What to know for the 2023 Chattanooga-area prep football season

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / East Ridge football players huddle at the start of the first practice for their 2023 season on July 24.
Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / East Ridge football players huddle at the start of the first practice for their 2023 season on July 24.

A quick check of the itinerary shows that it's time once again to set out on another high school football season. But before kickoff, a reminder that things have changed a bit since our last trip.

About one week after the season ended last year, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association cleared the way for student-athletes in the Volunteer State to join their college counterparts around the country and begin cashing in on name, image and likeness opportunities. In the months that followed, numerous prep football players around the state began taking full advantage of their sport's popularity by collecting on those benefits.

Regardless of their future careers, those teenagers are proving eager to take a crash course in the free enterprise system. Whatever else they may learn in school, prep student-athletes and their families are beginning to understand the benefits of the business side of their sport.

Looking to make the most of any opportunity has led to more area football players transferring from school A to school B during the offseason than any previous year as each made a business decision for what he felt would help earn more playing time or even heighten his college scholarship potential.

As for the old business, last year was capped by Baylor continuing Chattanooga's stranglehold on TSSAA Division II-AAA by winning its first state championship in 49 years and Tyner retiring the school's old field with a season to remember by winning the Class 2A crown for the Rams' first title in 25 years.

The TSSAA also extended Chattanooga's contract to remain host of the BlueCross Bowl title games for another two years at Finley Stadium.

Other new business includes a revamped set of TSSAA regions, which will usher in new rivalries as well as more travel for several teams, and 11 area programs have new coaches, including six who turned their teams over to first-time head coaches.

This fall also will feature the greatest collection of college prospects the area has ever produced, including 13 players who have either committed to or have offers from Southeastern Conference and/or Atlantic Coast Conference programs. That made picking this year's Dynamite Dozen a bit easier than usual and is highlighted by four players — Baylor receiver Amari Jefferson and tight end Max LeBlanc and Bradley Central athletes Boo Carter and Marcus Goree — who are ranked among the state's top 10 college prospects overall.

Of course, all that really matters are the results on the field. So whether the goal is to reach the playoffs or make a run at a state championship, to earn a starting spot or be named all-region, all-state or even a Tennessee Titans Mr. Football finalist, there is business to be taken care of by teams and individual players alike.

With preseason scrimmages and jamborees completed, hundreds of prep teams across Tennessee will begin the process of trying to extend their season all the way to making the ultimate business trip by traveling to our beloved Scenic City in late November and early December for the three-day BlueCross Bowl state championship extravaganza.

Along the way, beginning with this annual preview section, the Times Free Press sports staff is once again excited to be a part of highlighting the accomplishments of our area athletes and teams.

So let's tee it up and get down to business.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com