EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (7-1) at RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (7-1)
Storyline: This is playoff preparation between two ranked teams in different districts, but the same postseason Class 5A grouping. It's possible they'll meet again in the early playoff rounds. The Hurricanes and quarterback Hunter Moore will throw on any down. The Eagles and quarterback Austin Dotson use the pass as a sneak attack out of their option offense, but they do so with precision. As a result, Hurricanes coach Ted Gatewood has preached all week, "Do your job."
SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (3-6, 0-4) at BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (4-4, 1-3)
Storyline: They look like a possibility for the playoffs, but the Bears are there barely (No. 30 of 32) in the latest TSSAA mathematical figuring, so there's something to play for, even if it's a postseason game on the road. They finished last week's loss to McMinn without QB Brett Standifer (ankle). Trojans, who are just out of the state's top 32 for Class 5A teams, have 30-plus sophomores and freshmen on their two-deep roster.
HIXSON WILDCATS (6-2, 4-0) at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (4-4, 2-3)
Storyline: Hixson can lock up the District 6-AA championship with a win or an East Ridge loss tonight. The Pounders are playing to keep their playoff hopes alive. Central has been a Jekyll-Hyde team, but Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald says the Pounders are loaded with talent and the scariest-looking team he's seen on tape.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (6-2) at GREENEVILLE DEVILS (8-0)
Storyline: The Eagles' mindset is on winning the nondistrict game and locking up the 7-AA championship. They can beat Greeneville and lose at Sequatchie next week and still have the title on a tiebreaker. The Eagles have gone from a senior offensive line to start season to four of the five being underclassmen, including Harrison Moon moving from RE to T. Two of the OL starters (Cole Sitton, concussion; Micah Presley, back) could play but are likely to be held out. Signal is the area's highest-ranked 4A team in the TSSAA standings, while Greeneville is No. 2.
TYNER RAMS (2-6, 2-2) at EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (4-4, 3-1)
Storyline: If not for having to forfeit a pair of games, the Rams could boast a four-game win streak. Their offense will throw numerous offensive formations and blitz schemes at the Pioneers. Both teams are fielding fairly good defenses and special teams. East Ridge will be without Ryan Young, its 6-foot-6, 350-pound tackle. The winner of this one likely will finish second in 6-AA. The Pioneers last beat Tyner in 1996, 20-19 in overtime.
FATHER RYAN FIGHTIN' IRISH (5-3, 2-2) at McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (3-5, 1-3)
Storyline: McCallie will be looking to end a five-game losing streak and scramble back up the Division II East/Middle playoff pecking order. The Tornado had been scoring a lot of points, but their average production in the last three games fell to 14.6. The Irish have scored 47 or more in two of their last three games behind QB Ryan Towns (961 yards, 9 TDs), RB Joseph Holzmer (473 yards), WR Tyler Shoop (473) and RB Dekeivis Perry (282 rushing/218 receiving).
GRUNDY COUNTY YELLOW JACKETS (3-5, 2-2) at CUMBERLAND COUNTY JETS (1-8)
Storyline: The coaches haven't mentioned playoff possibilities to the Yellow Jackets, but the postseason is a possibility. If they win one of their last two they'll be on the bubble, but coach Nick Bryant said he is hoping to keep his team focused on this next game. The one-win Jets throw the ball often. Grundy has switched out of a spread offense into an I formation with the idea of run first, pass second. The Jackets' offensive line has been creating lanes and Bryant said the backs have been taking advantage of them. If they get by the Jets, then will they turn their attention to Notre Dame.
BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (2-6) at SILVERDALE BAPTIST SEAHAWKS (8-0)
Storyline: Any way it's cut, the Seahawks are stepping up the competition. A team with a Class 1A enrollment playing up in Class 2A, Silverdale will be hosting a Class 3A team that has shown spurts in games all season before letting the wheels fall off. They were toe-to-toe with opponents in four of the six losses before the wheels fell off, and the Silverdale staff is just hoping this isn't the week the Warriors keep their game on point for four quarters. SBA is 8-0 for the first time in school history and striving to better last year's 10-2 record and win its first District 5-A title.
HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (1-7, 0-4) at RED BANK LIONS (2-6, 2-2)
Storyline: Although they have six losses overall, the Lions remain mathematically in the 6-AA playoff race. Both teams have struggled, Red Bank to pass the ball and Howard to score. The Lions have lost three in a row since a 37-14 win at Central, which defeated Tigers 44-16 last week. This is the first time since 2003 that Red Bank has had back-to-back losing seasons.
