POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (4-5, 2-1) at MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (4-5, 2-1)
Storyline: At stake is second place in Region 3-2A and the first-round home playoff game that comes with it. With a backfield that includes speedy senior RB Jacob Saylors and sophomore Brett Nelson, Marion's offense can strike quickly. Junior QB Isaiah Sampson is a dual threat and FB/LB Seth McClain is solid on both sides of the ball. Last week, the Warriors rushed for 530 yards in a nonregion win at Loudon, with McClain, Nelson and Saylors each gaining more than 100 each. Marion has scored more than 40 points in four games this season. The Wildcats rely more on a grind-it-out offensive style, with a RB committee led by junior Hunter Morgan. He is helped by Kyle Dunn and Gavin Miles, who are back after missing last week's game. Defensively, junior OLB Austin Watson always seems to be around the ball, ranking among the Wildcats' tackles leaders, and he also has six of the team's 13 fumble recoveries.
FATHER RYAN FIGHTING IRISH (4-5, 1-4) at McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (6-3, 3-2)
Storyline: McCallie can finish no worse than fourth in the Division II-AAA East/Middle Region, and the Irish will finish fifth or sixth. Father Ryan played within a touchdown of powerhouse Montgomery Bell Academy and knocked off Baylor last week, when Jackson Byrd had three TDs to help build a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Irish have been held to three or fewer TDs in each of their five losses and have given up at least 31 points in each of their past four games. McCallie is coming off an open date and should be rested. Let by athletic sophomore QB Deangelo Hardy, who is closing in on 2,000 yards of total offense this year, the Blue Tornado have scored more than points in two of their last three games. Freshman RB B.J. Harris also has been impressive while getting more carries lately.
MONTGOMERY BELL ACADEMY BIG RED (7-2, 3-2) at BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (3-6, 1-4)
Storyline: Baylor is looking to snap a three-game skid against region opponents. With a win, the Red Raiders could finish as high as fifth in the DII-AAA East/Middle Region, which would earn them a home playoff game, likely against Pope John Paul II. A loss could send them as far down as seventh, with a trip to Ensworth in the first round likely. Senior WR/DB Jaylon Baker has been one of the most consistent players on either side of the ball for Baylor. Last week he had two interceptions, 100 receiving yards and a TD catch. Expect versatile athlete Brendon Harris to get plenty of touches as well, both at RB and WR. Sophomore LB Noah Martin has played well since returning from a broken foot three weeks ago. Baylor has struggled against dual-threat QBs this season and will face another of those with MBA senior Ty Allen. Junior DT Ian Hall is disruptive along the MBA line.
UPPERMAN BEES (5-4, 2-2) at SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (6-3, 3-1)
Storyline: The Indians are in a three-way tie atop Region 4-3A with Smith County and York Institute, while Upperman is a game back. If the Indians win, they likely would end up as the second-seeded team — earning a home game in the first round of the playoffs. A loss would relegate Sequatchie to fourth and mean it would travel to the Region 3 champion (either Loudon or Red Bank). Upperman's offense has been balanced all season, with a 50/50 run/pass percentage, led by sophomore dual-threat QB Donoven McCallister and WRs Logan Cole and Duke Marsh. The Indians will rely heavily on senior QB Ethan Barker and junior FB Brett Hicks. Their defense has allowed 24 or fewer points in their past seven games, including four in which they gave up no more than seven.
BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (8-1, 5-0) at MARYVILLE REBELS (8-1, 5-0)
Storyline: Both will host first-round playoff games next week, but the Region 2-6A title is on the line in a matchup of state-ranked teams. Expect a high-scoring affair, because the Rebels have scored more than 40 points seven times this season and Bradley has scored 38 or more five times. The key to the Rebels' offense is QB Dylan Hopkins (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), who thrives as a power runner as well as a passer. He accounted for more than 400 yards of total offense against Ooltewah two weeks ago and has plenty of rushing help from sophomore RB Tee Hodge and a bigger-than-average line. For Bradley's offense, which is facing a defense that has given up at least 34 points three times, QB Dylan Standifer has thrown for more than 2,100 yards in his first year as the starter and senior WR Lameric Tucker not only has more than 1,000 receiving yards but has surpassed 4,000 yards from scrimmage in his career. WR Stephen Muhonen has close to 500 receiving yards, RB Adam Mullis is closing in on 600 rushing yards and LB Jay Person leads a fast defense that likes to attack.
