(All kickoffs at 7 p.m. local time)
SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (6-5) at COPPER BASIN COUGARS (6-4)
Stars: South Pittsburg lost its top RB at the time, Corbin Fitzgerald (700 rushing yards), to injury in the seventh game. Chase Blevins came on to be the leading rusher with 982 yards, and Triston Adams took advantage of more playing time and ran for 615. QB Kitt Grider threw for 718. Backs Qunatavious Brown, Aaron English and Jackson Ledford are familiar names for Copper Basin, thanks in large part to the work done by the offensive line.
Storyline: If history counts for anything, the Pirates have a state-playoff record of 67-25 with 11 finals appearances and five titles. Copper Basin has no finals appearances. But only tonight counts now. Both teams handled Lookout Valley this year and lost to Boyd-Buchanan, although South Pittsburg hung tough at home against the Buccaneers while the Cougars struggled against the Bucs on the road. The Pirates hosted and got by Clay County 36-34 last week in a first-round matchup. Copper Basin had a bye into the second round. The winner will play the Midway-Monterey winner.
Key matchup: Copper Basin's fortunes are determined by whether it can overpower its opponent. South Pittsburg should have an edge in team speed. The Cougars rely heavily on offensive-line play in particular. South Pittsburg's linemen are undersized in comparison, so the burden falls to them in hanging in on defense and creating some creases on offense. The Pirates may be able to pop some big gainers if they can get past the first wave of defenders. It's ball control vs. big plays to determine the winner.
Coach's quote: "We've just got to stay low and use leverage. It's the same thing you learn the day you start playing football: Low man wins." -- South Pittsburg coach Tim Moore
JACKSON COUNTY BLUE DEVILS (7-4) at MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (9-1)
Stars: Jackson County depends heavily on QB Josh Mee, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, and it likes to run with him or freshman Colby Long. Blake Zeman is a Mr. Football finalist as a back and also the Warriors' leading tackler.
Storyline: The Blue Devils will run Mee from multiple offensive looks, and they love to play pressure football defensively from a 4-3 alignment. Marion actually might throw a little more often depending on whether the pressure is coming up the middle or from the outside. Jackson County has won two of its last three but before that endured a three-game skid. Marion has won six straight. The winner moves on to play the Trousdale County-Middle Tennessee Christian winner.
Key matchup: Much falls on the OL and Zeman, but the Warriors have been adept at using Zeman as a decoy at times, which might help diffuse the Blue Devils' blitzes. On defense, the key for the Warriors is to hit the QB and search for what's left.
Coach's quote: "We have to stop their quarterback and we have to handle their pressure, and like any big game you have to have ball security and eliminate (their) big plays." -- Marion County coach Ricky Ross
UPPERMAN BEES (7-4) at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (10-1)
Stars: Upperman QB Bailey Phillips is one of those dual-threat types and he's as likely to run as he is to pass to Ben Guffey or Cody Leckenby or hand off to Austin Butler. Notre Dame RB Auston Banks has been his team's offensive spark, but the Irish also have a speedy receiver in Louisville-bound Kareem Orr. LB Tyler Enos has been strong in the middle of Notre Dame defense, while Upperman has been led by LB Dylon Cushing. Bees LT Daniel Withers (6-6 265) is a college prospect.
Storyline: Upperman ended Notre Dame's 2013 playoff run, so the Irish, hosting this year, are likely thinking about moving on via payback. The winner will play the Red Bank-McMinn Central winner. Notre Dame would host.
Key matchup: Can the Notre Dame defense, which has given up seven or fewer points in seven games, corral Phillips all night? He has thrown for 1,606 yards and run for 1,080. On the other hand, can Upperman keep Notre Dame's big-play capabilities at bay throughout? The Irish have benefited greatly all season from scoring plays of 50 or more yards and also are dangerous in the kickoff- and punt-return games.
