KNOXVILLE CATHOLIC FIGHTING IRISH (0-1) at BAYLOR RAIDERS (1-0)
Storyline: For the second week in a row, the Red Raiders are facing Fighting Irish — but this bunch, who lost a 49-42 shootout to Maryville last week, is the state's top-ranked Class 5A team. Baylor, which cakewalked past Notre Dame last week, is No. 3 in Division II. Just as was the case last week, there will be a pair of University of Tennessee-committed players on the field — Catholic T Cade Mayes and Red Raiders RB/DB Brendon Harris. The Irish have a handful of FBS prospects, including WR/DB Cameron Blakely, WR/RB Dashon Bussell, RB Joshua Brown, G Cooper Mayes, QB Jack Sompayrac and T Bryn Tucker. Last week, Bussell had 218 offensive yards and Sompayrac completed 16 of 20 passes for 225 yards. Baylor QB Lorenzo White also had a good opener, throwing for 178 yards and three touchdowns. The teams haven't met since back-to-back series wins for the Irish in 2007 and '08.
SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (1-0) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (1-0)
Storyline: Each of these higher-classification teams had to come from behind last week to nail down a win over a Class 3A opponent. Hurricanes defensive coordinator Steve Garland probably had his hands full this week preparing for the Trojans' spread, but he was also busy correcting mistakes after East Hamilton allowed 31 points to Signal Mountain. Soddy-Daisy DC Troy Boeck was similarly busy after the Trojans gave up 32 points to Red Bank. Trojans QB Gavin Chambers threw 25 passes with no interceptions while completing 80 percent of his throws, while Hurricanes QB Jared Price averaged better than 20 yards per completion.
TYNER RAMS (0-1) at SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (0-1)
Storyline: The Eagles are looking for their first win in their second home game under new coach Josh Robinson. They lost last week to East Hamilton while Tyner was taking a pasting from Ooltewah. Signal has won five of seven games played against the Rams, whom many consider the favorites to win Region 3-2A this season. However, on its last trip to the mountain in 2015, Tyner blistered the Eagles by 40 points. While they might match up fairly well in skill and perimeter players, the Rams' aggressive lines present a serious challenge for the Eagles' smaller fronts. Players to watch include Signal QB Tom Vatter, RB Collin Farr and WRs Drew Lowry and Travion Williams, and Tyner RB Ke'un Webb, WR Jeremiah Batiste and QBs Jaylen Bowens and Martavius Rawls.
MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (1-0) at HIXSON WILDCATS (0-1)
Storyline: In his preseason estimation, Meigs coach Jason Fitzgerald believed two of his Tigers' toughest games would come in the first two weeks. They survived last Friday at Sweetwater, and now they face the program Fitzgerald coached for two years before joining Meigs in early 2014. Fitzgerald's former team is a young and inexperienced group that absorbed serious lumps against Marion County. The Wildcats committed seven turnovers, and it could've been worse had they not recovered four of their own fumbles. Meigs' offense is built around sophomore QB Aaron Swafford. New Hixson coach Gary Murray is looking at a work in progress from an entire OL replacement to helping along a talented but inexperienced QB.
EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (1-0) at POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (1-0)
Storyline: Given the woes the Wildcats have endured the past three seasons, it's interesting to note they've now won openers in consecutive years for the first time since 2008-2009. This week's opponent was the last to win an opener over Polk, beating the Wildcats in Benton in 2015. Both teams had field days last week, putting up big offensive numbers – Polk 41 points, East Ridge 35. The Pioneers' Alonzo Russell scored from both sides of the ball last week, including a 55-yard fumble return, and LB Lorenzo Stewart added 11 tackles.
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (1-0) at BEARDEN BULLDOGS (1-0)
Storyline: Bearden had one less day of preparation after its 17-3 win over West last Saturday in Knoxville. It's likely that Blue Raiders coach Scott Cummings was able to get a decent scouting report — in addition to the video swap — because he came to Cleveland after a successful run at West. Meanwhile, his team laid what may have been the cornerstone to a successful season with a victory at Rhea County. The new QB, Kellye Cawood, looked polished after settling in, and RB Keegan Jones looks to have picked up a half-step and a few pounds. Of course, their money man is WR/DB Romeo Wykle.