JACKSON COUNTY BLUE DEVILS (4-4) at GRACE ACADEMY (2-6)
Storyline: The Blue Devils base their offense on the rushing game (225-yard average) but also throw for 174 per game behind RB Joseph Walton and QB Jared Medlin. Grace will try to get its offense -- RBs Will Slack and James Rowell, in particular -- back on track after being stifled last week by Silverdale Baptist Academy.
COALFIELD YELLOWJACKETS (6-2) at NOTRE DAME IRISH (5-3)
Storyline: There will be a handful of college prospects on the field and one of those has committed already -- Coalfield two-way lineman Zach Stewart (6-4, 298), a junior who committed to Tennessee last March. It should be interesting, though, to see how he and his teammates handle Irish WR Kareem Orr and RB Auston Banks. Both have made unofficial visits to Tennessee and Ohio State.
HARRIMAN BLUE DEVILS (3-6, 0-5) at MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (2-6, 0-4)
Storyline: The Tigers dropped a heartbreaker, 15-14 at Midway, last week after putting up season highs in passing yards and total offense the previous week. This is the avoidance bowl; the loser likely will wind up at the bottom of District 3-A rest of year. Harriman is led by senior lineman Xavier Ewing and back Brantley Taylor.
McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (3-5, 2-2) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (3-5, 0-4)
Storyline: McMinn looks to continue its late-season momentum tonight against a struggling Walker Valley team that has been blown out in its previous four games. The Cherokees have received solid QB play from Corbin Powers, who had a big game in the team's surprisingly easy 28-8 win over Bradley Central last week, and have won two of their last three.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (7-1, 4-0) at CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (6-3, 4-1)
Storyline: The Blue Raiders look to put a damper in the Owls' hopes for the regular-season District 5-AAA championship, as well as thrust themselves further into the conversation with a win. The visitors used their bye week as an opportunity to get some players healthy -- none more important than RB Desmond Pittman, who after sitting two games out with a knee injury will be ready to go.
ENSWORTH TIGERS (7-0) AT BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (5-3, 2-3)
Storyline: Since every Division II-AA team gets into the playoffs regardless of record, the Red Raiders are simply playing for a higher seed at this point in the season. But tonight, they're also measuring themselves against the best team in the state, regardless of classification. The Tigers are nationally ranked and led by RB Andre Ferby (993 yards) and QB P.J. Settles (887 passing yards). Baylor has not played well against midstate competition so far this season.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (7-1) AT CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (2-6)
Storyline: The biggest concern for Marion might be making sure the players aren't looking ahead to next week's huge showdown against rival South Pittsburg, which will determine the District 6-A championship. The Warriors are physical up front and no opponent has slowed all-state running back Blake Zeman to this point. Zeman ranks among the area's leaders not only in rushing and scoring but also in tackles for loss and fumbles recovered.
POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (7-1) AT SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (7-1)
Storyline: As is usually the case when these teams meet, both are state-ranked -- the Wildcats are No. 6 in 3A and the Pirates just took over 1A's No. 1 ranking this week. There won't be many passes thrown as both teams rely heavily on old-school running games. Two of the area's leading rushers -- Polk's Zach Miller and South Pittsburg's Jajuan Lankford -- will be putting on a show, but with very different running styles. The 235-pound Miller is a bulldozer, while Lankford can juke and outrun most defenders.
BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (3-5) AT SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (4-4)
Storyline: Both teams are still trying to find answers in certain areas as they prepare for respective district showdowns next week. The Bucs know senior QB Jim Cardwell is a playmaker, but their young defense must become more consistent, while the Indians' lack of speed opens them up to big-play potential. Neither team can afford to look past this game to their district title-deciding matchups next Friday.
LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (0-8) AT COPPER BASIN COUGARS (0-8)
Storyline: Both teams are running out of chances to notch a win this season. The Cougars have been closer to getting a win this season, even taking Boyd-Buchanan to the wire last week before a late score gave the Bucs a seven-point escape. With both rosters being made up of so many young players, any positive steps in building toward next year would be big.