Coach's quote: "We played them last year and squeaked out a 19-10 win, and they basically return the same team from last year and we lost 19 seniors. In order to be successful in this game we have to eliminate turnovers and make them sustain drives." -- Upperman coach Ben Herron
RED BANK LIONS (7-4) at McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS (9-2)
Stars: Red Bank senior Malik Davis has settled in at QB. He had two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns last week. He also intercepted two passes from his CB position. RB Demarcus Rivers, behind a strong offensive line, can change the game with one run. Chargers LB Luke Davis has the task of keeping both Lions in front of him. RB Jackson Long has 1,242 yards and 13 TDs this season for McMinn Central.
Storyline: The Lions haven't marched this deep into the playoffs since 2010. The Chargers haven't won more than one playoff game since before their freshmen were born.
Key matchup: Red Bank's defensive line limited Bledsoe County to 52 rushing yards in the opening week of the playoffs. DT Jaylen Moore won't play head to head against Chargers tackle Joe Croft, but Croft's teammate must provide space for Long and QB Jackson Guy to gain yards.
Coach's quote: "We're going to have to play our best game to give ourselves a chance. Their defensive front is real good, and their skill guys are crazy athletic. They're good all over the field. We're going to have to keep our tabs on Davis all night long. He's all over the field. Containing him is going to be our biggest challenge." -- McMinn Central coach Josh Goodin.
HIXSON WILDCATS (9-2) at LIVINGSTON ACADEMY WILDCATS (10-1)
Stars: Hixson RB James Cole is 36 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season, but the team's rushing attack is multi-pronged. Tarik Twitty-Humphrey has 729 yards, Marshall Cooper has 643 and QB Preston Wilkey has 432. Wilkey also has thrown for 480 yards in a veer offense.
Storyline: Livingston's loss was at Hixson on Sept. 26. Since then it has won six straight, averaging 46.1 points per game, including last week's 42-7 win over Central. The winner will play the Loudon-Signal Mountain wnner.
Key matchup: Livingston must be able to handle Hixson's offensive line, and few defenses actually see a veer offense. But Livingston has the advantage of having played Hixson previously. The 34 points Hixson gave up in that first meeting were the second-most it has given up all season (the most being 49 in a season-opening, 13-point loss to Class 5A Soddy-Daisy).
Coach's quote: "That last game was a barn-burner, back-and-forth. We gave up 49 points in our first game, and from there to where we are now is a miracle. We've always said you can't win big if you don't play good defense." -- Hixson coach Dan Duff
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (9-2) at LOUDON REDSKINS (11-0)
Stars: Loudon QB Travis Brewer has thrown for 1,274 yards and 18 TDs with no interceptions, and Josh Jackson has rushed for 1,195 yards and 23 TDs. The top receiver is Tyler Ferguson (59 catches, 882 yards, 11 TDs). Led by LB Chris Moore, Signal's defense has averaged 10 lost-yardage tackles per game. RB Kaleb Menzel is 46 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, and FB Hunter VanDyken enters the game with four straight 100-yard rushing efforts.
Storyline: The Redskins feel they have something to prove to critics who say they haven't played a tough schedule while the Eagles are looking forward to the challenge of facing an unbeaten team. What Loudon critics point to is that Redskins opponents compiled a 37-77 record and just three of them made the playoffs. Signal opponents, meanwhile, had a cumulative record of 58-60 and eight of its 11 opponents to date are or were playoff teams. Both teams average about 12 passes per game. The winner will play the Hixson-Livingston winner.
Key matchup: Loudon has been relatively balanced offensively, and the Redskins defense will have a serious challenge against a big offensive unit that loves to pound with its running game. Signal looked susceptible to the pass last week but played a "don't-get-beat-deep" coverage in the second half after blowing out to a 42-3 halftime lead over DeKalb County.
