Previews of all of tonight's area high school football matchups:
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (5-1, 1-1) at McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (4-2, 1-1)
Storyline: The Red Raiders have won seven of the last eight meetings, including last year's 38-14 whipping, but McCallie rolled to a 26-point home win two years ago. McCallie's offense has averaged 463 total yards over its past three games, while the defense has been much improved since last year, giving up more than 10 points only twice so far this year. Senior QB Robert Riddle already has one 300-plus-yard passing game this year after putting up big numbers last season. Baylor was the more physical team in last year's Division II-AA East/Middle meeting, dominating the battle up front and punishing the Blue Tornado into submission. That has been a point of emphasis for McCallie throughout the offseason. The Red Raiders also have a variety of offensive weapons, including sophomore QB Lorenzo White, a dual threat who has a handful of speedy players around him.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (3-2, 0-2) at HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (2-4, 1-1)
Storyline: Howard got points from all three phases last week, scoring six offensive touchdowns, getting three defensive scores and returning a punt and a kickoff for TDs. McKenzie Williams had a breakout game with 201 rushing yards and four TDs. Meanwhile the Chargers have had two weeks to recover from the disappointment of a one-point Region 3-3A loss to Signal Mountain, which claimed the win with a conversion run with 10 seconds remaining. The loser of this game will have a definite uphill climb just to reach the playoffs.
BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (2-3, 1-1) at BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (4-1, 2-1)
Storyline: Both teams are coming off tough losses from a week ago. The Warriors battled rival Sequatchie County before falling by three points to the state's No. 2-ranked 3A team, while the Bucs' offense never got going in a shutout loss at Marion County. There's a logjam of four teams with one region loss, so the winner of this game will take a big step toward securing a playoff berth, and possibly the No. 2 spot from Region 3-2A, which also means a first-round postseason game at home. The Bucs' platoon QB system of Ross Wortman and Kohl Henke give opponents a lot to prepare for. Wortman is the better passer, while Henke is more elusive and a threat to make a big play with his legs.
GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (3-3, 2-1) at WHITWELL TIGERS (2-3, 1-0)
Storyline: After a tough stretch that included consecutive weeks against either state-ranked opposition or teams from larger classifications, the Tigers are settling into a four-game stretch of Region 3-1A competition that began with a 44-point win over Lookout Valley. The winner of this game will set up a showdown with South Pittsburg for the region title and the right to host early playoff rounds. Last week the Golden Eagles jumped to a 14-0 lead over Copper Basin before surrendering three straight second-quarter TDs and two other scores in the second half in a tough loss. QB Jared Thompson ran for 97 yards and threw for 64.
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (4-2, 0-1) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (3-2, 0-1)
Storyline: In a region as tough as 4-5A, state-playoff aspirations will take a hit for the team that starts 0-2 in the league. Cleveland has had multiple injuries at QB. Last week the Blue Raiders went with WR-turned-QB Skyler Davis, whose father, Tez, is a former Cleveland QB. He led them to 38 points in a victory at Signal Mountain. Although the Davis move is a hit to the receiving corps, Cleveland still has plenty of team speed. Containing it is a must for Walker Valley. The Mustangs have a proficient offense led by QB Kolten Gibson and a solid defense to go with it. Turnovers hurt them in both of their losses, so protecting the football is of major importance tonight.
SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (2-3, 1-1) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (3-2, 0-1)
Storyline: The injury-plagued Trojans enter a key stretch of Region 4-5A games with sophomore Gavin Chambers starting at QB tonight. He came in last week when Ty Boeck, who had moved from WR to QB when Justin Cooke and then Chambers got injured, rolled an ankle in the third quarter; Chambers went 13-of-19 through the air. Boeck is expected to be out this week, and the Trojans also lost WR/DB Jordan Day for the season to an ACL tear. They'll need all the secondary help they can get against the Owls, who want QB Collin Thurman distributing the ball to an array of athletes in trying for one-on-one situations. Ooltewah graduated a lot of last year's defense, but now that the season has reached its midway point, those new to the lineup are starting to come around as the Owls prepare for league play the rest of the way.
BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (5-0, 2-0) at BEARDEN BULLDOGS (3-3, 1-2)
Storyline: Bears coach Damon Floyd let the varsity have Monday and Friday off in last week's open date, but the week off didn't help much with injuries. He said they had some nicks and bruises they were able to get healed up, but most of what they had lost was for the season. The lone player they hope to have back by next week is WR/DB/P Nick Howell. The Bears and Bulldogs don't yet have common opponents. Bearden won last year when a late Bradley two-point conversion was denied by officials. Video later showed that conversion was good. While the Bears have scored no fewer than 34 points in any game, thanks in large part to senior QB Cole Copeland, the defense has allowed 8.3 points per game over the last four outings. Recent leaders there are Hunter Duggan and Logan Swafford.
CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (2-3, 1-0) at STONE MEMORIAL PANTHERS (6-0, 2-0)
Storyline: Stone Memorial is cruising and Pounders coach Cortney Braswell compared the Panthers to Rhea County — big and physical, a team with two fast RBs that pounds the ball offensively from a wing-T set. Cody Wylins already has topped the 1,000-yard plateau (1,004), and Ethan Pierce is averaging a little more than 90 per game. Much of that has come behind Blaze Disham, who has a dozen pancake blocks. The Panthers' defensive leader is LB Austin Seiber with 9.2 tackles per game. That said, Stone has played one team with a winning record (4-2 DeKalb County). Central, meanwhile, is platooning with only two guys playing on both sides of the ball: athlete D.J. Baxter and T Curtis McClendon. Central will be traveling in style — on two charter buses with all players wearing coats and ties.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (4-2, 2-0) at EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (3-3, 1-1)
Storyline: The Pioneers were the last Region 3-3A team to hang a loss on the Irish and wound up winning the region title last year. They did it behind RB Traneil Moore, the 2015 Mr. Football winner whose 2016 season has been injury-plagued. Both teams have struggled of late — East Ridge in a two-game skid after winning three in a row and Notre Dame having lost two of its last three. The Irish are liking where they're going offensively after losing freshman QB Landon Allen (leg) early and then being without junior QB T.J. McGhee (concussion). With McGhee now throwing like he did in preseason, they're using a two-QB system with McGhee and athlete Cameron Wynn. Injuries continue to plague the Pioneers, but this will be first game this year that they've been able to play QB Eric Bennett and Moore. Bennett (concussion) may share with Alonzo Russell, who's been filling in.
BRAINERD PANTHERS (0-5, 0-2) at MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (4-1, 1-1)
Storyline: Meigs beat McMinn Central, its biggest rival, a year ago, patted itself on the back most of the following week and got beat by Brainerd's skill people hitting seams and going the distance. Coming off another win over McMinn Central, Tigers coach Jason Fitzgerald is only hoping his bunch learned a lesson last year. He has preached that history and maturity. This will be Brainerd's first trip to Decatur in years, and the Panthers will find an accomplished offensive unit led by freshman QB Aaron Swafford, who has six passing TDs and three rushing TDs the past two games. He isn't alone, however. Tigers RBs Logan Fowler and Zy Moore are averaging 94.8 and 83.6 rushing yards, and Jesse Rayl has impressed at both LB and WR.
RED BANK LIONS (3-3, 1-1) at SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (2-4, 1-1)
Storyline: Injuries are beginning to take a toll at Signal Mountain, which had a win streak snapped at two last week by Cleveland. The Eagles actually would've had an early lead in that game, but a run by FB Collin Weigert, who has been their most effective offensive threat, was negated by penalty. While the Lions are likely the more athletic of the teams, they still cannot afford miscues. Red Bank didn't have to throw often last week, but highly versatile QB Calvin Jackson is capable (5-7-0 last week) and can keep Signal from overloading the line of scrimmage. Perhaps rounding into shape offensively, the Lions had their best point production last Friday (33).
SILVERDALE BAPTIST SEAHAWKS (4-1, 1-1) at POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (2-3, 0-2)
Storyline: Though the records don't reflect it, the teams are mirrors in numerous ways. Both play a physical style and like to pound the football, and both have at least a half-dozen players going both ways. However, the Seahawks, with 12 seniors, are much more experienced than Polk and have held three of their opponents to seven points or less. The Wildcats, playing at home for the first time in three weeks, start many more underclassmen. RB Dustin Ward is expected to rejoin Polk's starting ranks after missing at least part of the team's last two games.
LIVINGSTON ACADEMY WILDCATS (0-6, 0-2) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (3-3, 1-1)
Storyline: The Hurricanes have settled into their QB Andrew Sturdivant-led offense. And it's no coincidence their ground game flourished last week behind RB Jayden Smith's breakout performance. For the first time since the second week, the OL that started the season was back intact. Coach Ted Gatewood said all five had winning grades last week, but still there were some minor things to tweak. Despite its record, Livingston Academy could pose some problems in the Region 3-4A game. The Wildcats run a spread offense with some I-formation plays sprinkled in and feature a balanced attack behind a formidable OL.The Hurricanes have settled into their QB Andrew Sturdivant-led offense. And it's no coincidence their ground game flourished last week behind RB Jayden Smith's breakout performance. For the first time since the second week, the OL that started the season was back in tact. Coach Ted Gatewood said all five had winning grades last week, but still there were some minor things to tweak. Despite its record, Livingston Academy could pose some problems in the Region 3-4A game. The Wildcats run a spread offense with some I-formation plays sprinkled in and feature a balanced attack behind a formidable OL.The Hurricanes have settled into their QB Andrew Sturdivant-led offense. And it's no coincidence their ground game flourished last week behind RB Jayden Smith's breakout performance. For the first time since the second week, the OL that started the season was back in tact. Coach Ted Gatewood said all five had winning grades last week, but still there were some minor things to tweak. Despite its record, Livingston Academy could pose some problems in the Region 3-4A game. The Wildcats run a spread offense with some I-formation plays sprinkled in and feature a balanced attack behind a formidable OL.The Hurricanes have settled into their QB Andrew Sturdivant-led offense. And it's no coincidence their ground game flourished last week behind RB Jayden Smith's breakout performance. For the first time since the second week, the OL that started the season was back in tact. Coach Ted Gatewood said all five had winning grades last week, but still there were some minor things to tweak. Despite its record, Livingston Academy could pose some problems in the Region 3-4A game. The Wildcats run a spread offense with some I-formation plays sprinkled in and feature a balanced attack behind a formidable OL.
SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (5-0, 2-0) at DeKALB COUNTY TIGERS (4-2, 2-0)
Storyline: The Indians haven't forgotten about last season. They were 5-0 when DeKalb, which returns almost every starter from a year ago, came to Dunlap and won 35-25. Sequatchie's senior-laden OL prides itself on playing physical but can expect a stern challenge from the Tigers. An area to watch is the teams' passing games, where the Indians must hold up in the Region 4-3A game. They will have to defend some speedy WRs tonight, while their offense may have to prove it can do more than just run.
MURRAY COUNTY INDIANS (3-2, 0-0) at NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS (3-2, 0-0)
Storyline: North Murray has won the only two previous matchups, including a one-point win a year ago. This year's game, the opener in 6-AAA's north subregion, figures to have serious seeding implications for the league's crossover play-in games in week 10. The Indians have lost two straight, including last week's 35-21 defeat by Adairsville in which the defense gave up several big plays. The offense will try to eat up clock behind a potent run game featuring RB Tucker Gregg (617 yards) and QB Dominick Genitempo (554 yards). North Murray has its own strong ground game, led by RB Brady Harper's 577 yards and 13 TDs and the region's most physical front. The outcome could come down to which team's QB, Genitempo or Blake Davis, can hurt the other through the air.
HERITAGE GENERALS (4-1, 1-0) at SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (4-1, 1-0)
Storyline: This is the game of the week in Region 6-AAAA, and the winner will be in great shape playoff-wise. Heritage had its best half of the season last week in building a 31-0 lead over Gilmer as standout QB Corbee Wilson had three TD passes and one scoring run; he now has 1,038 passing yards and 13 TDs. The Generals have a bevy of WRs, led by Ryan Carter and Luke Grant, who is now healthy after a slow start because of injury. Southeast rallied a week ago with two fourth-quarter TDs to clip LaFayette and again will turn to a strong run game led by Cody Gillean, Taylor Shirah and Brian Parks. Handling Heritage defensive stars Tanner Nance, Jonathan Hickman and Zaine Burton, who have combined for 20 tackles for loss, will be the Southeast offensive key.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS (4-0, 1-0) at CREEKVIEW GRIZZLIES (2-2, 0-1)
Storyline: The Catamounts have had an extra week to prepare for a key Region 6-AAAAAA road game. Specifically, a Dalton defense that has allowed 39 points in four games turned its attention to controlling Creekview QB Chandler Gantt, who has passed for 929 yards and rushed for 302. The Cats have their own emerging QB in J.P. Tighe, who has 562 yards and seven TDs against one interception. WR Zeke Cobb has 331 of those yards and six of the TDs. Dalton would like to get its ground game going as RB Ahmaad Tanner leads the team with just 267 yards. A key for both teams is at K, where Dalton's Ivan Mora is 14-for-14 on PATs and 3-for-3 on FG attempts and Creekview's Laio Pena has missed just one of his 17 kicks.
CHATTOOGA INDIANS (3-2, 2-0) at ROCKMART YELLOW JACKETS (4-1, 2-0)
Storyline: This important Region 7-AA game features strong ground games. The Indians, fresh off a 55-point win over Gordon Central, have two of the region's most dangerous runners in twins Isaiah and Isaac Foster, who have a combined 976 rushing yards and 10 TDs and who each has averaged more than 10 yards per carry. Rockmart has 1,538 rushing yards, led by RB Markus Smith's 523 and 10 TDs and 373 yards from Diante McClain. Chattooga's defense has been susceptible against the run, so DT Mike Adams and crew will need their best game.
CHRISTIAN HERITAGE LIONS (0-4, 0-1) at TRION BULLDOGS (3-2, 1-1)
Storyline: The Lions may be winless but they are dangerous offensively, especially through the air. QB Brandon Poag is coming off his best game in a loss to Gordon Lee, throwing for 317 yards and three TDs while also rushing for one. RB Wesley Hagan is a threat running and receiving, while 6-foot-7 WR Christian Koneman emerged with 134 yards on four catches. The Christian Heritage defense, though, allowed more than 500 yards and will get a big dose of the run tonight. Trion, even without leading rusher Jarrett Pierce, has plenty of backfield depth, led by Logan Blevins and J.J. Jennings, while WB Evan Walker has developed into the team's best two-way player.