ANDERSON COUNTY MAVERICKS (4-0, 1-0) at HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (1-2, 0-0)
Storyline: Howard coach John Starr said he had heard that Anderson County was the highest-scoring team in the state; not good news for his youthful team in this Region 2-4A game. The Mavericks average 55 points per game. And that's coming off last week's season low — of 49. Their spread offense is triggered by QB Stanton Martin, who passed for 247 yards and three touchdowns against Carter and rushed for 193 yards and two more scores. Anderson County operates primarily from a one-back set, with the RB being powerful Marquis Gallaher, who doubles as the MLB. Howard has several players still trying to learn the game, and many of the seniors lack experience. The Tigers' special teams are getting better, and they're slowly cutting down their number of mistakes per game in all three phases. But they'd just about have to eliminate all mistakes to keep up in this one.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (3-1, 1-0) at CHRISTIAN ACADEMY OF KNOXVILLE WARRIORS (0-4, 0-1)
Storyline: The Chargers will face a team that strives to have a balanced offense. CAK has more size than any team they've played since their season-opening loss to McCallie. And the Warriors have a LB, Grant Richardson, who makes plays from sideline to sideline. But CCS isn't so concerned with what the opponent has. The Chargers are concerned with preserving their own identity. They play two QBs, senior Dylan Clark and freshman Sam Hall, though Clark plays nearly twice as often. They have a hard-driving RB, Mondo Ellison, and a big-play threat, Roderick Young. As a team, they come into the Division II-AA East Region game averaging almost 400 rushing yards per game. ILB Ian Gaines, a four-year starter, is their defensive leader. They're not changing much based on the competition, though they did work a little more than usual on pass coverage this week.
ENSWORTH TIGERS (3-1, 1-0) at MCCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (3-1, 0-1)
Storyline: It's unlikely either team will put the ball in the air much in this DII-AAA East/Middle Region game, considering the way both have relied so heavily on their rushing attacks thus far. The chances are strong McCallie will account for where Ensworth athlete Keshawn Lawrence lines up on every play. Lawrence burned Baylor for four touchdowns and 148 rushing yards last week, but backfield mate Nicky Clifton also accounted for 188 yards. McCallie can counter offensively with dangerous runners as well, led by sophomore QB Deangelo Hardy, who rushed for 233 yards and four TDs last week. RB Xavier Brooks can break a big play on any snap, too, running for 180 yards and three scores last week. WR Rico Dozier is a threat when McCallie does opt to throw it.
POPE JOHN PAUL II KNIGHTS (3-1, 1-1) at BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (1-3, 0-1)
Storyline: Baylor is in desperate need of a win, looking to snap a three-game losing streak after playing state-ranked foes so far. But there isn't much of a drop-off tonight as the Red Raiders face a team coming off an impressive win over Father Ryan last week. Baylor allowed more than 450 yards of offense to Ensworth last week. On offense, the Raiders will need more big plays from ATH Brendon Harris, WR Jaylon Baker and QB Lorenzo White to take control of this key early DII-AAA East/Middle matchup.
TYNER RAMS (2-2, 1-0) at MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (2-2, 1-0)
Storyline: Although neither team has gotten off to the start it expected or wanted, the inconsistency that has plagued both so far can be forgotten by tonight's winner, who will take control in Region 3-2A. Entering the season, this game was expected to decide the region title. With both teams already earning impressive wins in the league, that will likely prove true. The Rams rely heavily on the run and have several options, including Jeremy Elston and Tyon Young as well as QB Jaylen Bowens. The key for Marion is getting all-state ATH Jacob Saylors in open space, but QB Isaiah Sampson is a dual threat and has speedy Kane Hale to throw to.
LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (2-1, 0-0) at WHITWELL TIGERS (4-0, 1-0)
Storyline: One of the most impressive storylines of the season has been the Whitwell defense — led by LBs Thundur Roberts and Josh Wingo — which is giving up fewer than 50 yards per game and has not allowed a touchdown. The Tigers have outscored opponents 152-3 and could already secure a home playoff game with a win tonight. The Tigers have plenty of offensive weapons as well, including RBs Trace Condra and Ben Petty. The Jackets use a ball-control offense and will try to control the clock, but they will need a big play or two to keep the Tigers from stacking the line of scrimmage in this Region 3-1A meeting.
SWEETWATER WILDCATS (2-1, 1-0) at BRAINERD PANTHERS (0-4, 0-1)
Storyline: Although they haven't won, the Panthers continue to show improvement each week, and first-year coach Tyrus Ward has the program close to turning the corner. Last week, they came within four points of handing East Ridge its first loss of the season, and with athletes such as Joseph Norwood, they could challenge in this Region 3-3A game with Sweetwater, which brought back 18 starters from last year's playoff team.
EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (1-3, 0-1) at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (2-2, 1-0)
Storyline: East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood is still grimacing and shrugging his shoulders at the Hurricanes' start. The lack of execution and the unusually high number of penalties have plagued his team from the outset, leaving coaches with a lengthy list of items to be improved. Injuries haven't helped. They've yet to start the same 11 on either side of the ball. One of those expected back this week is Adam Connell, who will return to the RB rotation that includes Devonte Tipton and Drako Wise. It shouldn't surprise the Pounders' defense if they see Jaden Smith, who lines up in the slot, getting the ball more. That aforementioned defense will again be without LB Marcus Leftwich, who is being held out of this Region 2-4A game as a precaution after spraining a knee.
KNOX CATHOLIC FIGHTING IRISH (2-2, 0-0) at SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (3-1, 0-1)
Storyline: Last week, both teams rebounded from prior losses, with the Irish's defeat at the hands of Georgia power Eagle's Landing Christian and the Trojans having fallen to Region 4-5A opponent Lenoir City. Catholic bounced back by dropping Cleveland from the ranks of unbeatens behind QB Jack Sompayrac, WR Deshon Bussell and a fairly solid defensive performance. Both Sompayrac (249 passing yards) and Bussell (110 receiving yards) had season-high showings. Meanwhile, the Trojans kept rival Hixson winless thanks to two-TD-throwing QB Gavin Chambers. Catholic, without leading rusher Joshua Brown, will have to account for Trojans defenders Ben Jenkins, Ty Boeck and Jerick Cook. This is a region game, so the stakes are obviously higher, especially with Rhea County, a team Soddy-Daisy has yet to play, sitting atop the standings.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (3-1, 1-0) at BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (0-4, 0-1)
Storyline: The Buccaneers are off to their worst start since the 2014 team began 0-5 before rebounding with five straight wins to reach the state playoffs. This year's Bucs have struggled to score points, managing just 17 while allowing 158, and tonight they're facing a strong offensive unit that's averaging 49.7 points per game since a season-opening loss to Baylor. Notre Dame is in the early three-way tie atop the DII-AA East standings.
LOUDON REDSKINS (3-1, 1-0) at SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (1-3, 0-1)
Storyline: With Jeff Harig returning as coach, the Redskins are off to their best start since 2014. They're led by versatile QB Drew Jackson, who rushed for 76 yards and passed for 112 last week, and RB Skyan Lyle, who's coming off a 108-yard showing. Signal Mountain, meanwhile, struggled mightily. The Eagles fumbled on three of their first four plays at Class 1A power Whitwell. Part of their problem was playing without senior QB Tom Vatter, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. The thoughts were that Vatter might be back this week for the return to Region 3-3A competition, but it could be another week or two. Stepping in again and armed with another week's practice is Drew Lowry, the baseball standout who returned to football this year as a WR/DB.
MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (4-0, 1-0) at ROCKWOOD TIGERS (2-2, 0-0)
Storyline: Meigs County is the state's top-ranked team in Class 2A, and coach Jason Fitzgerald doesn't anticipate any changes for tonight's Region 2-2A contest. As he said, his players know what it takes to get to the postseason. Rockwood, described as a big and physical, is one of those steppingstones. Meigs' offensive strength is QB Aaron Swafford, but the sophomore is getting more help — the Tigers have six players who have caught at least two passes. The first-team defense, led by transfer LB Jawan Martin and DB Eli Loden, has given up two TDs this season.
RED BANK LIONS (2-1, 1-0) at McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS (0-4, 0-1)
Storyline: While Red Bank is coming off an open date — and thus two weeks to get healthy and prepare — McMinn Central has played without a break. The Chargers have improved offensively, but the defense has allowed an average of 30.5 points per game. Couple that with the Lions' explosive offense, and there is the making for a long night in this 3-3A matchup. Coach Josh Goodin's Chargers have shown the ability to beat the odds, though, including a stunning 27-21 win over Notre Dame and a 20-14 victory over Red Bank in the 2014 postseason.
GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (2-1, 0-1) at CONCORD CHRISTIAN LIONS (0-4, 0-2)
Storyline: The Golden Eagles have contributed to Concord Christian's 0-9 records in each of its first two varsity seasons, but Grace coach Bob Ateca said the Lions are improved this year. Well, their average allowance of 32.3 points per game in 2017 at least is better than in those other seasons. By Ateca's admission, Grace's defense is improved, too. It allowed a total of 27 points in its two victories, while the offense scored more than 20 in both games. Adam Echols is one of the Golden Eagles' main defensive playmakers. He was out the game they lost but returned for last week's rivalry win over Silverdale Baptist in DII-AA East play and showed how much he was missed. ILB Ryan Merritt gets props from his coach for his play on that side of the ball, too. The main concern this week for the defense is the Lions tend to throw it around more than any of the opponents Grace has had to prepare for thus far.
