The Ooltewah and Cleveland football teams were selected as two of the state's top Class 5A teams in a preseason poll.
They were regarded in a similar fashion in their own district on Wednesday.
The teams were selected as the favorites to claim the District 5-AAA title at the media day event at The Bridge in Ooltewah Wednesday afternoon. The Blue Raiders were pegged as the favorites according to the media by the slightest of margins -- each had six first-place votes, with Cleveland tallying 89 total points to Ooltewah's 88 -- while the Owls had five first-place votes and 46 points to get the nod from the coaches.
Cleveland received the two other first-place votes and had 37 points.
The two, along with East Hamilton, finished in a three-way tie for the 2013 title, with Ooltewah getting the nod as the district champion. Cleveland advanced to the 5A semifinals before falling to Knoxville West.
The Owls return nine starters on defense, along with dynamic playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
"I think there's a lot of success and tradition between Cleveland, East Hamilton and us," Ooltewah coach Mac Bryan said. "I believe it's going to be a very close race. I told our guys that we have the talent to be a good team, but if we don't bring our 'A' game every week, we won't win."
Cleveland lost some key players from their first 10-win season since 1996 but do return four starters on the offensive line and a pair of running backs that combined for over 2,100 yards rushing in 2013.
"It's flattering that we were picked first," Cleveland coach Ron Crawford said. "Now, we can choose either let it weigh us down or motivate us."
East Hamilton was selected third in both polls, and Walker Valley and Soddy-Daisy were chosen sixth and seventh in both, respectively. Bradley Central was fourth in the coaches' poll, while McMinn was fourth in the media poll.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.