SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (1-1) at RED BANK LIONS (1-1)
Storyline: The Lions have won the past two meetings in this neighborhood rivalry, which is now a Region 3-3A game, but this year's Eagles look to be much improved from the past two seasons. Their defense scored twice in last week's win over Tyner, including a pick-six by Sam Gault. Eagles senior QB Tom Vatter, who connected on an 85-yard touchdown pass last week, will likely need to step up again facing a Lions front that is stingy against the run. In last week's win over Central, Red Bank had 12 tackles for loss — including six by defensive lineman Jamel Davis — and outside of big runs of 52 and 59 yards, the Purple Pounders were held to minus-24 yards. Red Bank's offense has been more balanced this season and is led by RB Zay Brown, who had 162 yards and two TDs last week, and sophomore QB Madox Wilkey, who threw for 120 yards and a TD. Calvin Jackson has made a smooth transition to WR, catching nine passes for 73 yards and a TD last week.
BRAINERD PANTHERS (0-2) at LOUDON REDSKINS (1-1)
Storyline: It's still a work in progress for first-year Panthers coach Tyrus Ward, who has two of the better athletes in the city — WR/DB Joseph Norwood and TE/DE Jesse Walker — to build around. Loudon narrowly lost to state-ranked Greenback in its season opener and rebounded with a win last week. The Redskins are led by senior QB Cameron Baker, who moved from WR after last season. Neither team has much depth, so building a lead early could be even more important than usual in this Region 3-3A opener.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (1-1) at SILVERDALE BAPTIST (0-1)
Storyline: Last week, the Chargers proved they could win a physical game by beating Howard. It was a well-rounded performance in which they were opportunistic by cashing in turnovers, and Evan Officer proved how much of a difference his punting can make. The Seahawks' intent is to play physical, too, and they will need to in order to slow FB Mondo Ellison in each team's first DII-AA East Region game. If Ellison has success, other CCS skill-position players will, too — QB Dylan Clark will see to it. Silverdale may have to be a little trickier distributing the ball in its offensive sets. Either way, each team wants time of possession to end up in its favor. The Chargers' edge in depth could be the biggest advantage in the game.
POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (1-1) at TYNER RAMS (0-2)
Storyline: In preparation for this Region 3-2A opener, practice at Polk County was highlighted by a good old-fashioned, full-speed, open-field tackling line. Coach Derrick Davis said last week's 32 points are enough to win a game. But the 35 the Wildcats allowed East Ridge were on five TD runs that averaged 57 yards. Tyner also has a collection of backs, with some seemingly capable of going the distance on any play — seemingly because the Rams have been limited to one TD per game thus far (albeit against Class 6A and 3A teams). Tyner sophomore Martavius Ryals is starting to assert himself at QB. If Jaylen Bowens doesn't play QB, he'll contribute at WR, and especially at S. Polk MLB/C Alex Pell has been a defensive bright spot and will need another good game plus some much-needed assistance. It doesn't help that DT Skyler Camp, the Wildcats' leader in tackles for loss in 2016, is expected to miss three to six weeks with a knee injury. In addition, the availability of a starting LB, CB and FS tonight will all be game-time decisions.
COPPER BASIN COUGARS (0-2) at WHITWELL TIGERS (2-0)
Storyline: Copper Basin scored three points when it played Whitwell last season. The Tigers have allowed three points so far this season. Ouch. LBs Thundur Roberts and Josh Wingo and DE Garrett Shrum are just a few of the stalwarts on a Whitwell defense that has held opponents to fewer than 50 yards from scrimmage combined. At that rate, the Tigers' offense hasn't had to do a great deal, although first-year coach Randall Boldin would like to see a little more efficiency when it enters the red zone. If Copper Basin — scoreless last week — is to do anything against Whitwell's defense in the teams' Region 3-1A opener, TE-turned-QB Keeton Mickens will need to be the catalyst.