Coach's quote: "This game will be a tremendous challenge for us up front. We have faced big guys and we have faced speed, but we have not faced the size and athletic bodies Signal will bring. I do not know how we will match up. So for me the game revolves around the matchup in the trenches on both sides of the ball." -- Loudon coach Jeff Harig
OOLTEWAH OWLS (11-0) at RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (11-0)
Stars: Ooltewah's potent passing attack is directed by QB Kelvin Leon, who has completed 65.8 percent of his 319 passes for 2,748 yards and 29 TDs. Edward Hayes is his top target with 74 catches for 1,034 yards and 17 TDs. Jeremiah Jackson is the Owls' defensive leader in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. K Laszlo Toser has made 15 of 19 FGs with a long of 52 yards and 51 of 52 PATs. Zack Daoust is Rhea's rushing leader with 1,229 yards. Cody Bice has added 916 and Jacob York has contributed 718. All three have more than 100 carries, and each has run for 11 TDs. Tyler Pendleton is the team's tackles leader.
Storyline: Not long into this year's regular season this began to develop as a likely postseason matchup, but one perhaps better suited for a later round. Rhea County favors the running game, but coach Mark Pemberton insists his team also puts in a substantial amount of practice time into its passing game. Ooltewah likes to air it out frequently with its backs heavily involved in the passing game, too. A variety of wheel and flat routes by the RBs supplement the running game. These teams met in the last two jamborees at Finley Stadium with Rhea winning 14-7 in 2013 and Ooltewah winning 7-0 this season. The winner gets the Cleveland-Oak Ridge winner.
Key matchup: How much success each team has defensively will be critical, but to narrow it to one encounter it would be the Eagles' offensive line vs. the Owls' front seven. Ooltewah coach Mac Bryan said it may be beneficial that his team had to prepare for a similar type wing-T offense in Stone Memorial last week. He added that Rhea has several hard-charging ball carriers and while tackling is always key, it's a especially so against a team looking to pile up first downs on the way to the end zone.
Coach's quote: "This is a big game in the playoffs, but we're going to prepare for it like all the others. If you get too high or too low, that's when you make mistakes." -- Rhea County coach Mark Pemberton.<style type="text/css"></style>
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (6-5) at OAK RIDGE WILDCATS (11-0)
Stars: Cleveland RB T.J. Parker went over the 1,000-yard mark in the 10-7 win over Clinton last week. He's ninth in the Chattanooga area in yards per game at 105.9. Wideout Isaiah Beaty is the Blue Raiders' biggest receiving threat, with four touchdowns in six games. LB Ben Wyrick has 154 total tackles. For the Wildcats, WR Tee Higgins is the biggest threat, with numerous SEC offers, but the RB duo of T.J. Allison and Jaylen Nickerson combined for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
Storyline: With undefeated teams Rhea County and Ooltewah playing, this has become the "other" game in Class 5A's second quadrant. These storied programs haven't met since 1988, and each has had its ups and downs in recent memory but recently has started to trend upward. The Wildcats had their first undefeated regular season since 1999, while the Raiders are a season removed from three road victories on their way to the state semifinals. The winner gets the winner of the Rhea County-Ooltewah game.
Key matchup: Cleveland has been trying to control the pace of play, using Parker's abilities in the backfield to grind out yards. If it can control the clock and keep moving the chains, it will limit the possessions and opportunities of an explosive Wildcats attack that had 457 yards of total offense against Soddy-Daisy last week.
Coach's quote: "They have a lot of pure athleticism, with great athletes that are good with the ball. We're going to have to play well and limit our mistakes to win." -- Cleveland coach Ron Crawford
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (7-4) at CHRISTIAN BROTHERS PURPLE WAVE (6-4)
Stars: Christian Brothers is led by QB Keegan Voss and RB Austin Lee, and there's little secret to what the Purple Wave like to do -- they want to run. Baylor's offense revolves around QB Nick Tiano, obviously their leading passer but also the Red Raiders' leading rusher.
Storyline: CBHS is not a smoke-and-mirrors team. The Wave intend to run the football. While it is a trip of five-plus hours for the Red Raiders, coach Phil Massey felt good about the travel plans, which included departing at 9 a.m. and making two stops along the way before arriving in Memphis in time for a pregame meal. CBHS has more depth than Baylor and likely will play more people. For that reason the Red Raiders must be on their toes at all times in all phases of the game. The winner will play the MBA-McCallie winner.