WHITWELL TIGERS (1-0) at BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (1-0)
Storyline: With its three-headed monster offense, this is likely the best group of Tigers to hit the field since coach Wes Green put them in the playoffs four straight seasons (2001-2004). The last time Whitwell beat Bledsoe was a 7-0 victory in 2006. The Warriors have won against Whitwell each of the past two seasons, but last year's 22-21 victory was a major strain. Both teams have new coaches — Whitwell has Randall Bouldin and Bledsoe a native son in Dennis Therrell.
HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (1-0) at CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (0-1)
Storyline: These head coaches are familiar with each other from their days coaching in Georgia. Chattanooga Christian's Mark Mariakis was John Starr's defensive coordinator for a time when Starr headed Chattooga's program, and Starr coached offensive linemen for a year when Mariakis was head coach at Ridgeland. Given what they know of each other, neither is expecting an opposing defender to be out of position. The Chargers' offense starts with the inside running of Mondo Ellison. Gang-tackling him is important to Starr, but some of the Tigers must guard against big plays on the outside, such as those scatback Roderick Young can produce. Led by ILB Ian Gaines, the CCS defense will need to tackle well, too, because a missed one in the wrong place could result in points.
GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (0-0) vs. SALE CREEK PANTHERS (0-1) at Finley Stadium
Storyline: Grace coach Bob Ateca's biggest concerns are the Panthers' aggressiveness on defense and their misdirection plays on offense. MLB Eric Dishmon leads that defense; QB Tanner Harvey operates the offense. Sale Creek knows Grace's offense is centered around its QB, Cade Tinsley, who ran for 1,200 yards last year primarily while playing RB. But he has had some playing time at QB — enough for the Panthers to know passing will still be an integral part of the offense. S Cody Defore will be challenged to have a good game for Sale Creek, as will FB Chase Poole if the Panthers are to keep the Golden Eagles' offense off the field. One advantage for Sale Creek is having played a game already. Even though the Panthers lost, coach Ron Cox said the effort was much better in the second half, and particularly on defense, where they tackled better and also intercepted two passes.
RED BANK LIONS (0-1) at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (1-0)
Storyline: It's not a region game, but this matchup could show a lot about what direction the season is headed for each team. Both showed plenty of offense last week — each amassing more than 320 yards and showing nice balance with at least 145 each rushing and passing. Defense was likely a focal point at practice, however, because both teams allowed far too many big plays. Madox Wilkey was impressive in his first start at QB for the Lions, and he has the luxury of having all-star-caliber playmakers around him in RB Zay Brown and WR Calvin Jackson. Central can match about any team in playmakers with dual-threat QB Jaheim Jones as well as physical RBs Michael McGhee and Donya Parker. Defensively, Central is led by MLB Vincent McColley and DL Jerrod Bibbs, who had three sacks last week.
SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (1-0) at BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (0-1)
Storyline: Last week, while the Pirates' young players were answering any questions about just how resilient they are — they came from behind twice against a tough Class 3A foe (Sequatchie County), then held on fourth-and-short twice in the final quarter for the win — the Bucs were left with more inquiries. They managed 46 total yards in a shutout loss, so expect some changes this week for an offense looking to get things untracked. The biggest remaining question for the Pirates is at QB, where freshman Brayden Sanders managed things well but sophomore Jaylyn Hubbard gives the offense an extra runner. Look for both to continue sharing time learning on the job as upperclassmen Sawyer Kelley and Garrett Raulston account for most of the carries.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (1-0) at SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (0-1)
Storyline: The Warriors wasted no time proving they will remain one of the premier teams in the area, jumping to a 34-0 lead over Hixson just one play into the second quarter last week. Marion's swarming defense forced seven turnovers, including a 40-yard interception returned for a score by Jacob Saylors. The senior athlete is the key to Marion's offense as well and will be counted on even more tonight against an Indians defense that showed promise last week by taking away the big play from South Pittsburg. Marion will have the speed advantage, but while Sequatchie returned just two starters on each side of the ball from last year's state semifinal team, they have good size and QB Ethan Barker (6-2, 215) is tough to bring down.
McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (1-0) at MADISON (ALA.) ACADEMY MUSTANGS (0-0)
Storyline: Former Boyd-Buchanan coach Grant Reynolds heads up the Mustangs, who have the makings of a stingy defense. They have seven returning starters on that side of the ball, including senior L Jaylen Brackett (6-0, 245), who has scholarship offers from Tulane, Appalachian State and UMass. The Mustangs have played for an Alabama state title four of the past five seasons, including last year — Reynolds' first at the school. While they will be led by a new QB — sophomore Luke Nail — they do return RB Alex Carpenter (5-11, 180) and OL Tex Bailey (6-5, 280), both college prospects. Similarly, McCallie also has an inexperienced QB, but Deangelo Hardy is surrounded by proven playmakers Rico Dozier and Hakeem McMorris at WR. Jay Gibson can play TE as well as WR.
BRAINERD PANTHERS (0-1) at AUSTIN-EAST ROADRUNNERS (1-0)
Storyline: After a disheartening loss to rival Howard last Saturday, the Panthers face a perennial playoff foe that returns many key starters from last year's state semifinal squad. Among the Roadrunners' key returning players are LB Chris Hunter (6-1, 220), who was named the region defensive player of the year in 2016 and this year is playing QB, where he is a dual threat. The Panthers spent this week cleaning up the mistakes — four turnovers and 14 penalties — that cost them an early 12-point lead and led to a second-half collapse. Look for Brainerd to try to get the ball in the hands of potential gamebreaking WR Joseph Norwood more often.
SCIENCE HILL HILLTOPPERS (1-0) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (1-0)
Storyline: These state-ranked Class 6A teams could look similar in approach offensively, largely because the QBs play a similar style. In addition to their production through the air, both also run well and have the ability to make something positive happen even when a play breaks down. The biggest difference is Science Hill senior Jaylan Adams has a lot more high school starts than Ooltewah junior Kyrell Sanford's one. The sixth-ranked Toppers have plenty of talent surrounding Adams as well, but Ooltewah coach Mac Bryan isn't so much concerned about that as he is how his own squad performs. Bryan believes his team can prevail provided it wins the turnover battle, has a solid effort on special teams and limits penalties and missed assignments. All of that, however, is contingent on the 10th-ranked Owls being able to hold up in the trenches.
BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (0-1) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (0-1)
Storyline: It's easy to figure what's first and foremost on the minds of the senior-heavy Bears: taking care of the football. They had six turnovers in their opener last week, and Farragut still needed overtime to beat them. The obvious problem Walker Valley presents is having a veteran, dual-threat QB — senior Kolten Gibson — who by himself will put some pressure on Bradley's front seven to perform well. Overall, the Mustangs are young. For instance, their top three in receiving yards a year ago graduated. Senior WR Zeke Westfield is the leading returning receiver, and Bradley CB Jeffery Brewer draws the assignment of covering him. The bottom line for Walker Valley is that its young players need to grow up in a hurry. Playing the state's fourth-ranked Class 6A team the second week doesn't seem like something that will aid that process in the short term.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS (0-0) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (1-0)
Storyline: Calhoun has owned this series in recent years, winning seven consecutive matchups before the Catamounts began their run to the Georgia Class 6A semifinals with a 28-13 win at Harmon Field a year ago. The Cats have lost a lot of stars since then, though, and plan to spend the nonregion portion of their schedule evaluating. Dalton still has QB J.P. Tighe and ATH Nasir Love-Porter, though, plus a new weapon in 6-foot-7 TE Hunter Brummel. The Cats want to run the ball but may end up airing it out quite a bit because Tighe also has WRs Chandler Starts and Gavin Defoor. The defense is nearly entirely new in the front seven. Calhoun did not look like Calhoun in last week's 17-14 win over Douglass, the program the Jackets beat by 28 a year ago. Four turnovers hurt the offense, but the defense, led by LBs Davis Allen and Bailey Lester and DL C.J. Fuller, looked stout. Can either team establish much of a running game? That will be the key.
