Storyline: There was a new feeling at Signal on Monday because the Eagles began preparations for their second game as an 0-1 team. Last week's loss to East Hamilton was the program's first season-opening setback in the school's four-year history. Last year was the team's first game with the Rams and Signal won 34-13. One of the major questions around town this week is whether Signal, a team with an abundance of young talent, will rebound tonight, because Tyner was picked by District 6-AA coaches as a team expected to reach the postseason.
Storyline: While Red Bank opens with a new coach in E.K. Slaughter, this series is one of the oldest rivalries in the area, the schools having first met in 1943. Slaughter moved from offensive coordinator with Red Bank's Lions to Soddy-Daisy for his first head coaching job in 2008 and then moved on to Cleveland. Red Bank holds a 7-5 edge over the Trojans since the turn of the century and won 42-35 last year behind quarterback Hagen Wilkey. Both have question marks. Red Bank's are in the offensive line and at running back, while Soddy-Daisy, despite the presence of veteran quarterback Brett Standifer, is putting the pieces back together after a lopsided loss to Baylor last week.
Storyline: It's Rhea's first home game on the Golden Eagles' new artificial turf, but the last thing coach Doug Greene wants is playing a speed team like the Panthers on artificial grass. But Brainerd will be without quarterback Sam Caffey, who was ejected during last week's 32-0 loss to Ooltewah. Brainerd coach Stanley Jackson might be forced to go with a freshman quarterback because likely replacement Tre Davenport missed school and practice early in the week. Three starters who missed Rhea's 14-6 loss last week at Powell are back: running back/linebackers Michael Vlencic and Jacob York and defensive back/receiver Tommy Blackburn.
Storyline: It could be an offensive shootout between teams that are eager but young. There are a half-dozen seniors on Sequatchie's roster and the Tigers have only three senior starters, all on offense. "We've got a lot of young kids, but they're headed in the right direction. Sequatchie's a good club but they're a lot like us with their youth," Meigs coach Ricky Holliday said. Both teams are coming off lopsided losses, Meigs 48-19 to Upperman and the Indians 40-6 to York Institute. The Tigers will depend on tailbacks Tyler Shelton, Dakota Ricker and Quincy Paris along with quarterback Bryson Baker and fullback Lee Wilson. Sequatchie counters with running backs/linebackers Jake Pickett and Blake Cates, lineman Jared Bass and quarterback Dylan Harvey.
Storyline: Polk's Wildcats lost wingback/free safety Chris Wimberley for a couple of weeks and had another player suffer a broken nose in last week's loss to Bradley Central, and then had a couple of reserves nicked up in a junior varsity game Monday. If not for a couple of turnovers inside Bradley's 20, the Wildcats might have taken a two-TD lead into the locker room instead of losing 31-7. Coach Derrick Davis cited numerous mistakes but also the performance of Bradley runner Logan Fetzner. He doesn't know what to expect from the Purple Pounders, who were running a spread offense in spring drills but showed a return to the wing-T in the jamboree a couple of weeks ago. While Central will have to contend with Wildcats fullback Zach Miller, a 100-yard rusher last week, Polk's defense will have to keep an eye on quarterback Dominique Johnson, running back Taquan Johnson and receiver Jaylon Hobbs.
Storyline: Torrey Hughes ran for more than 100 yards and a touchdown in East Ridge's loss to Walker Valley last week, but the Pioneers had a worse time trying to slow the Mustangs' running game. They gave up 322 yards on the ground, which Boyd-Buchanan no doubt noticed. The Bucs showed versatility in scoring on a run, a pass and a blocked punt for their first three scores in beating Chattanooga Christian. East Ridge may have noticed that the Bucs surrendered more than 200 yards through the air, but CCS still didn't score.
Storyline: Both teams had running backs make noticeable debuts last week. Bradley Central junior Logan Fetzner rushed for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Baylor's George Porter gained 194 yards and had four TDs. Baylor's defense held Soddy-Daisy to less than 100 yards rushing. Expect both defenses to key on stopping the run to make untested passing attacks pick up the slack. While Bradley senior quarterback Bryce Copeland is a four-year starter, he has no proven pass-catcher to throw to. Baylor's Nick Tiano and Michael O'Connor combined to complete 4 of 15 passes last week, and Tiano was intercepted twice. But whoever takes snaps for the Red Raiders does have all-state receiver Reggie Upshaw as a tall target.
Storyline: The Yellow Jackets let a 13-point halftime lead slip away and become a one-point loss at Marion County last week. Grundy quarterback Josh Ray threw for 123 yrds and three TDs, but the defense allowed nearly 270 rushing yards and now faces a team with speedsters Demetric Johnson and Jajuan Lankford, who combined for more than 3,500 rushing yards last year. South Pittsburg is bringing back the wing-T offense after a four-year run with the spread and fullback Corbin Hale has been impressive in preseason scrimmages. The Yellow Jackets have a considerable size advantage on both sides of the line, but conditioning was an issue last week as the bigger Grundy linemen didn't play with the same intensity in the second half as the game slipped away. Grundy must avoid giving up big plays early and shorten the game with time-consuming drives.
