BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (2-0) at CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (2-0)
One of the area's most heated rivalries is now also a Region 2-6A matchup, which means more than just county bragging rights are weighing on the outcome this year. The Bears are riding a six-game winning streak in the series, but two of those (37-35 in 2019 and 27-21 in 2017) came down to the final possession. This is as talented as the Blue Raiders have been in some time, and after impressive wins over Red Bank and McMinn County, confidence is high around the program, which is just outside of a top-10 state ranking. While the offense - highlighted by quarterback Drew Lambert's 298 passing yards, Destun Thomas' 204 receiving yards and Tetoe Boyd's average of 6.7 yards per carry - has no shortage of big-play threats, the defense has been equally impressive. As for sixth-ranked Bradley Central, the Bears already have one win over a Bradley County rival with last week's impressive 24-10 handling of Walker Valley on the road. In that game, the Bears allowed just 34 yards on 33 rushing attempts and collected six sacks. Offensively, with quarterback Aiden McClary slowed by an injury, sophomore running back Jackson Wilson ran for 144 of his 177 yards in the second half and totaled three touchdowns.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (1-1) at SILVERDALE BAPTIST ACADEMY SEAHAWKS (2-0)
The Seahawks are off to a 2-0 start for the first time in five years, having outscored their opponents a combined 75-20. Last week, they built a 20-0 halftime lead and cruised past Franklin Road Academy thanks to quarterback Brett Rogers' four rushing touchdowns. Rogers, who has scored six times already this season, finished with 137 rushing yards and threw for 97 yards, and senior Connor Delashmitt ran for more than 100 yards for a second straight game; the school's career yardage leader, Delashmitt has 337 rushing yards this season. Brody Lamb and Turner Junkins have been the Seahawks' defensive leaders so far. The Chargers, coming off an idle week in which they picked up a COVID-19 forfeit win, have won the previous five meetings with the Seahawks, scoring 42-plus points in the past four. However, Silverdale has the advantage when it comes to experience with 13 starters back from last season compared to Chattanooga Christian's four on offense and two on defense. The Chargers also rely heavily on underclassmen, although they are a talented collection, including running back Boo Carter and receiver A.J. Wallace, sophomores who already have offers from Southeastern Conference programs. Twins Devoris and Javoris Havis, a pair of 200-pound juniors, can be a load to bring down as running backs and also give the team solid play on the defensive front. With difficult league schedules ahead, this Division II-AA East Region game will set the early tone for both teams' playoff outlooks.
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (2-0) at KNOXVILLE CATHOLIC FIGHTING IRISH (2-0)
This key early matchup in DII-AA East/Middle is also the third straight home game for the fifth-ranked Irish, who have won their first two by a combined 115-7 and own a 4-2 series lead over the Red Raiders, although Baylor won last year's meeting 20-17. Keondre Jarmon is closing in on 2,500 career rushing yards, Tommy Winton is near 1,900 career receiving yards and quarterback Jayden Neal threw for 250 yards last week for Catholic. The defense, which has allowed just 58 rushing yards this season, is led by Eli Jones, who has 15 tackles (five for loss). Baylor's offense also has been prolific, including a 52-point outburst in last week's win over Ensworth as the Red Raiders scored three touchdowns in each of the first two quarters and totaled 514 yards. Junior running back Caleb Hampton has rushed for 334 yards this season and scored four times last week, while quarterback Cooper Wick threw for 260 yards last week and has connected with Amari Jefferson for a touchdown in each of the first two games. Linebacker Trey McDonald, with 10 solo tackles, has led an opportunistic Baylor defense that has forced six turnovers, including four last week.
NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS (0-0) at NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (1-1)
Is it better to have two games under your belt or to be more of an unknown and fresh? The Mountaineers, making their season debut, take on the Bruins, who improved dramatically from a season-opening loss in last week's 44-7 win over Gordon Central. The edge last year went to Northwest in a 20-7 win, but that North Murray team was replacing numerous starters and this one has the makings of a dynamic offense with quarterback Seth Griffin (2,000 yards last year), running back Judson Petty and 6-foot-3 receiver Michael McDade. That group will test an inexperienced Northwest secondary that hasn't faced a passing offense. The Bruins have their own explosive aerial attack with quarterback Owen Brooker and receiver Ray Morrison, who hooked up three times for 128 yards and a touchdown last week, with Adrian Reyes racking up 94 rushing yards and a pair of scores. Expect a shootout if the Mountaineers can get past the usual first-game execution challenges.
RIDGELAND PANTHERS (1-1) AT RINGGOLD TIGERS (1-0)
The Panthers were hindered a week ago in a 49-0 loss at Dalton as quarterback Judd Anderson missed the game due to illness (though not COVID-19). Six turnovers didn't help, allowing the Catamounts to put together seven short scoring drives early. Ridgeland's ground game is solid with Ashton Turner and Chase Watkins running behind a huge line anchored by Jacob Klein (6-7, 320 pounds). The defense will have to limit big plays by the Tigers, who are loaded in the backfield. In last week's season-opening 35-15 win at Gilmer, Kori Dumas had 94 yards, Payton Williams 82 and quarterback Mason Parker 53 with two touchdowns. Ringgold's defense makes up for a lack of up-front size with strong back-seven pursuit, led by linebackers Jacob Garnica, Donte Harris and Brandon Orman as well as safety Kyle White. Can Ridgeland use its size to put together long drives?
Compiled by Stephen Hargis and Lindsey Young. Contact Hargis at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis. Contact Young at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
Friday, Sept. 3, 2021Games start at 7:30 p.m. Eastern unless notedTENNESSEEBaylor at Knoxville CatholicBradley Central at ClevelandBrainerd at KingstonCentral at Soddy-DaisyChattanooga Christian at Silverdale BaptistEast Ridge at East HamiltonGrace Academy at Providence Christian, 8Grundy County at Giles CountyJackson County at Sale CreekMcCallie at MBA, 8McMinn Central at Signal MountainMcMinn County at Rhea CountyNotre Dame at Knoxville WebbOoltewah at Walker ValleyGEORGIADalton at North ForsythGilmer at Murray CountyGordon Central at Southeast WhitfieldKing’s Academy (Tenn.) at HeritageKing’s Ridge Christian at Christian HeritageModel at TrionNorth Murray at Northwest WhitfieldRidgeland at RinggoldFannin County at Sonoraville