Key matchup: For CBHS, it's easy -- stop Tiano -- but that's easier said than done. Tiano is a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder with surprising agility for a young man with tight end size. The Baylor defensive staff has spent all week dissecting the CBHS offense, and it comes down to being physical and keeping a handle on Voss.
Coach's quote: "Obviously to get to this point and to have this opportunity is exciting. It's going to be a physical football game. I think playing in this league (with at least two annual trips to Nashville) prepares you to travel, and I think we're mature enough to travel well. I expect guys to make this a mission trip." -- Baylor coach Phil Massey.
McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (9-2) at MBA BIG RED (8-2)
Stars: McCallie's Alex Trotter has run for more than 2,000 yards this season, but the Blue Tornado also have a standout QB in JaVaughn Craig, who runs and passes well. MBA QB Cole Euverard has passed for 1,497 yards and also run for 546.
Storyline: The teams played Oct. 31 and the Big Red won a shootout 58-41. Too, MBA had a first-round playoff bye last week. McCallie lost three players two weeks ago to concussions and only one has been cleared to play tonight. Also, flu is making the rounds through the school and the team has not been spared. The winner will play the Christian Brothers-Baylor winner, meaning a Baylor-McCallie rematch could be in the making.
Key matchup: McCallie must do a better job on Euverard and his receivers and the McCallie defense has lagged. Since giving up six points in its first two games, McCallie has surrendered an average of 32.2 points.
Coach's quote: "We gave up 14 points in the first minute last time. We have to do a better job on kick coverage and on defense. We gave up a kick return for a TD and had two coverage busts that went for touchdowns." -- McCallie coach Ralph Potter.
SALEM SEMINOLES (6-4) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (8-2)
Stars: Salem, coached by former Chattooga boss John Starr, is sparked by junior QB Gerald Walker and dangerous WRs Kanome McIntosh, D.J. Carter and Justin Marshall in an offense that relies more on the pass than the run. Dalton's offense, shut down for the first time last week at Kell, is led by QB Payton Veraldi, backs Kelvis Rhodes and Tyler Noland and WRs Peter Sigmon and Zek Cobb.
Storylines: The Seminoles are in the playoffs for the first time in seven years, while Dalton is seeking its first home playoff win since 2005. The key for the Catamounts is putting pressure on Walker without having to blitz.
Key matchup: Dalton CB Jordon McKinney vs. Salem WR McIntosh, who can turn even the shortest route into a touchdown with strong after-the-catch skills.
Coach's quote: "Salem is a team that's going to keep punching you and punching you until they hit you with a big play." -- Dalton coach Matt Land
SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (6-4) at BUFORD WOLVES (10-0)
Stars: The Raiders have a dynamic playmaker in QB Will Swantic, who can make good things happen when plays break down and has 1,700 total yards. Southeast also has a strong rushing duo in Tyler Brown and Devon Fields and reliable WR in Colter Faith and Corey Barnes. Buford has too many stars to list, with as many as 10 major college recruits in its junior and senior class. Among the brightest are LB/FB Joshua Thomas, G Nick Polino, S David Curry and University of Tennessee commitments DT Quay Picou and LB Austin Smith.
Storylines: Regardless of outcome, Southeast's season has been an unbridled success in ending a 30-year playoff drought. To keep the score close, a Southeast defense thinned by the loss of leading tackler Cody Gillean to injury will have to make the Wolves put together long drives, and the offense will have to avoid turnovers.
Key matchup: Southeast's offensive line vs. the Buford defensive front. Any chance the Raiders have of making this a game lies up front.
