This week's Chattanooga-area high school football previews

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Signal Mountain's Pete Sesterhenn (15) passes under pressure from Meigs County's Bryson Falls, left, and Luke Pendergrass after bobbling the ball on an intended punt on Sept. 10 in Decatur, Tenn.

TYNER RAMS (6-1, 2-1) at MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (7-0, 2-0)

This is the second of a brutal four-week stretch of road games to close the regular season for Tyner. After last week's disappointing shutout loss at Marion County, any hopes Tyner has of finishing in the top two in Region 3-2A - and earning the home playoff game that comes with being one of the top two seeds - rides on the outcome of this matchup. The Rams were pushed around up front last week, never found an offensive rhythm and turned the ball over to stop potential scoring drives. They will need to clean up the mistakes to compete with the state-ranked No. 1 Tigers, who carry a 25-game winning streak in region play into this week. For Tyner to return to its earlier success from this season - the Rams averaged 40 points per game before last week - it will need junior quarterback Josh Jackson to play a key role. Jackson had thrown for nearly 500 yards in the two games leading up to last week's loss, but Marion County's defense did not allow the deep throws to be completed, limiting him to just 50 yards through the air and intercepting him twice. The Rams do have plenty of big-play threats surrounding Jackson, as Jarius Cameron, Jersey Chubb, Zashun Hubbard, Deonta Taylor and Javell Woodruff all have scored touchdowns of 30-plus yards this season. The Tigers' most recent loss to a region foe was in 2016, and through three games this year they have outscored 3-2A foes 95-3. Senior quarterback Logan Carroll, with more than 1,100 yards, leads an offense that has averaged 43 points per game. Cam Huckabey is one of the area's most underrated all-around weapons with 374 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, an area-leading four interceptions on defense and two special teams scores. Meigs County's defense, which has yet to allow more than eight points in a game, is led by Dalton Purgason's 46 tackles (eight for loss). A win by the Tigers would set up a region title matchup at unbeaten and fourth-ranked Marion County in two weeks.

FATHER RYAN FIGHTING IRISH (5-3, 0-3) at McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (7-0, 3-0)

McCallie has been as dominant in its region as any team in the state, regardless of classification, and the two-time reigning Division II-AAA state champion can wrap up at least a share of the East/Middle Region title with a win this week. The Blue Tornado, who have won 11 straight games dating to last season, have outscored opponents 243-85 so far this year. Last week, McCallie raced out to a 31-0 first-quarter lead over Battle Ground Academy. Senior quarterback William Riddle leads the area with 1,655 passing yards and 23 touchdowns - and, incredibly, has yet to throw an interception in 144 passes this season. Senior Xavier Gaillardetz, who transferred from Canada before the season, has stood out with 31 catches for 644 yards (20.8 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns, and Ontario Price has averaged 5.5 yards per carry while rushing for 469 yards. Father Ryan's region record is a bit misleading: The Irish have been outscored by a combined 12 points in their three losses, including a two-point defeat to Knoxville Catholic and a three-point loss at Montgomery Bell Academy, with both of those opponents ranked at the time.

SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (4-1, 1-0) at SALE CREEK PANTHERS (3-4, 1-1)

Despite all the off-field issues the Pirates have dealt with this season - notably the sudden resignation of first-year head coach Chris Jones, leaving the program to scramble to replace him with two longtime assistants - a win over the surprising Panthers would put them in line for their fifth Region 3-1A title in a stretch of six seasons. A region title would also earn state-ranked No. 4 South Pittsburg the right to host the first three rounds of the playoffs. Skill position talent has not been a a problem for the Pirates as the aerial combination of twins Richard and Reginald Hunter along with running back De'Andre Kelly and athlete Jayden Mount have all had their time in the spotlight. Richard Hunter threw for 242 yards in last week's 42-0 win over Class 3A's Austin-East, while Kelly rolled up 183 yards of offense. Mount's versatility - he has accounted for touchdowns passing, rushing, receiving and on kick returns - has played a key role in making the Pirates tough to defend. Defensive lineman Josiah Huntley ranks among the area's leaders with eight sacks for a unit that has held three opponents to seven or fewer points. Sale Creek, which has won three of its past four games, is coming off one of the most exciting wins by an area team this season, beating Mt. Juliet Christian 74-67 last week. Those teams combined for more than 1,100 total yards, and Panthers senior quarterback Cam Penny threw for 329, ran for 100 and accounted for eight touchdowns. For the season, Penny has thrown for 1,205 yards, while Drew Hillian has averaged better than 5 yards per carry while rushing for 616.

McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (4-3, 1-1) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (4-3, 1-1)

Second place in Region 4-5A will likely be decided by this game, because the Cherokees and Mustangs both end their league slate against a pair of opponents with a combined 1-11 overall record. The Mustangs are working toward putting together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in program history, and senior quarterback Ryan Lay has played a key role in his first season as the starter, throwing for 1,377 yards and 10 touchdowns, with most of that going to Aiden Gibson and Spencer Jackson (each has 22 catches). The offense has struggled a bit over the past two games, however, so the defense - headed by Eli Denton's area-leading 70 tackles and Myles Mann's 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks - may need to carry more of the load. The Cherokees, who are on a three-game winning streak after scoring at least 30 points in each of those, should test the Walker Valley defense. Senior quarterback Jayden Miller has thrown for 866 yards and rushed for 470 with 21 total touchdowns, Davian Evans has averaged more than 6 yards per carry while rushing for 457 and Luke Henlsey ranks among the area leaders in receptions with 29 for 261 yards.

Compiled by Stephen Hargis. Contact him at shargis@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

photo Staff photo by Robin Rudd / Walker Valley's Aiden Gibson escapes a Rhea County defender after making a catch on Sept. 4, 2020, in Evensville, Tenn.

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE

Friday, Oct. 15, 2021Games start at 7:30 p.m. Eastern unless notedTENNESSEEBradley Central at FarragutBradley Knights at Copper BasinCleveland at BeardenFather Ryan at McCallieFayetteville at Red BankGiles County at Sequatchie County, 8Hendersonville at BaylorHixson at Lenoir CityHoward at Rhea CountyKnoxville Grace at Chattanooga ChristianLookout Valley at Whitwell, 8Marion County at Polk CountyMcMinn County at Walker ValleyNotre Dame at Boyd BuchananOoltewah at Soddy-DaisySignal Mountain at KingstonSilverdale Baptist at East RidgeSouth Pittsburg at Sale CreekSweetwater at BrainerdTellico Plains at Bledsoe County, 8Tyner at Meigs CountyZion Christian at Grundy County, 8GEORGIAChristian Heritage at DarlingtonCoahulla Creek at LaFayetteDade County at ChattoogaGordon Central at CoosaHeritage at Northwest WhitfieldNorth Murray at Lakeview-Fort OglethorpeRockmart at Murray CountyRidgeland at CedartownSonoraville at AdairsvilleTrion at B.E.S.T AcademyWoodland-Bartow at Calhoun