All kickoffs for Tennessee playoffs are at 7 p.m. local time; all Georgia kickoffs are at 7:30 EST.
OAK RIDGE WILDCATS (10-1) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (9-2)
Stars: The biggest key to slowing the Wildcats is corralling WR Tee Higgins (6-4, 185), who has committed to Tennessee, is a Mr. Football semifinalist and is rated the state's top junior prospect. Higgins has more than 1,000 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns this season, including a punt return for a score. He also has 48 tackles and has picked off three passes, returning one of the interceptions for a touchdown. Freshman RB Jordan Graham has made a big difference since joining the starting lineup and also is a dangerous kick returner, while TE Darrell Middleton (6-6, 250) has committed to Arizona State and is a big-time weapon near the goal line, where the Wildcats can throw up a jump ball and allow him to go get it. For the Owls, Rashun Freeman is the biggest offensive weapon, and he's also a leader in the secondary. It's on defense where the Owls have been special this season, led by LBs Jeremiah Jackson and Tyler Reid.
Storyline: Oak Ridge is very balanced, running from the veer but with the threat of throwing to Higgins and letting him make plays in space. The outcome likely will be decided by the classic matchup of a high-scoring offense against a stingy defense. The Wildcats have averaged 47 points per game while winning eight straight games, while Ooltewah has given up seven or fewer points seven times. The two teams have beaten two common opponents (McMinn County and Soddy-Daisy) by similar scores.
RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (8-3) at FARRAGUT ADMIRALS (10-1)
Stars: The Eagles will face a three-pronged offensive attack: RB Tanner Thomas, QB Jacob Naumoff and WR Davis Simmons. Rhea County's wing-T scheme features backs Mason Stephenson, Cody Bice and Dylan Smith, and the defense is anchored by formidable LB Tyler Pendleton and DL James Sharp.
Storyline: Farragut is coming off a 30-point victory over Cleveland, and winning blowouts is something the Admirals have been doing all year. Last Friday was the sixth time they'd scored at least 40 points, and they've won their past three games by a combined score of 147-59. However, while Rhea County's offense is potent, especially with QB Daniel Dodson and receiver Noel Patterson, the Eagles' defense has given up a total of 45 points over the past five games and has shut out its past two opponents. These teams haven't met since 1998, and the Eagles' last win over Farragut came in 1993, the final season for legendary coach Bill Horton at Rhea County.
EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (7-4) at STONE MEMORIAL PANTHERS (11-0)
Stars: Cody Wyllins leads the Panthers' ground game with 1,376 yards, but two other players have been quality complements — Justin Johnson (982 yards) and Ethan Pierce (842). On defense, LB Nathan Stine is the leader. East Hamilton RB David Whiteside picked up another 100-yard game in a 14-7 loss two weeks ago at Stone Memorial, but the Hurricanes' passing game, led by QB Nick Woods, will have to pick it up.
Storyline: The Panthers don't like to throw, averaging fewer than five passes per game. They prefer to hang on to the ball and run the clock, much as they did in their win over the Hurricanes. While he isn't big on revenge, East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood wholeheartedly endorses rare second-chance opportunities, and this time his team should go into the game with all of its working parts.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (8-3) at EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (11-0)
Stars: No mention of East Ridge would be complete without RB Traneil Moore, the hard-running offseason transfer who came out of the blue to key the Pioneers on offense. However, the soft-spoken junior never speaks of his feats without mentioning his offensive line. The Pioneers' semi-unsung defense is led by LBs Lorenzo Stewart and Quasey Vinson and DB Jesse Jones (eight interceptions). The Chargers have no 1,000-yard rushers, but there are four backs with 200 or more yards: D.J. Toney, T.J. Smith, Mondo Ellis and Matthew Mercer. In 10 games, Mercer completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,118 yards. The Charger most often mentioned by opposing coaches is Brandon Mason, a receiver who also plays defense, although Nick Fulmer and Ian Gaines are the leading tacklers.