CHRISTIAN ACADEMY OF KNOXVILLE WARRIORS (0-2) at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (0-1)
Storyline: This is the first DII-AA East Region game for both. The Warriors scored 18 points combined in their first two games while allowing an average of 35. The Warriors' busy defense has been led by LB Grant Richardson, who has averaged 10 tackles per game and totaled five for loss. WR Luke Simpson, on passes from Stewart Howell, has been the top offensive performer with 16 catches for 229 yards. The Irish, rebounding from a lopsided opening loss to Baylor, scored 46 points last week at Trinity Academy behind a 308-yard, four-TD passing performance by Landon Allen. He went 11-of-12, with Justyn Baker and Cameron Wynn each totaling 100 receiving yards.
EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (2-0) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (1-1)
Storyline: This will be the best test to date for the Pioneers, who are looking for their second 3-0 start in three seasons in this Region 2-4A opener. East Ridge LB Lorenzo Stewart was chosen player of the week by the Times Free Press for his performance against Polk County last week, when he made 18 tackles. The Pioneers, though, have numerous standouts, including RB Alonzo Russell, another of their two-way performers, and QB Eric Bennett. A physical team, Polk exposed a possible East Ridge vulnerability with patient, long drives. Those are something East Hamilton has used in the past, most often behind a big OL. The Hurricanes, though, were crippled last week by Soddy-Daisy's soaring spread offense.
RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (0-2) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (0-2)
Storyline: It's been five years since the Eagles started a season 0-2 and six years for the Mustangs. A loss tonight would also mean an 0-1 start in Region 4-5A. Rhea suffered a heartbreaking loss to Cleveland to open the season, losing A.J. Velasco — one of its key players on offense — and then got ripped by midstate power Blackman last week with starting QB Zach Pemberton sidelined with a bad ankle. The Eagles' defense handled Cleveland's passing game fairly well, but it will be facing an experienced run-pass QB in Kolten Gibson, who has thrown for 556 yards this season.
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (1-1) at MARIST WAR EAGLES (1-0)
Storyline: The Red Raiders are coming off a mistake-filled loss to Knoxville Catholic, the first of three games against power-packed opponents (Ensworth is next). Last week, the War Eagles broke open a close game with fellow Atlanta private school Lovett with a 21-point second half behind RB Ellis Pearson, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry, and QB Chase Abshier, who accounted for another 150 yards. While Kyle Hamilton and Dean Johnson are the War Eagles' leading tacklers, the Baylor OL must keep a body on Ryan Mannelly, who had three sacks. The Red Raiders hope for a more balanced offense, one that doesn't rely so heavily on RB Brendon Harris and WR Jaylon Baker, stalwarts on both sides. According to Times Free Press records, the teams haven't meet since 1942, Humpy Heywood's third season coaching Baylor.
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (2-0) at WILLIAM BLOUNT GOVERNORS (0-2)
Storyline: Cleveland is undefeated after two games for the second consecutive season, and this year its offense has been strong behind RB Keegan Jones, WR Romeo Wykle and QB Kellye Cawood. It was two-way contributor Wykle (he's also a key player on defense) who made the difference in the opener against longtime rival Rhea County. Last week, the Blue Raiders toppled Bearden. This is the third straight road game for Cleveland, the Region 2-6A opener for both and the home opener for William Blount. The Governors have struggled, losing their first two games by a combined score of 90-34 despite best efforts from RB T.J. King and WRs Nick Youkum and Dae Dae Love. This will be the first meeting between the programs.
BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (1-1) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (1-1)
Storyline: The talent pool in this Region 2-6A opener will be rich. It would be hard to find a better LB in the Chattanooga area than the Bears' Jay Person or a better RB than the Owls' Sincere Quinn. WRs Lameric Tucker (Bradley) and Andrew Manning (Ooltewah) are also among the best locally. The offenses don't mirror each other in scheme but do in that the objective is to take what the defense gives — both can move the ball in a variety of ways. The QB play of Bradley's Dylan Standifer and Ooltewah's Kyrell Sanford could be determining factors. As is almost always the case in a football game, turnovers, or lack thereof, should play a big role. Yes, these teams are loaded with talent. But each has had a six-turnover game. Not coincidentally, it was a loss in each case.
McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (2-0) at MONTGOMERY BELL ACADEMY BIG RED (2-0)
Storyline: The DII-AAA East/Middle Region season gets underway with two of its heavyweights clashing. Each team has a shutout already. The Blue Tornado have scored 99 points. MBA has totaled 89. Two-time Mr. Football winner Ty Chandler has gone from MBA to the University of Tennessee, but McCallie coach Ralph Potter knows that doesn't mean his defense can rest easy. The Big Red still have a massive OL, and senior Michael McGuire (166 rushing yards, 3 TDs last week) is getting his shot at RB. TE Joshua Meriwether (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) can cause a lot of problems, too. McCallie has had a standout of its own to replace in Rob Riddle, now at Mercer, but the offense looks to be rolling right along behind new QB Deangelo Hardy. The Blue Tornado are looking to end a 12-game losing streak to the Big Red covering 10 years. Not many have been runaways. Among them, McCallie lost by three in 2009 and '11, by four in '13, and the regular-season loss two years ago was in overtime.
SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (2-0) at LENOIR CITY PANTHERS (1-1)
Storyline: These unfamiliar foes are now competing in Region 4-5A. Soddy-Daisy has already scored 12 touchdowns this year. Ty Boeck, who had three of those TDs the first week, had previously played all over the field for the Trojans, but he seems to have settled in at RB. Unquestionably, Gavin Chambers has settled in at QB. It doesn't help the Panthers' cause that their QB, Gabe Williams, has been out with a foot injury. Substitute QB Devin Noah had a 39-yard TD pass to Hunter Blue last week, but turnovers were a real problem in a 52-20 loss at rival Loudon. The turnovers should have the attention of Soddy-Daisy DB/RB Brandon Davis, who returned two interceptions for TDs last week.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (1-1) vs. BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (1-1) at BOYD-BUCHANAN
Storyline: This game was moved to 3 p.m. Saturday because of the threat of bad weather tonight; the site was moved because of the fear of an unplayable field resulting from such weather. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses. Marion had a two-score lead over Sequatchie County three times last week, but the Indians rallied each time and eventually wore Marion down for an overtime victory. Marion's offense is led by all-state athlete Jacob Saylors, who had TDs of more than 40 yards on the ground and through the air and is also a dangerous KR/PR. Marion junior QB Isaiah Sampson is a dual threat and has a bona fide weapon to throw to in senior speedster Kane Hale. Bledsoe was limited to 26 total yards in a loss to Whitwell last week and surrendered more than 360 rushing yards but has a weapon in K/P Gabe Boring.
NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (2-0) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (0-1)
Storyline: The big news in Tunnel Hill a week ago was how the Northwest season was in jeopardy after star QB Luke Shiflett had a broken bone in his throwing hand. Well, after he completed 19 of 21 passes for 243 yards and five touchdowns in a 44-21 win over South Atlanta, the Bruin Nation is breathing a little easier heading into this monster nonregion game. Northwest's offense has been nearly unstoppable early, with Shiflett and his new stable of WRs getting in sync (Jaret Staten has become the top target) and bullish RB Dominique Sistrunk getting yards in huge chunks. Northwest remembers last year's 10-3 loss to the Cats in which the offense was dominated. This is a different Dalton defense, though, with nine new starters. In last week's 24-0 loss to Calhoun, Dalton's secondary was picked apart, not a good sign for tonight. The Cats' best shot is using a young but talented backfield of Tyis Love and Jahmyr Gibbs and finding a way to get the versatile Nasir Love-Porter and TE Hunter Brummel, who's 6-foot-7, more involved.
CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (2-0) at CARTERSVILLE PURPLE HURRICANES (2-0)
Storyline: There's no need for extra motivation for the Jackets in this matchup of state powers. Last year's 56-0 whipping by the Canes at Phil Reeve Stadium is the most lopsided loss in the Hal Lamb coaching era by far. Many believe Cartersville is even better this year, thanks to all-world QB Trevor Lawrence — who has committed to Clemson — and a strong supporting cast. The Canes are coming off a scintillating 52-45 win over Florida power Bartram Trail in which Lawrence threw for more than 400 yards and had five touchdowns. However, after holding a 31-3 lead early, the defense was gashed through the air, something Lamb and his staff surely will try to emulate. Calhoun QB Gavin Gray was nearly perfect in last week's win over Dalton, throwing for 283 yards and two scores, and WR Brannon Spector (6-1) established himself as the top target. Fellow WR Luke Moseley (6-1) and TE Davis Allen (6-5) have the size to help bail out plays if the undersized line breaks down. The Jackets' defense, while solid against a depleted Dalton offense, will have to tackle well against Lawrence, RB Rico Frye and WRs T.J. Horton and Jackson Lowe to have any chance for the big upset.
