When Boyd Buchanan hosts Chattanooga Christian School at 7 p.m. Thursday, the matchup of state-ranked football teams under first-year coaches will help shape the postseason picture for Division II-AA's East Region with the TSSAA playoffs a little more than a month away.
It will also kick off a new era for the series between private schools on opposite sides of Missionary Ridge.
CCS athletic director Daniel Russell and Boyd Buchanan counterpart Matt Pobieglo came together on the idea that the winner each season in what's been dubbed the "Ridge Cut Rivalry" will now get to hold not only bragging rights but something more tangible: a painted car tire with a gold rim on which the winner and score from each season will be written.
"Our schools have a good rivalry history, and this just builds to it," Russell said. "This trophy gives something special for our players and fan bases to get excited about. Both of our programs are ranked and have new head coaches. These kids train for 340 days a year, and this gives them something special to battle for. We are grateful to Boyd to agree in doing this so we can all support the kids."
CCS (5-1, 3-0) is riding a five-game winning streak in two fashions, with Phil Massey's Chargers undefeated since a 28-7 loss to reigning DII-AAA champion McCallie to start the season and seeking a sixth consecutive series victory against Boyd Buchanan. However, Gary Rankin's Buccaneers (5-1, 1-1) figure to be tough at home, where they won 55-7 against Columbia Academy last week to rebound from a 28-21 loss at Silverdale Baptist Academy.
The Chargers have scored 243 points over their past five games, a charge led by star playmakers Boo Carter, Jordan Gile, Javoris Havis and AJ Wallace.
Gile has thrown for more than 1,000 yards this season, with Carter and Wallace helping him to that number as receivers, while Havis has averaged more than 100 rushing yards a game and 9.2 yards per carry. Carter, ranked the No. 1 prospect in the state for the class of 2024 by Rivals.com, has 24 catches for 561 yards and six touchdowns to go with 285 rushing yards and 10 scores.
Carter had 135 total yards and scored the Chargers' lone touchdown in the loss to McCallie, and in last Friday's 44-14 win against Christian Academy of Knoxville, he had 245 total yards and six touchdowns. The next day, he took a trip to Neyland Stadium to see the Tennessee Volunteers take down the Florida Gators, a win that ended a five-game series losing streak for the Vols and helped them move up to No. 8 in The Associated Press Top 25 entering their open date this week.
"Once Tennessee sealed the win, I couldn't even hear myself talk," said Carter, who is also a standout defensive back and has returned one of his three interceptions for a touchdown. "It's back to the old Vol Nation on Rocky Top. The offense is wide open, and they are really exciting to watch."
Softball's final stretch
The GHSA fastpitch softball regular season has two weeks remaining before the revamped postseason begins, and in nearly every northwest Georgia region, there is much to be decided.
The closest race for first place is in 6-AAA, where Gordon Lee and LaFayette are 8-2 in league play and have split two games. If they finish in a two-way tie, Gordon Lee is currently in line to win the tiebreaker of least runs allowed between the tied teams. LaFayette won the first game 8-4, with Gordon Lee prevailing 10-5 in the rematch.
Also in 6-AAA, Bremen (7-4) has a game lead over Ringgold (6-5) and is two up over Coahulla Creek (4-6). Ringgold, which beat Bremen on Wednesday, needs just one win in its final three games to secure at least the fourth playoff spot.
Also tight is 7-AAAA, where Heritage (9-1) leads Central-Carroll (8-2) for the top spot. After splitting two games, the third and final regular-season meeting between the two is Oct. 4 in Carrollton. Northwest Whitfield (6-4) and Sonoraville (5-5) have also split and will likely decide the other two postseason spots when they meet again Oct. 11 at Northwest Whitfield.
Region 7-AAAAA has a two-team race for first, and leader Cartersville (10-1) has twice beaten Calhoun (9-2) with their third meeting set for Oct. 11.
Region 7-A (Division I) will also come down to the last week with Dade County (7-1) just ahead of Pepperell (6-1) for the top spot and having won their earlier matchup. Dade hosts Pepperell on Oct. 5. Trion (6-2), which owns a win over Dade, still has games left with the top two teams -- Thursday at Dade and Oct. 12 at Pepperell. Chattooga (5-3) has a solid lead over Armuchee (2-6) for the final spot and could overtake Trion for third with help.
Area teams in 7-AA could be left out of the playoffs as Rockmart (11-0), Haralson County (9-2) and Fannin (6-5) are the top three. North Murray is currently tied with Model at 4-6 for fourth place.
With Hurricane Ian hitting Florida, two local schools have opened their doors to a college football program from the Sunshine State: Bethune-Cookman University, a Football Championship Subdivision school in Daytona Beach.
The Wildcats (1-2, 1-0 Southwest Athletic Conference) are practicing at Boyd Buchanan and holding meetings at Brainerd High in the evenings as they prepare for Saturday afternoon's game against Alabama A&M (0-4, 0-1) in Huntsville.
Brainerd coach Martels Carter said he and Bethune-Cookman coach Terry Sims "have a very good relationship."
"He called me and let me know they were coming through," Carter said, "and both schools were able to help them out in a time of need. Our kids are excited because they get to see how a Division I football program prepares."
McCallie's Thad Whitfield was an incredible 8 under par through 15 holes at Black Creek Club last week in a Ryder Cup-style event against Baylor. Whitfield's Blue Tornado won 8.5-3.5 in the rivalry match, but they fell one stroke shy as the Red Raiders won the DII-AA East Region championship tournament this week.
Both teams advance to next week's state tourney at Sevierville Golf Club, where Baylor will be seeking its third straight title and fourth in five years.
Meanwhile in Class A competition, Signal Mountain's Peyton Ogle shot a 5-under 67 in the Region 3 tournament at Brainerd Golf Course to win his second straight league title. The five-time state qualifier for the Eagles, who won the team region title, is 28 under through his past 153 holes of competition for Signal Mountain.