LOUDON REDSKINS (7-2, 4-0) at RED BANK LIONS (7-2, 4-0)
Storyline: The Region 3-3A title will be determined in this game, and the Lions are looking to earn their second straight league crown. Both teams have secured home playoff games next week. Red Bank runners likely are salivating after seeing the yards allowed by Loudon last week (Marion County ran for 530). Expect senior RB Zay Brown and junior ATH Calvin Jackson to get plenty of touches, with sophomore QB Madox Wilkey giving the Lions balance with his throwing ability. Brown and Jackson have combined to score 40 TDs. The Redskins mirror Red Bank's offensive style, using athletic sophomore QB Drew Jackson as well as senior RB Skyan Lyle. Those two ran for a combined 221 yards last week. Defensively for Red Bank, Michael Porter had two interceptions last week, returning one for a TD.
EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (6-3, 2-3) at HIXSON WILDCATS (0-9, 0-5)
Storyline: East Ridge is the team with everything to gain. Hixson is the team with nothing to lose. The playoffs, in essence, started last week for the Pioneers, who knew then if they won their last two Region 2-4A games they were in. There is a scenario in which they could get in without winning tonight, but they're determined to control their own fate. Key player Lorenzo Stewart, a senior FB/LB, was injured Sept. 8 but has been back on the field since Oct. 8. Despite their record, the Wildcats aren't completely dormant. They've scored in every game except one. They have a potent WR in senior Latrell Sanderfer (37 receptions, 563 yards in eight games). Missed assignments defensively have been costly for Hixson. But the pressure tonight is squarely on the Pioneers, whose offense tends to struggle when it commits a lot of penalties. Are they equipped to handle it?
EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (3-6, 2-3) at HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (3-6, 1-4)
Storyline: The Hurricanes need a win, as well as an East Ridge loss, to secure Region 2-4A's fourth and final playoff spot. East Ridge owns the tiebreaker after beating the Hurricanes earlier in the season. Last week's lopsided loss to Region 2-4A champ Anderson County snapped a modest two-game win streak by the Hurricanes. Howard was eliminated from the postseason last week but can match last year's win total.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (3-6, 2-2) at SWEETWATER WILDCATS (6-3, 2-2)
Storyline: These Region 3-3A teams have already qualified for the state playoffs, but the victor will have a winning region record and the league's No. 3 seed. The losing team will be fourth. Sweetwater has some size, but Signal Mountain should have a speed edge. The Eagles like to fling it with senior QB Tom Vatter (219.1 passing yards per game). Juniors Travion Williams and Drew Lowry average 83.3 and 82.5 receiving yards per game. Each has 42 receptions, and they've combined for the 13 TDs Vatter has thrown. One player Signal Mountain must keep an eye on is disruptive OLB Meechie Oggs (6-4, 225).
GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (4-5, 2-4) at MIDDLE TENNESSEE CHRISTIAN COUGARS (5-4, 3-3)
Storyline: Both of these DII-A East Region teams will be in the state playoffs. The winning team will be the league's No. 5 seed and the losing team No. 6. Either way, it looks like a trip west to either Jackson or Memphis is in the offing. Most of the Cougars' plays come from a spread offense, and QB Jackson Green likes to distribute the ball around. But at times they will run direct shotgun snaps to Kemari McGowan and let him operate. They'll play an odd-front defense, which the Golden Eagles haven't seen much, so some adjusting will have to take place there. It doesn't help that a couple of Grace linemen have been out with injuries, although one could be back for this one.
BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (2-7, 1-4) at CHRISTIAN ACADEMY OF KNOXVILLE WARRIORS (1-8, 1-4)
Storyline: The winner in this DII-AA East Region game plays another week. The loser doesn't. Boyd-Buchanan has been in playoff mode since two weeks ago, when its postseason life was at stake at Silverdale Baptist. The Bucs had an open date before bearing down to plan for the Warriors, who scored 40 points in their victory and 21 in another game but have scored 14 or fewer in the others. However, the Warriors did not have Stewart Howell at QB all season, but as of last week he was there. Pate Eldridge (5-8, 155) is a shifty RB who despite not being big gets a lot of yards after contact. One who is big is OL/DL Eli Chinique (6-3, 290), who will be hard to move. Joseph Guinn is an active hybrid defensive player the Bucs will need to attend to.