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (3-1, 1-0) at BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (2-1, 1-0)
Storyline: Emotions are high leading up to this neighborhood rivalry. Adding to the atmosphere is that this is now a Region 2-6A game. But once the ball is teed and kicked off, it's going to be reduced to one good football team playing another. Coach Scott Cummings is in his third season at Cleveland (he's 0-2 vs. Bradley), and for the first time feels he has a defense physical enough to hold up with the Bears for four quarters. It's no secret that speed is the Blue Raiders' game. Not only is it obvious making tackles in open space will be crucial, Bradley coach Damon Floyd said the first concern is getting lined up properly from play to play. Jay Person, an active, 6-foot-4 LB, and Lameric Tucker, a cat-quick, 5-10 WR, have been Bradley's most worrisome players to deal with this season. Cleveland was without RB Keegan Jones, its leading rusher and scorer, and QB Kellye Cawood in last week's loss. They're back. The Bears have had two weeks to prepare. That also means two weeks of anxiety waiting for this one.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (2-2, 0-1) at WILLIAM BLOUNT GOVERNORS (0-4, 0-2)
Storyline: Ooltewah hopes the shutout it registered last week is a sign of things to come. William Blount will want to try to establish the run first in this Region 2-6A game, with RB T.J. King leading the way in that quest. Turnovers have been a downfall for the Governors, and the Owls hope that pattern continues. Ooltewah's offense has been fine all along. RB Sincere Quinn, who averages 10.8 yards per carry, has played a pivotal role in that, but so has the passing game. QB Kyrell Sanford has had a 12-for-14 performance through the air and WR Andrew Manning has had a game with more than 200 receiving yards. Manning is also a valuable contributor on defense and special teams. The Owls must deal with a bus ride of two hours or so and the road environment, but considering they average 43 points per game and the Govs allow an average of 45.5, they may be able to persevere.
ADAIRSVILLE TIGERS (2-1) at RINGGOLD TIGERS (1-2)
Storyline: As Ringgold found out last season, the crossover games in Region 6-AAA are important. The Tigers lost both of theirs in 2016, keeping them from earning the top seed from the North subregion. One of those losses was to Adairsville. This time around, Ringgold hopes an improved defense makes the difference, as it did in a 31-0 win over Fannin County two weeks ago. The open date was beneficial because it allowed QB Cole Kibler able to recover from a sore shoulder and RB Ty Jones to rest a bum ankle. Adairsville was off last week, too, but in the two previous games put up big numbers in wins over Cass and Model. QB Mason Boswell has 300 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns, while RB Christian Steele has 256 rushing yards to lead a team that has 720 yards on the ground so far and is averaging 9.4 per carry. The Ringgold defense will get tested early and often and will have to watch out for a dangerous play-action pass attack.
BOWDON RED DEVILS (1-2) at TRION BULLDOGS (2-1)
Storyline: Sam R. McCain Stadium is the site for this key Region 6-A opener. Bowdon won 37-18 last year, dominating the line of scrimmage. The Red Devils, after losing to larger schools, beat Class A's Greenville 28-0 last week. The team's physical running game, led by RBs DeDe Cox and Kyle Franklin as well as FB Zaylin Wood, will test the Trion defense. Offensively, Trion had a rough week in a 35-14 rivalry loss to Class AAA's Bremen. QB Jarret Gill was 6-of-17 passing but will have a better matchup this week and will try to get Tanner Railey and Cole Phillips involved early to set up FB Logan Blevins on the ground. Handling Bowdon DL Wood (6-2, 235) and Noah Langley (6-3, 210) will be key to the Bulldogs' hopes.
MODEL BLUE DEVILS (0-3) at DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (1-2)
Storyline: Model has played a brutal early schedule, losing to two Class AAA schools and then AAAA's Northwest Whitfield last week, so this Region 7-AA opener will be a truer test. The Blue Devils are hurting at QB, where starter Jackson Couch is hobbled, but they have strong RBs in Kwalic Dublin and Ohigee Swinger and dangerous WR Kidron Ford. Dade, as Northwest did a week ago, will look to pound the middle of the Model defense with RBs Malaki Webb (331 yards, six TDs) and Lee Spencer (nearly 400 total yards). Can QB Greg Templeton keep the Blue Devils' defense honest?
SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (3-0) at CHRISTIAN HERITAGE LIONS (0-2)
Storyline: Southeast is one of the hottest offensive teams in the area, having put up 47, 46 and 42 points behind a lethal passing game. QB Porter Johnson already has 685 passing yards and 10 touchdowns and has elite WRs in Oscar Gonzalez (17 catches, 341 yards, five TDs) and Landon Eaton (12, 252, three). RB Christian Gillespie adds balance with 269 rushing yards and three scores. The Raiders are led on the other side of the ball by Georgia Tech-committed DE Luke Johns, who has four sacks among his 32 tackles. Christian Heritage also has a pass-first approach behind QB Matthew Neff, who has passed for 416 yards in two games, mostly to WRs Zach Gentry and Christian Koneman. The Class A program's lack of depth has shown in the second half of losses to bigger schools North Murray and Murray County, so a quick start is a must for the Lions.