RINGGOLD TIGERS (0-1) at HERITAGE GENERALS (1-0)
Storyline: After wilting in the second half of last week's loss at Northwest Whitfield, Ringgold hit the practice field hard this week in preparation for another fast-paced offense. The Tigers are explosive offensively, led by QB Cole Kibler — who passed for 452 yards and four touchdowns last week — and WRs Pete Brower and Andre Tarver. The defense, though, was gashed for more than 250 yards by Northwest RB Dominique Sistrunk. Most of that came late as the Tigers, with several two-way starters, grew tired. Heritage did not show much of its offense in a 31-point win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethrope last week, but the defense shone with two touchdowns and a pair of safeties. Linebackers Zaine Burton and Jeffery Curtis lead an aggressive unit. New QB Blake Bryan showed flashes of potential and has several nice targets at his disposal: Ryan Carter, Luke Grant, Carson Sherrill and Noah Boaz. Heritage has never beaten this Catoosa County rival. Is this the year?
PEPPERELL DRAGONS (0-0) at RIDGELAND PANTHERS (1-0)
Storyline: This matchup of preseason region favorites and state-ranked teams is likely to be settled up front. Both teams want to run the ball and have elite RBs. The Dragons feature two-time 1,000-yard rusher Tae Hammond (5-11, 212) and an experienced OL led by seniors Jamal Ware, Parker Ewing and Brian Tanner. Ridgeland ran past Adairsville 49-7 a week ago and got a combined 155 yards and three TDs from Jalyn Shelton and Markeith Montgomery. The Panthers' defense showed off its speed, with Calvin Dallas, Montgomery and Tim Bowman combining for 41 tackles and two forced fumbles. The question tonight is which QB — Pepperell's Trevor Thomas or Ridgeland's Tanner Hill — can loosen up the opposing defense?
LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (1-0) at TRION BULLDOGS (0-0)
Storyline: Class A's Trion has won the past five meetings in this series, scoring more than 40 points in the past two. Class AAAA's LaFayette can thank its defense for last week's 14-8 win over Armuchee. The Ramblers forced a pair of fumbles — both recovered by Vyshonn Daniel — while Dakota Cathey intercepted a pass and Tyler Beard blocked a punt. Those big plays offset a shaky offensive performance that included four fumbles lost. Cathey (85 yards, TD) and Colton Lane are a nice one-two punch. Trion will test that defense with an offense that should display good balance. QB Jarett Gill has established himself as one of the top passers in the area, while FB Logan Blevins is a bullish runner and new WR Jayce Harris (6-3, 190) gives Gill a big target. Blevins, Jackson Walters and Braxden Peace give the Bulldogs an edge defensively.
SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (0-0) at MODEL BLUE DEVILS (0-0)
Storyline: Model took this game 22-0 a year ago, but the Blue Devils are taking the field this year after graduating eight of their top 11 tacklers. The biggest difference is the absence of two-way star Kyler Eldridge, the team's leading passer, rusher and tackler. QB Jackson Couch (6-3, 190) has decent size, plus he has a nice target in WR Kidron Ford. Two-way L Steven Henderson (6-4, 280), senior DL Hayden Smith and sophomore LB Tyler Gamble are the top returning defenders. Sonoraville, on the other hand, has a bevy of experience back on offense, led by QB Patrick Moore, RB Tristan Key — a 1,000-yard rusher last year — and speedy WR Trenton Daniel. The big difference may be up front, where the Phoenix have Parker McBurnett (6-4, 290), Russell Johnson (6-2, 255), Mason Moriatakis (5-11, 260) and Trevor Easley (6-1, 275).