In a season of firsts for the Chattanooga Christian School football program, the biggest feat yet is 48 minutes of game clock away.
The Chargers, who have risen to No. 4 in the state rankings for Division II-AA, travel to Knoxville to face second-ranked Webb with the East Region title on the line in a regular-season finale Friday night. In its 14-year history, CCS (8-1, 5-0) has never won a region crown, while the Spartans (8-0, 5-0) have been the standard for the TSSAA's midsized private schools for many years, having won eight state championships.
"We have to bring the same mentality that's carried us this far and treat this like our backs are against the wall, like it's a playoff game," Chargers first-year coach Phil Massey said. "We don't have to play outside of who we are but just do what we've been doing, because that's good enough.
"Respect is something you have to earn. That's not just given. Webb traditionally has gold balls and numerous region titles, so they have earned that recognition whereas we're still trying to earn it."
Since a season-opening loss to McCallie, the Chargers have eight straight wins, none by fewer than 17 points. They have outscored those eight opponents by an eye-catching average of 51-10, scoring 62-plus points three times, including the past two games.
This marks only the third time CCS has won more than five games in a season, and this year's team has already matched the program best for wins in a season.
"We have been playing well, but the level of competition in this game will be more of a true test of how far we've come," Massey said. "Since the beginning of the year we believed that we had a chance to be where we are now."
The Chargers' high-octane offense is led by Boo Carter, one of the state's highest-rated junior prospects with more than 1,200 total yards (14.5 per touch) and 23 touchdowns. But what has separated this year's CCS team from previous versions is the wide-open style implemented by Massey, who guided Baylor to consecutive DII-AAA state runner-up finishes in 2010-11.
Senior quarterback Jordan Gile has thrown for 19 touchdowns and more than 1,600 yards, and leading rusher Javoris Havis has averaged nearly 9 yards per carry.
They will face a Webb defense — led by junior linebacker Cooper Cameron, a Football Bowl Subdivision prospect with 96 tackles and five sacks — that has allowed just 1.9 yards per carry. The Spartans have outscored opponents an average of 38-8, with the closest win by three points at Silverdale Baptist.
Their offense is led by dual-threat quarterback Charlie Robinson, who is committed to Navy and has thrown for 1,430 yards and rushed for 250 with an average of 6 per carry. Receivers Markeis Barrett, a junior, and Shavar Young, a freshman, both have multiple Power Five offers, and two-way lineman Josh Wade (6-foot-2, 280 pounds) has several FBS offers.
"We've just tried to put guys in position to be successful and help us be our best," Massey said. "We're still growing as a team, but we've already made great strides and we're excited to have this opportunity."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.