Storyline: CCS wasn't supposed to be here, but the Chargers pulled off a 23-22 road win over Region 4-3A runner-up DeKalb County in last week's opening round. The Pioneers and Chargers met previously, with East Ridge avoiding a three-way tie with CCS and Notre Dame for first place in Region 3-3A with a 28-13 victory in the final week of the regular season. There is obviously a revenge factor at play in this game, in addition to face-to-face knowledge of personnel and their pluses and minuses. East Ridge showed some susceptibility to screen passes last week, and Chargers coach Rob Spence undoubtedly took note of that. The winner will move on to face either Notre Dame or Upperman.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (8-3) at UPPERMAN BEES (9-2)
Stars: It would be hard to imagine Fighting Irish QB Alex Darras having a better game than he did last week against Sequatchie County, when the senior completed 14 of 15 passes. He also handles kickoffs (most of which he sends into the end zone), plus field goals and PATs. The Irish also have RB Ricky Ballard and RB/WR Andrew Banks behind an offensive line led by Robert Murphy. On defense, ball carriers are funneled to LB Tyler Enos, who's averaging double digits in tackles. As more of a finesse team, Upperman has QB Daylen Watts, who has thrown 24 touchdown passes to just six interceptions and has 2,387 passing yards. The Bees' rushing leaders are Jake Middlebrooks and Watts. Five receivers have at least 13 catches, led by Ben Guffey's 70.
Storyline: Notre Dame knows its way to Upperman. The Irish lost 19-10 to the Bees in the 2013 quarterfinals. This one could be interesting, specifically to see if the Irish can throttle the Bees' passing game with pressure and tight coverage, and whether they can contain dual-threat QB Watts. Notre Dame has shown it can hold its own in a scoring battle, outlasting Calhoun City, a state power in Mississippi, 57-46 during the regular season. The Notre Dame defense has progressed during the season and has allowed an average of 8.8 points in the past five games. Upperman has won seven straight, including a 19-14 victory over Sequatchie County, which Notre Dame beat 38-0 last week.
TYNER RAMS (8-3) at BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (11-0)
Stars: Boyd-Buchanan quarterback Cooper Hodge averages about 10 passes but also 74 rushing yards per game. Senior E.J. Matthews leads the Buccaneers with 1,184 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns this season, while Isaiah Dillard has 12 touchdowns. On defense, Boyd-Buchanan sophomore Will Watkins has 107 tackles and two interceptions. Tyner RB Shannon Spralls has 832 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine games, and he's complemented by Chaysen Patrick and Brandon Jackson, who have combined for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. With an average of 21.3 yards per catch, Juwan Samuels is the primary target in Tyner's passing attack.
Storyline: Tyner insists this game won't be like last time. First of all, the Rams have returned to full strength in the weeks since Boyd-Buchanan started them on a three-game slide with a 40-7 whipping in September. Also, seniors insist they're not ready for their season to end. The same can be said for the Bucs, of course. They reached the Class 2A semifinals in 2012 with a team that won 12 games. A win tonight matches that number, and a run to the state-title game would result in at least 14 wins this year. A perfect 15-0 record for Boyd-Buchanan would result in a shiny trophy.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (10-1) at FORREST ROCKETS (10-1)
Stars: Both teams boast a Mr. Football finalist — Forrest two-way lineman Boone Sweeney (6-0, 200) and Marion's versatile running back/kick returner Josh Henderson. The Rockets will make sure RB Slayton Wild (6-2, 220) gets plenty of carries, while the Warriors counter with a backfield by committee that includes Henderson, Hunter McClain and dual-threat QB Logan Walters. Marion junior LB Alex Kirkendoll is almost always around the ball making plays.
Storyline: The offensive styles will be a contrast as the Rockets will look to let Wild and his big offensive line wear down the Marion County front and control the clock. The Warriors have big-play capabilities in Henderson and Walters as runners, as well as several targets in the passing game. Both defenses have been stout all season, with Forrest allowing about 10 points per game; Marion County has given up a total of 16 points in its past four games.