GORDON LEE TROJANS (0-1) at LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (1-1)
Storyline: Gordon Lee had a week off after a frustrating 20-19 loss to Dade County, but some positive things came out of that opener. Though the defense gave up more than 300 rushing yards, the Trojans' offense found some weapons. RB Braden Jarvis had a touchdown run and an 85-yard kickoff return for a score, while 6-5 freshman Henry Ellis proved he will be a factor in a variety of ways. QB Austin Thompson also has a solid WR in Hunter Hodson. LaFayette lost 49-21 to Trion last week but displayed a strong ground game led by RB Dakota Cathey, who has 190 yards and three touchdowns in two games. The Ramblers will look to emulate Dade County's ground-oriented offensive game plan and hope to improve defensively after giving up 532 yards to Trion. Turnovers are always a factor when these two play.
RIDGELAND PANTHERS (2-0) at DARLINGTON TIGERS (1-0)
Storyline: Ridgeland is coming off an impressive 35-7 win over Class AA top-10 team Pepperell. The Panthers' defense limited elite RB Tae Hammond and the Dragons to 35 total yards in the first half and raced to a 35-0 lead early in the third quarter. The always potent running game put up 260 yards, led by Navy-committed Jalyn Shelton's 91 yards and three scores. He and RB Desmond Johnson will get plenty of touches tonight, as will WR Stephon Walker, who had 97 yards and a TD last week. Ridgeland will likely test the Darlington defense's perimeter with WB Markeith Montgomery; expect QB Tanner Hill to go deep at least a few times to keep the Tigers honest. Darlington was off a week after destroying Alabama's Gaston 50-0, led again by Georgia Tech-committed RB Tajai Whatley, who's 6-2 and a powerful runner. Darlington has a size edge up front, led by sophomore Tate Ratledge (6-6, 285), 6-4, 260-pound TE Jacob Hunt and 6-2, 230-pound senior Tigger Frix.
MURRAY COUNTY INDIANS (1-0) at SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (2-0)
Storyline: Murray has won two consecutive games in this series after a long drought and will attack tonight's game the same way it has the previous two. The Indians, paced by all-time leading rusher Tucker Gregg, will look to pound the Raiders. Gregg had 220 total yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening win over Gordon Central. However, if the Raiders sell out to stop him, QB John Reed and WR Preston VanMeter can hurt them deep. Southeast, known more as a ground-oriented team in recent seasons, showed a different side in last week's 47-28 win over Gordon Central as QB Porter Johnson threw for 339 yards and a school-record six touchdowns. WRs Landon Eaton and Oscar Gonzalez are dangerous. Gonzalez also plays LB, and he and standout DE Luke Johns will be charged with keeping Gregg in check.
TRION BULLDOGS (1-0) at DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (1-1)
Storyline: Trion, which beat Dade 42-7 last year, is coming off a 49-21 win over Class AAAA's LaFayette in which the Bulldogs put up 532 total yards. RB Logan Blevins had 115 of the team's 429 rushing yards and three touchdowns while also adding 13 tackles. RB Tanner Railey added 89 yards as the Bulldogs leaned heavily on a line that features Jake Hayes (6-4, 310), Braxden Peace (6-2, 250) and Aiden Brock (6-1, 220). Senior QB Jarrett Gill will make the Wolverines pay if they load the defensive box. The Wolverines have benefited from the return of sophomore RB Malaki Webb, who rushed for 170 yards and four touchdowns in last week's one-point loss to Alabama's North Sand Mountain. Webb, QB Greg Templeton and FB Lee Spencer are a three-headed monster in the team's wing-T attack.