RICHLAND RAIDERS (0-8) AT WHITWELL TIGERS (4-5)
Storyline: The Tigers just need to take care of business the way they have throughout the second half of the season. Relying on a ground game that picks up steam each week and is led by hard-running Clay McHone, Whitwell has put itself in position that a win likely will ensure it a playoff spot. Richland has struggled on both sides of the ball, getting outscored 334-62 to this point.
NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (6-1, 2-1) at SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (4-3, 2-1)
Storyline: A Southeast win tonight throws the final play-in spot in Georgia Region 7B-AAAA up for grabs, while a Northwest win in all essence establishes the top three for the week 10 games, with the Raiders on the outside looking in. Any shot Southeast has of pulling off the upset hinges on the defense's ability to slow the Northwest passing game with QB Caleb Shiflett and dangerous WRs Tevin McDaniel and Andy Whisenant.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS (5-2, 3-0) at HERITAGE GENERALS (1-6, 1-2)
Storyline: Dalton is playing its best football of the season, led by a defense that has gotten stingier by the week and an offense that is growing behind the improved play of QB Payton Veraldi. The biggest area of improvement with the Catamounts, though, is the offensive front, where tackle Jake Roberts is leading a potent ground game. Can the Generals hold their own up front?
RIDGELAND PANTHERS (2-5, 1-2) at LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (0-7, 0-3)
Storyline: The Panthers close out with two very winnable games in 7B-AAAA, but the goal for Mark Mariakis' team is more than just winning. Ridgeland moved the ball well against Northwest a week ago as backs Caderius Word and Calvin Davenport each eclipsed 100 yards, but a lack of a passing threat bogged down several drives. This is the perfect week for the Panthers to see what freshman QB Ivy Boehm can do.
RINGGOLD TIGERS (6-1, 4-0) at COAHULLA CREEK COLTS (2-5, 1-3)
Storyline: Ringgold appears to be rolling toward a week 10 Region 5-AAA championship showdown at Cartersville, but the Tigers need to avoid looking ahead against an improving Coahulla Creek team still eyeing a possible playoff spot. Any upset shot the Colts have means slowing Ringgold QB Slade Dale and playmakers Kile Sholl, D.L. Goins and Christian Plott.
NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS (1-6, 0-4) at LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (3-4, 2-2)
Storyline: The Warriors are suddenly in the driver's seat for a playoff spot in 5-AAA, but the Mountaineers are a dangerous one-win team with a potent offense revolving around QB Hinton McConkey. LFO found its ground game a week ago as senior Jacob Gilbert had a breakout game. Establishing the run tonight is the key for the Warriors.
ARMUCHEE INDIANS (1-6, 1-3) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (6-1, 4-0)
Storyline: The struggling Indians will have a hard time keeping the clock from running in the second half against a Calhoun team starting to find its offensive legs under QB Fields Chapman and his two explosive receivers, Tydus and Chandler Curtis. The Austin Byrd-led defense is quickly becoming one of coach Hal Lamb's best.
GORDON CENTRAL WARRIORS (1-6, 1-3) at SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (2-5, 2-2)
Storyline: This could be a gross county-rivalry game. Gordon Central's first year under veteran coach David Humphreys continues to be a head-scratcher. The Warriors' first team has scored a total of eight touchdowns. The Phoenix haven't fared much better except for games against far inferior teams.
TRION BULLDOGS (4-2, 1-1) at GORDON LEE TROJANS (3-3, 0-2)
Storyline: The 78th renewal of this intense rivalry has immense playoff implications in Region 6A-A. The region championship is already out of reach for both teams since each has lost to first-place Darlington, but the winner will have a leg up in the power rankings that will determine the 16 public school teams. The key tonight will be in the trenches, where the Trojans have slipped in recent weeks and the Bulldogs, led by Daulton Hegwood (6-2, 295) and Bret Peterson (6-3, 275), appear to have an edge.
CHATTOOGA INDIANS (2-5, 2-2) at PEPPERELL DRAGONS (1-6, 1-3)
Storyline: The Indians were close to having a legitimate three-game winning streak before Coosa snapped it at two with a six-point win last week. The Dragons are ripe for the picking after beating Coosa then losing three straight and scoring just one touchdown in those three games combined.
MURRAY COUNTY INDIANS (1-6, 0-4) at DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (4-3, 2-2)
Storyline: The Indians are playing as they have in the recent years -- as the losing team. Their last four opponents have scored at least 41 points and their last two -- Model and Calhoun -- topped the 60-point mark. Dade played up to its potential last week in a 42-7 win over Armuchee.