FAYETTEVILLE TIGERS (9-2) at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (8-3)
Stars: Fayetteville's backfield is young but very dangerous. Junior Cain McWilliams (6-3, 220) is a load to stop, and sophomore Brandon Moore (5-10, 175) brings speed and shiftiness that makes for a good complement to McWilliams' power. Junior QB Austin Holdmeyer's dual-threat abilities will give the South Pittsburg defense another athlete to be concerned with. Fayetteville's line on both sides will be anchored by seniors Cole Roland (6-2, 285) and Adrian Stanescu (6-0, 250). The Pirates' defense is still a work in progress but has improved. Offensively, Chase Blevins has nearly 400 rushing yards over the past two games and has the speed to make teams defend sideline to sideline, while Sawyer Kelley and Garrett Raulston get most of their yardage between the tackles. Sophomore Cade Kennemore is a big-play threat as a receiver and kick returner for the Pirates.
Storyline: For the second straight week, the Pirates will be challenged by a team that likely has more athletes as well as more size. South Pittsburg's defense struggled to corral Mount Pleasant's athletic quarterback last week, with most of his big runs coming on scrambles. After a brutal schedule that included teams from larger classes for every nonregion game, the Pirates are finding a groove against competition at their own level. They have enough offensive weapons to sustain long drives or break off big runs on any snap. Whichever team limits the other's big plays likely will advance.
WHITWELL TIGERS (6-5) at COLUMBIA ACADEMY BULLDOGS (10-1)
Stars: Columbia Academy's Thomas Garrison can score when he carries the ball or when he kicks it — he was a Mr. Football finalist last year as a kicker — and QB Dylan Johnson has shown the ability to connect on deep passes. Three players have 10 rushing touchdowns for the Bulldogs: Garrison, Hudson Primm and Taylor Thompson. Whitwell FB Jake Sartin has 1,003 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games this season. Clay McHone complements that with 724 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 11 games, and Trace Condra is averaging more than 10 yards per carry for the Tigers.
Storyline: By defeating Moore County last week, the Tigers earned their first home victory in the playoffs since 1993 and their first postseason win at all since 2004. The Bulldogs have won 10 straight games since losing 42-41 to Franklin Road Academy in their season opener. That streak includes a 41-24 win at Whitwell on Oct. 23. The Bulldogs have scored at least 29 points in every game and more than 40 in all but one.
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (8-2) at MEMPHIS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OWLS (7-3)
Stars: MUS prefers its offensive yardage in chunks and has put its fate in the hands of QB Steven Regis, who has passed for 2,255 yards this season. However, along with 16 touchdown passes, Regis has 17 interceptions. He has four receivers, led by Jacob Love, with at least 240 yards. Baylor QB Wil Austin is just as much of a threat to run as to pass, especially with Ryan Parker leading the way. Parker, voted by coaches last year as Division II-AA's defensive player of the year, is a Mr. Football semifinalist. Baylor's defense also has benefited from the presence of safety Ulysses Strawter, who is second to Parker on the tackles chart.
Storyline: Both teams had first-round byes and thus basically two weeks to prepare for this game. Baylor went to Memphis last year for a second-round game and left with a 10-7 victory over Christian Brothers. The last time these two met was in 2012 — also at MUS — with the Owls taking a second-round victory, 20-14. Baylor also lost at MUS in 2009, 38-7, but beat MUS 40-21 in 2006, Phil Massey's first year coaching at Baylor following a stint at MUS as an assistant to veteran Owls coach Bobby Alston.
McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (6-5) at MONTGOMERY BELL ACADEMY BIG RED (9-1)
Stars: MBA junior Ty Chandler, a Mr. Football semifinalist, ran for 1,772 yards and 23 touchdowns in the regular season. But the Big Red aren't afraid to let QB Glenn Coleman throw. He has 11 touchdown tosses against four interceptions. McCallie QB Robert Riddle has emerged as a very strong passing threat, throwing for almost 1,900 yards in seven regular-season starts. Shawn McColley is McCallie's leading rusher and Rico Dozier is the leading receiver.
Storyline: MBA lost only to Brentwood Academy but did have some narrow escapes, with one of the closest a 33-27 victory over McCallie in the fifth week of the season. McCallie can line up offensively with any team in the state, averaging 450 offensive yards per game, but the Blue Tornado will have to shore up their defense and buckle down to keep Chandler in check. MBA can also throw just enough to keep opponents from crowding the box too closely. The Big Red have a 10-game winning streak against the Blue Tornado.
