus points four times this season, while Marion's defense is allowing an average of 43.3 points per game, fourth-worst in the state regardless of classification. The Warriors' offense has hit a wall, not scoring in their last two games.
Time to shine: Jackets quarterback Vann Scribner was injured late in the third quarter of last week's loss to Notre Dame, and the team struggled without him. But he is back now and will continue to lend balance to an offense that is averaging 300 rushing and more than 100 passing yards. Jamal Jones, who ran for more than 200 yards again last week, is closing in on 1,000 for the season.
CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (2-3, 1-1) at RED BANK LIONS (4-1, 2-0)
Last time: Central won 16-11 last year.
This time: The Lions are licking their wounds after last week's whipping by Cleveland, while Central let one slip away in an overtime loss to Soddy-Daisy. The Pounders already have one district loss and can't afford another with four league games remaining. However, this is their last road game of the regular season. Red Bank's final four opponents have a combined 5-14 overall record, so a win here would make the Lions prohibitive favorites down the stretch to claim the district title.
Time to shine: Red Bank's mobile quarterback Niquia McDuffie was all but shut down last week, limited to just 28 rushing yards and throwing for 86. If McDuffie and speedy Kameno Watson can get enough space to use their quickness, the Lions' offense will begin clicking again. Similarly for Central, the Pounders' success typically is dictated by the 1-2 punch of quarterback LaDarrius Jackson and running back Robert Cobb, who has 17 touchdowns this season.
RIDGELAND PANTHERS (1-3, 0-0) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (2-2, 0-0)
Last time: Ridgeland won 21-0 last year.
This time: Ridgeland's first win ever over Dalton propelled the Panthers to their third Region 7-AAA title in a row last year. It also left Dalton having to win a Week 10 region play-in game to make the playoffs, something the Catamounts couldn't do. This region opener could have similar impacts this time around
Time to shine: The Ridgeland offense has moved the ball in every game, but penalties and turnovers have led to too many stalled drives. First-year starting junior quarterback Darryl Bridges (6-foot, 205) and running back Xavier Turner (5-10, 190) are the team's top playmakers. Free safety Vonn Bell (6-1, 180) and linebacker Daniel Johnson are the top tacklers. The Dalton offense, still without star tailback Tre Beck, will rely on the big-play ability of his replacement, Tre Bonds (5-9, 160), and fullback Matt Cobb (5-10, 220) for yards. Top defenders include linemen Cody Patterson (6-2, 220) and Leighton Reese (6-1, 230) and linebacker Robert Hardaway (6-0, 220).
RINGGOLD TIGERS (3-1, 0-0) at HERITAGE GENERALS (4-0, 0-0)
Last time: Ringgold won 21-15 last year.
This time: Despite their glowing records, neither team knows exactly how good it is. The opponents' combined record for Ringgold is 4-13, while Heritage opponents are a grizzly 1-17. The preseason is over and each coach knows that a loss in the Region 7-AAA opener could seriously damage playoff hopes, even this early.
Time to shine: Two consecutive offensive flops led to some changes with the Tigers. Expect to see more spread looks tonight, though it will be done more to open run lanes than to throw the ball around. The Tigers have good backfield weapons in Mark Fairbanks (6-1, 190) and Shaun Anderson (5-10, 205), but sophomore quarterback Slade Dale (5-10, 180) has to reduce the turnovers. Heritage has had trouble with speedy backs, so the pressure will be on linebackers Will Crane (6-foot, 205) and Jordan Liles (6-2, 215). The Generals move the ball well behind quarterbacak Jake Sampson (6-1, 230) and running back Ethan Thompson (5-10, 210) and will keep it on the ground unless the Tigers stop them.