Prep football teams in the Chattanooga area begin their 2017 seasons this week:
Sale Creek at Sunbright, 7
Kickoff Classic at Finley Stadium
Baylor vs. Notre Dame, 6
Central vs. Walker Valley, 8:30
All kickoffs at 7:30 p.m. Eastern unless noted
Bledsoe County at Oliver Springs
Chattanooga Christian at McCallie
Cleveland at Rhea County
East Hamilton at Signal Mountain
East Ridge at Stone Memorial, 8
Hixson at Marion County, 8
Farragut at Bradley Central
Grundy County at East Hickman, 8
McMinn Central at McMinn County
Meigs County at Sweetwater
Ooltewah at Tyner
Polk County at Copper Basin
Red Bank at Soddy-Daisy
Sequatchie County at South Pittsburg, 8
Silverdale Baptist at King’s Academy
Whitwell at Boyd-Buchanan, 8
Armuchee at LaFayette
Christian Heritage at North Murray
Douglass at Calhoun
Gordon Lee at Dade County
Heritage at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe
Murray County at Gordon Central
Ridgeland at Adairsville
Ringgold at Northwest Whitfield
Howard at Brainerd, 7
It starts tonight. No more passing leagues or scrimmages. The sweat of August begins its evolution into the sweet of autumn.
Most teams got a taste with last weekend's jamborees.
Tonight, though, signals the start of high school football in the Chattanooga area, with Baylor, Central, Notre Dame and Walker Valley competing in the first Erlanger Sports Medicine Kickoff Classic at Finley Stadium.
The price of admission for the two regular-season openers — Baylor vs. Notre Dame and Central vs. Walker Valley — is $10. Notre Dame and Central are the home teams.
"We're trying to make this a good event for all of Chattanooga," Notre Dame athletic director Matt Pobieglo said. "We're hoping maybe down the road to make it a Thursday-Friday or a Thursday-Friday-Saturday event."
Baylor and Notre Dame kick off at 6, with Walker Valley-Central to follow at 8:30.
"This is the thing you prepare so many weeks for, and you want it to get here," Notre Dame coach Charles Fant said, "and it's finally here, ready or not."
Baylor coach Phil Massey noted his team finished preseason camp last Friday and school started Wednesday.
"We look at the jamboree as the end of preseason, and then we jump from that to the week-to-week plans," Massey said. "This is the fun part of all those hot July and August days."
Earlier this week, Central coach Cortney Braswell bemoaned his team's practices.
"It was awful, but everybody is probably having bad practices this time of year. You don't know how good you are; the kids have been practicing a long time and they're tired of practice," he said. "But I told them every action has a consequence. If you can't get yourselves ready to practice, you'll be the ones getting embarrassed."
Notre Dame, which had been a Class 3A force in the TSSAA's Division I under Fant, is part of a beefed-up Baylor schedule. The Irish will compete this year in Division II-AA while Baylor remains with the rest of the traditional private school powers in DII-AAA. The Red Raiders also added Knox Catholic and Marist to their schedule in place of Red Bank, Brainerd and Howard. They also picked up Chattanooga Christian, another newbie in DII-AA.
"We liked the idea of playing Notre Dame, but we obviously were looking for an in-town game and the dates matched," Massey said.
The Fighting Irish and the Red Raiders are old acquaintances, having played off and on since the 1940s, but they haven't met since 2001.
"Planning for the season, we felt like we needed to play a Baylor, a McCallie or an Ensworth," Fant said. "You want to play the best you can early in the season and get a really good look at where you are."
The games feature some of the area's top talents, including University of Tennessee commitments Brendon Harris, a Baylor receiver and defensive back, and Cameron Wynn, a Notre Dame receiver; Walker Valley quarterback Kolten Gibson; relatively newcoming quarterbacks Landon Allen of Notre Dame and Lorenzo White of Baylor; and the Central duo of quarterback Jaheim Jones and running back Michael McGhee.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.