CARVER-ATLANTA PANTHERS (7-3) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (8-2)
Stars: Carver has a prolific ground game that has gained 3,500 yards and 12.3 yards per carry. Three players have more than 500 yards, led by RB Gregory Payton (1,088) and RB Quentin Gates (904 and 14.8 per carry). QB Kentrell Barber has 1,400 total yards and is adept at hitting big pass plays. On defense, lineman Loren Young leads a group allowing just 13 points per game, and he has eight sacks and 24 tackles for loss. Dalton's revamped power-I offense is led by QB J.P. Tighe, who has 10 touchdown passes and just one interception in six games started, and RB Drake McCowan, who has 806 yards and 11 touchdowns in eight games. Defensively, LB Matt Cook has 125 tackles to lead an aggressive unit.
Storyline: There are two keys for the Catamounts. One is to limit big plays and force the Panthers to sustain long drives. The other is to keep the aggressive Carver defense honest with some passing on early downs.
GRADY KNIGHTS (6-4) at NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (7-3)
Stars: Grady has serious star power, led by QB Caylin Newton, the brother of former Auburn and current Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton. Though not nearly as big as his brother, Caylin is a major playmaker, as is WR Jacquez Stone, the reigning Class AAAA state 100-meter champion. DE Kemari Averett is 6-7 and 205 pounds and can cause major troubles on the edge, while DB Marlon Character, who has committed to Auburn, is best in coverage. Northwest's offense has been clicking, averaging better than 40 points per game over its past five. Sophomore QB Luke Shiflett has been very accurate and extends plays with his feet to allow top receiving threats Will Blanchard (39 catches for 799 yards) and Jay Jones (35 for 458) to get open. The linebacking duo of Austin Morrison and Cyrus Addison have combined for 267 tackles.
Storyline: This is the first home game in the playoffs for the Bruins in 15 years, so calming the nerves is a big key. Northwest needs to limit big plays on defense and on offense make good use of bruising backs Dominique Sistrunk and Sebastian Orozco to soften the Carver line.
RIDGELAND PANTHERS (4-6) at ST. PIUS X GOLDEN LIONS (8-2)
Stars: Most of the Ridgeland offense comes from the hard-running legs of bruising backs Jalyn Shelton (1,228 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Chris Henderson (777 yards, 7 TDs), while the Will Boydston-led line has been the team's most improved position group in the second half of the season. Sophomore Markeith Montgomery, who has gotten more offensive touches, has 77 tackles and five fumbles caused from his cornerback position, while LB Luke Edwards leads the team with 96 stops. St. Pius X's option offense creates mismatches up front and features three main rushers: RB Lawson Cooper (627 yards), RB Grant Holloman (514) and QB Reed Egan (476).
Storyline: Possessions could be limited in this game as each team features an offense that can eat up yards and the clock. To pull off the major upset, Ridgeland needs to avoid getting in an early big hole.
WEST HALL SPARTANS (5-5) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (10-0)
Stars: West Hall brings a three-headed offensive attack to Phil Reeve Stadium. QB Jacob Satterfield and WR Hykeem Bennett are good playmakers, but the main threat is RB Kwon Williams, who is headed to the University of Central Florida. The Spartans have a strong kicking game, led by punter Anthony Lotti, who has committed to Wisconsin. Top-ranked Calhoun has scored fewer than 45 points once since the second game of the season, and that was in a 38-0 win over Sonoraville. The prolific attack, which is more balanced this year, is led by senior QB Kaelan Riley, who has 2,200 total yards and 26 touchdowns, and junior RB Olico Dennis, who has 939 yards and 19 TDs while averaging 12.9 yards per carry. The defense, led by Auburn-committed Landon Rice and future Mercer LB Jireh Wilson, has posted three shutouts.
Storyline: Calhoun coach Hal Lamb wants a quick start, something the Jackets have been known for in recent weeks. Look for a big dose of Dennis behind the team's massive offensive line early.
SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (7-3) at EAST HALL VIKINGS (6-4)
Stars: Sonoraville is playing its best ball under second-year coach Jim Kremer, who has brought a new level of physical play to the team. The offense is built around dynamic senior QB Cody Long, who has 2,500 combined yards, and an improved line that twice has helped produce 500-yard rushing games. Senior Kenny Cooper, a 6-4, 300-pounder who has committed to Western Kentucky, has helped in the running game as a bruising blocker at H-back; he has also been dominant at DE. East Hall has a pass-first offense featuring QB Austin Parker, who has 21 touchdown passes, with 19 of them to dangerous receivers Jacquan Hopkins and Markeese Jackson.
Storyline: Getting a pass rush from Cooper and Co. is one of the first orders of business for the Phoenix as they try to secure the first playoff win in program history. Keeping Long upright is another.
RINGGOLD TIGERS (6-4) at DAWSON COUNTY TIGERS (7-3)
Stars: Resurgent Ringgold seems to be peaking and has found some balance offensively. QB Devin Lancaster and his 2,500 yards and 22 touchdowns are still the headliner, but RB Dee King, fresh off a 180-yard game, will give Dawson something else to think about. Defensively, linemen Tristen Pierce and Michael King are major disrupters. They'll have to be as Dawson QB Coey Watson has nearly 2,000 total yards and RB Hunter Mitchell is right at 1,000 yards. The Ringgold secondary will be tested by 6-3 receiver Austin Young and running mate Tucker Maxwell.
Storyline: The Ringgold defense has improved since coach Robert Akins and his staff put people in different places, but the Tigers will have to be sound tonight to slow the Region 7 champions.
CHATTOOGA INDIANS (7-3) at LOVETT LIONS (5-5)
Stars: Chattooga's run-first offense has produced nearly 3,000 yards, with nearly half of that from junior RB Isaiah Foster, who also leads the team with 17 touchdowns. QB Isaac Foster has 1,000 yards and 10 scores and is at his most dangerous when defenses start keying on his twin. The Chattooga defense will be tested by Lovett QB Brady Tindall and hard-running backs Jay Harris and Max McCrady. T.J. Adams, Darion Foster and Lane LeBlanc are key front seven defenders, while the Foster twins and Nick Hawkins are active in the secondary.
Storyline: The Indians have a decided edge in size along the lines and will use it to try to sustain long scoring drives. They also hope to force the Lions to pass the ball, an area in which they've struggled most of the season.
DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (6-4) at GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN SPARTANS (9-1)
Stars: Dade brings a prolific run offense that is averaging better than 7 yards a carry, and it can be equally dangerous out of the wing-T or the power-I. Either way, RB Teddy Cole is a load at 220 pounds and is closing in on 1,000 yards. Backfield mate Zac Freeman, who brings more speed, is averaging nearly 8 yards a carry and has 750 yards, while FB Damien Pickering has 519 yards and also is among the team's leading tacklers. Dade County's defense, which also features elite end Dylan McNeese, will focus most of its energy on stopping Spartans star QB Davis Mills, who has passed for nearly 2,000 yards and added 750 on the ground. Mills was recently named the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country for the 2017 class. RB Marcus Young has 660 yards, while receivers Liam Sullivan and Malcolm Cunningham have combined for 1,150 yards and 10 scores.
Storyline: The Wolverines are the decided underdogs, a role coach Bradley Warren's team embraces. If they have an edge, it's that GAC has not faced many power running teams.
NORTH JACKSON CHIEFS (7-4) at KILLEN BROOKS LIONS (10-1), 8 EST
Stars: The Chiefs are likely to have their hands full as they try to contain Deondre Hampton, who's coming off a 325-yard, five-touchdown rushing performance in the Lions' 35-21 playoff opener against Jacksonville. QB Tyce Thomas didn't have to throw very often, but he's capable. North Jackson counters with a defense led by Gant Goins (61 solo tackles, 78 assists). Offensively, the Chiefs rely on dual-threat QB Trey Harris (1,540 passing, 817 rushing) and RB Omar Brown (1,680 yards). Brown has lost just 9 yards all season.
Storyline: Brooks, ranked sixth in the final Class 4A state poll, lost its unbeaten status the final week of the regular season. The teams have met five times, with Brooks winning three. They last met in 2010, with the Chiefs taking a 56-27 victory. Brooks is about 125 miles from Stevenson, but estimates are a trip of between two and three hours.