Coach's quote: "Buford is one of the top programs in the country, so for us this is a learning process. I can guarantee you my guys will not stop fighting until the final whistle." -- Southeast coach Sean Gray
ROCKMART YELLOW JACKETS (3-7) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (10-0)
Stars: Rockmart's offense is reliant on big plays, and most of them revolve around RBs J.C. Lovelace and Jermonte Thompson. Calhoun's offense, which has produced a string of 50-plus point games, is paced by QB Kaelen Riley and hard-running backs Cole Jackson and Olico Dennis. The defense, though, is the strength of the team, led by E Landon Rice and active LBs Austin Bennett, Jireh Wilson and Tristen Fuller.
Storylines: Few teams have been able to consistently move the ball on Calhoun, so unless Rockmart can produce big plays this game could get out of hand quickly. Rockmart holds a 14-12-1 edge in the series, though Calhoun has won the last six.
Key matchup: For Rockmart it's the offensive line vs. the Calhoun defensive front. Any chance of a ground game for the visitors starts with keeping Rice and Co. out of the backfield.
Coach's quote: "We were able to scout Rockmart Monday in their mini game, and they have some nice athletes with speed. We need to keep the big plays in check." -- Calhoun coach Hal Lamb
SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (6-4) at CENTRAL-CARROLL LIONS (10-0)
Stars: RB Brandon Bendy has more than 1,000 rushing yards this season. Noseguard Kenny Cooper's stats aren't noticeable, but he may be the best in all of north Georgia, according to coach Jim Kremer. LB Jonathan Novicki tends to finish what Cooper starts.
Storyline: The Phoenix are building a program. They reached the playoffs last year but were smashed by traditional power Buford. Has the Phoenix's region scheduled prepared them for the playoffs?
Key matchup: The Phoenix have nicknamed Lions FB/DE Jaleen Terry "The Predator." Beside him are speedy RBs Demarious Owensby and Jaleel Terry.
Coach's quote: "We feel like we're moving in the right direction. These kids want to go out and beat somebody we're not supposed to beat." -- Sonoraville coach Jim Kremer
RINGGOLD TIGERS (8-2) at CALLAWAY CAVALIERS (6-4)
Stars: Callaway has the biggest star on the field in University of Georgia commitment Terry Godwin, a supreme athlete who likely will play WR in college but is the Cavaliers' QB. Callaway, though, also has a talented RB in Eddie Culpepper and Godwin's top receiving target, sophomore Braylon Sanders. Ringgold counters with strong RBs in Kile Sholl and D.L. Goins and speedy receiver Garrett Yates, who is averaging more than 20 yards per catch as Devin Lancaster's favorite target.
Storylines: The Cavaliers lost a heartbreaker last week to undefeated region rival Central of Carrollton when a potential game-winning field goal was blocked and returned for a touchdown on the game's final play. How well can they get over that loss?
Key matchup: Ringgold's defensive line, led by Zach Morris, against Callaway's 300-pound tackles, Kieric Foster and Harley Taber. If Godwin and Culpepper have consistent running room, the Tigers will have to win a shootout.
Coach's quote: "Godwin is so tough to defend in that, as the quarterback, he touches the ball on every play, but he's also got a lot of good people around him. They can beat you a lot of different ways." -- Ringgold coach Robert Akins
CHATTOOGA INDIANS (4-6) at RABUN COUNTY WILDCATS (8-2)
Stars: QB Isaac Foster and his twin, RB Isaiah, have accounted for more than half of the Indians' offensive output this season. DE/WR Dee McCutchins is a big target and FB Tyler Griffin is a productive blocker. The Wildcats are led by QB Colin Grant, and RB Charlie Woerner who is 6-5, 225.
Storyline: Chattaooga last made the playoffs in 2009, but Lovett won 45-7 in the first round then. Chattooga hasn't won a playoff game this century.
Key matchup: The Indians would like to slow the Wildcats' inside running game because the athlets are about equal on the outside.
Coach's quote: "They're going to show a lot of action out the backfield, a lot of misdirection action. If we can stop their game in the box, I feel good about our chances." -- Chattooga coach Charles Hammon