KNOXVILLE GRACE CHRISTIAN RAMS (5-4, 3-2) at CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (5-4, 3-2)
Storyline: These teams not only have identical records and DII-AA East Region marks, they beat the same three and lost to the same two league opponents. It's fitting that this one decides which gets to play at home as a No. 3 seed in the state playoffs and which ends up traveling as a No. 4. Pass-happy Grace Christian features QB Luke Kirby, who last week was 17-of-22 for 317 yards and four TDs as the Rams earned their fourth win in their past five games. Chargers DBs and LBs will be challenged to cover a flood of route runners without giving up big plays. The Chargers want to control the ball with the Chattanooga-area's second-leading rusher, junior Mondo Ellison (1,475 yards, 17 TDs), and they hope to spring sophomore Roderick Young (504 rushing yards) for a few big gains. The Rams have 18 seniors and nine are defensive starters.
WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (1-8, 0-3) at SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (5-4, 0-3)
Storyline: This has the prospect of being a high-scoring game with Region 4-5A's No. 4 spot in the state playoffs at stake. The Mustangs have scored at least 28 points in seven games. The Trojans have scored at least 28 in eight. Walker Valley QB Kolten Gibson is by far the Chattanooga area's leading passer with 3,042 yards. The Mustangs' defense could use more players like senior Cody Duggan, who leads them in tackles with 82, including 12 for a loss. Soddy-Daisy could easily be in a better position. Its region losses have been by a total of five points. The Trojans may have the most complete player on the local scene in senior Ty Boeck, who leads them in rushing yards (762), touchdowns (18) and tackles (112). He's also one of five with at least 246 receiving yards. The distributor is junior QB Gavin Chambers, who has completed 64.5 percent of his 220 passes for 1,747 yards and 16 TDs.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (4-5, 2-3) at HERITAGE MOUNTAINEERS (3-6, 2-3)
Storyline: The winner of this Region 2-6A game is in the state playoffs. The loser is out. The Owls' biggest concern defensively is containing dual-threat QB D.J. Cooper. Ooltewah RB Sincere Quinn has tried to play some since being hobbled with an ankle injury suffered Sept. 22 against Soddy-Daisy. He leads the Owls in rushing yards (957) and TDs (12), although fellow junior Tylan Cargle (713 rushing yards, 11 TDs) has surpassed him as the carries leader with 112. Quinn's availability will be a game-time decision. With a senior WR with 886 receiving yards in Andrew Manning and QB who has more than 2,000 yards of total offense in junior Kyrell Sanford, offense hadn't been the problem for Ooltewah (38.6 points per game through the first eight games) until it was held to seven points last week by Cleveland. The Owls have had some special-teams problems they can't afford to have tonight. Also, the winner of the turnover battle in an Ooltewah game tends to end up the winner.
CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (6-3) at TYNER RAMS (7-2)
Storyline: This nonregion game is nothing more than a tuneup for postseason play for both, but don't think the players from these neighboring schools couldn't care less about winning it. Class 4A's Pounders have played up and down, but the caliber of opponent often dictates that. Class 2A's Tyner allowed 82 points in its two season-opening losses. It has allowed 75 points since. Central's leaders include junior RB Michael McGhee, who has 1,002 rushing yards and another 238 receiving with 22 total TDs. Junior QB Jaheim Jones has 1,665 yards of total offense and has accounted for 15 TDs. Senior Andrew Bingham missed a game and has 454 receiving yards and seven TDs. Tyner began the year with mostly young linemen who have improved over time. Seniors Kelunta Watkins and Tracy Justice were the only returners. Justice has had a monster season, leading the team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks. Senior Jeremy Elston leads four Rams with 248 or more rushing yards with 987. Sophomore Jeremiah Batiste has complemented with 665 receiving yards and eight TDs.
NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (6-3, 3-2) at SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (6-2, 2-2)
Storyline: Rarely has this meeting of county rivals meant so much. Many left Northwest for dead after star QB Luke Shiflett's season ended with an ankle injury, but the offense, now led by freshman QB Matthew Redmond, has put up 89 points the past two weeks. Junior RB Dominique Sistrunk has become the focal point of the attack and has 1,205 rushing yards and 12 TDs. Redmond, who has eight touchdowns and zero interceptions, has found a favorite target in WR Jaret Staten (385 yards, seven TDs). Southeast, having lost to Pickens and Heritage, needs the win to stay alive in the playoff chase. The Raiders have one of the top offenses in the region, led by QB Porter Johnson, who has thrown for 1,602 yards and 20 touchdowns. Eighteen of the scores have gone to WRs Oscar Gonzalez and Landon Eaton, each with more than 700 yards. Expect a shootout.
LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (5-3, 3-0) at NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS (5-3, 3-0)
Storyline: The 6-AAA North subregion title will be decided by these surging squads. LFO, 1-9 a year ago, is a ground-and-pound team that uses its large offensive line and hard running from QB Zach Vaughn and RB Nathan Williams to wear defenses down. Vaughn is coming off his best game, accounting for more than 400 yards of total offense and five TDs in a win over Murray County, while Williams is nearing 1,000 rushing yards. North Murray's offense has become more balanced with the emergence of freshman RB Dante Tidwell, who has 390 rushing yards in the last two weeks. The running game has opened things for QB Preston Poag Jr. (1,479 passing yards, 17 TDs), and WR Conner Rice (723 receiving yards, 12 TDs). LFO gave up several big pass plays to Murray County a week ago, something the Warriors can't do tonight if they hope to make it a fourth-quarter game.
CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (7-1, 3-0) at BREMEN BLUE DEVILS (8-0, 3-0)
Storyline: The 6-AAA South subregion title will be decided between these state-ranked teams. Calhoun is playing its best after a lopsided loss to Cartersville, having scored 62, 40 and 41 points. Junior QB Gavin Gray is coming off his best game with 358 yards and four TDs in a lopsided win over Sonoraville and now has 1,956 passing yards and 17 touchdowns this season. RB Zack Fuller leads the team with 649 rushing yards, while WR Luke Mosely has 474 receiving yards and seven scores. The biggest improvement has been on defense, where LBs Davis Allen and Bailey Lester lead a stout run-stopping unit. They will need it against a Blue Devils offense that features the running of twins Tyric and Tyran Dobbs. Tyran Dobbs is coming off a 272-yard rushing game against Adairsville and leads the team with 1,200 yards. QB Wade Cartwright is adept at making defenses pay for selling out to stop the run, most often to WR Jalen Dallas. Bremen prefers to play man-to-man coverage, something the Jackets will try to exploit.
TRION BULLDOGS (6-2, 4-1) at GORDON LEE TROJANS (2-6, 1-4)
Storyline: The state's longest-running rivalry features teams going in opposite directions. Trion is coming off its biggest win of the season, 34-20 over previously unbeaten Mount Zion-Carroll, while Gordon Lee has lost three straight. Trion's wing-T running game has been executing at its best lately, with a physical line opening holes for FB Logan Blevins (755 yards, 14 TDs) and setting the edge for WBs Cole Phillips (504 yards) and Tanner Railey (471). Each had more than 100 yards last week and will test a Gordon Lee defense that has played better than the results have shown. Offensively, the Trojans have been plagued by mistakes recently and hope to get back on track behind QB Austin Thompson and RB Braden Jarvis. With little shot at making the playoffs, the Trojans would like for nothing more than to keep the Bulldogs from at least sharing the 6A-A subregion title.
DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (3-5, 2-3) at CHATTOOGA INDIANS (3-5, 3-2)
Storyline: It's an elimination game in 7-AA, where these teams are playing to stay alive for the fourth playoff seed. Dade is coming off a strong performance in a 36-14 loss to Pepperell. The Wolverines rely on a ground game centered around RB Malaki Webb (686 rushing yards, eight TDs), and RB Lee Spencer (482 yards). QB Greg Templeton and WR Trey Whitehead have been a dangerous combo lately. Chattooga's ground game has come alive with the emergence of freshman RB E.J. Lackey (498 rushing yards) to complement Devin and Dee Price, who have close to 1,000 total yards combined. The key tonight is how well the slew of Dade two-way players — including Templeton, Webb and Spencer — hold up late in the game.