Storyline: After winning its season opener with an eighth-grader at quarterback, Lookout Valley gets senior Vann Scribner back under center after a one-game suspension. Scribner will give the Yellow Jackets three big-play options, along with running backs Jamal Jones and Toney Summerow, each of whom can run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.6 seconds. And while Lookout Valley will be at a size disadvantage and has a lot more players having to play on both sides of the ball, the experience and speed factors will be on its side. CCS will test the Yellow Jackets' secondary. Quarterback Levi Corbett threw for 226 yards last week, and the Chargers offense is geared around the spread short passing game. Two areas of concern for CCS are turnovers (they lost three of five fumbles last week) and stopping the run (Boyd-Buchanan rushed for 260 yards and had more than 300 total).
Storyline: The toughest part of any rebuilding project for a coaching staff is to get players to believe they can win close games. New Marion coach Mac McCurry got the program to take a huge step in the right direction last week. The Warriors rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half, then held on to stop a late Grundy drive and claimed the season-opening win. After allowing no points in the second half, the next step for the Warriors is to go on the road and repeat that level of intensity and confidence. If Marion is to do that, it will need more balance on offense. Running back Blake Zeman ran for 155 yards and three TDs, including a 57-yarder to put the Warriors ahead, but they attempted just three passes. Bledsoe likely will stack the box to stop the run and force Marion to throw more tonight.
Storyline: The Battle of White Oak Mountain II shifts eastward this year. Being home proved to be fruitful last year for the Owls, who won handily. Some of the players from that first matchup have received diplomas since then -- more from Ooltewah than East Hamilton. The Owls scuffled on offense last week, but they managed to hold Brainerd to less than 100 yards of offense, forced three turnovers and registered a shutout. Slowing the Hurricanes looks to be a more difficult task. Logan Jackson's 185 yards rushing against SIgnal Mountain were 6 more than Ooltewah's top three rushers combined, and he ran for five touchdowns. The run firmly established early, quarterback Hunter Moore was able to go 8-for-8 passing for 183 yards with two more touchdowns. Ooltewah could use another all-around effort from Alex Doss, whose contributions last Friday included making an interception, blocking a punt and catching a TD pass.
Storyline: On the strength of a safety and two Denzel Boyd touchdowns, the Chargers went up on archrival McMinn County 16-6 during the first half of their season-opening game. But that's where the fun stopped and they ended up losing by 20. The Fighting Irish didn't have any problem finishing off their game last week, thanks to two kickoff returns and a punt return going for touchdowns that helped build an early lead on Grace Academy. Several youngsters played throughout the second half with freshman running back Ricky Ballard tacking on the last TD. Classmate Alex Darras took over at quarterback late in the first quarter last week for sophomore Tanner Webb, who remains out with a sprained ankle.
Storyline: The game is the official re-opening of Don Patterson Stadium, which was completely rebuilt after the April 2011 tornado. Tigers coach Robert Akins is not concerned that his team will get caught up in the emotion of the night. He is, however, worried about the Dalton running game, featuring senior quarterback Cole Calfee and sophomore running back Kelvis Rhodes. The Catamounts hope to feature more of a passing attack this year, which means more work for underrated receiver Brandon Dale and tight end Will Erwin.
Storyline: The Mustangs have a chance to do something they haven't done since the end of the 2008 regular season: Win back-to-back games. To do that, they'll have to defeat a speedy Wildcats team by taking away opportunities on the edges -- which will be huge considering their opponents' overall team speed. Walker Valley also will have to win the battle up front to open gaps for tailback Gabe Cartwright -- who surpassed 100 yards rushing last week -- as well as take care of the ball, not wanting to duplicate the four turnovers they had against East Ridge.
Storyline: The Blue Raiders try to avoid their second straight 0-2 start as they entertain the Fighting Irish in their home opener. The visitors' biggest strength is in their experience, with five offensive linemen, their best running back and a tight end all seniors in the system. The Raiders will have to grow quickly considering they almost 400 yards rushing in last Saturday's loss to Maryville, while also attempting to get some balance in their attack. They showed promise in the passing game with almost 400 yards through the air, yet proved inefficient in the run game.
Storyline: The Cherokees look to spoil the official return to the McCallie sideline of coach Ralph Potter, by doing something they haven't done the past three seasons -- defeat the Blue Tornado to start the season. The edge in the trenches might actually favor the Cherokees, and they'll hope to spring their backs to take advantage of an aggressive McCallie defense. The game might hinge on the other side of the ball, though, as the Blue Tornado scored 49 first-half points on the eventual District 5-AAA champions on the way to a 56-34 victory last season. How the Cherokees start their home opener will determine the difference.