BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (3-0) at CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (3-0)
Storyline: This one may be the headliner of a strong rivalry Friday. Both teams are ranked — Bradley No. 4 in Class 6A, Cleveland No. 4 in Class 5A. Cleveland has had six head coaches since 1979. Only two beat Bradley in their first season, and both were shutouts — Benny Monroe in 1979 (7-0) and Danny Wilson, now the principal at South Pittsburg, in 2005 (23-0). The Blue Raiders have taken two of the past three and six of the past 10, but Bradley has won three of the past five. Cleveland was going to run a veer offense and still might, but QB Dallas McCrary has been finding WR Skyler Davis with ease. Bradley is going to throw — QB Cole Copeland is among the state's best dual threats and he has gotten more and more comfortable with junior WR Lamaric Tucker — but the Bears also can play ball control.
KNOXVILLE CATHOLIC IRISH (2-1) at NOTRE DAME IRISH (3-0)
Storyline: Both teams have yet to lose on the field. In its opener, Catholic ripped Morristown West at Morristown (with a running clock much of the second half) but then reported playing a freshman who was ineligible and forfeited the victory. The teams resumed this series in 2013 and Catholic, the top-ranked Class 4A team, has won three straight over Notre Dame, No. 2 in Class 3A and a team with at least 10 wins each of the past three seasons. The Knoxville school is led by Clemson-committed Amari Rogers, the WR who has 15 catches for 441 yards with six TDs, and Tennessee-committed Cade Mayes, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound two-way junior T. He and younger brother Cooper, a freshman who now has a Tennessee offer, make up the left side of the offensive line.
CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (1-2) at EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (2-1)
Storyline: New Central coach Cortney Braswell was rewarded with his first win last week, a Region 4-4A victory over visiting Livingston Academy. Tim James, in his first year back at East Ridge, saw his team secure win No. 2 at Signal Mountain but of even more delight to Pioneers fans was the 2016 debut of Traneil Moore, the state's Class 3A Mr. Football for the 2015 season. Moore, slowed by recuperation/recovery from a knee injury, averaged more than 8 yards per carry (20 for 165). He will draw special attention from Central defenders, including SS D.J. Baxter and LBs C.J. Montgomery and Arion Price. Central also had to prepare for two QBs. Alonzo Russell threw for 134 yards while playing in place of Eric Bennett, who sustained a concussion in the second game.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (0-3) at TYNER RAMS (1-1)
Storyline: The Eagles might not be winless if fumbles hadn't been such a problem. They had four last week in a Region 3-3A loss to East Ridge, and the task is just as tough this week — the fourth straight game against a team that made the playoffs last year. Signal LB Collin Weigert is averaging eight tackles per game, and he leads the area with 8.5 lost-yardage stops. Tyner coach Wayne Turner has continued with his multiple-QB philosophy, and that group includes Jaylen Bowen and Shaylan Bailey. The Rams' most effective RBs are Bowen and Rah'le High. Weigert is Signal's most consistent runner and most recently turned in a 114-yard performance. He is one of at least six Eagles playing both ways.
RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (2-1) at CLINTON DRAGONS (1-2)
Storyline: The Dragons are happy to be at home after spending the past two weeks on the road. However, they got their first win last week at Karns. Among their losses is unbeaten Class 5A toughie Oak Ridge. Rhea LB Jawan Martin is among the area's tackle leaders with 16 solos and 12 assists through the Eagles' first three games. A 2015 state semifinalist, the Eagles are ranked No. 6 among 5A teams in the latest Associated Press poll. They have 1,000-yard rushers returning in Mason Stephenson and Cody Bice. They have now been joined by A.J. Velasco and Christian Simon.
WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (1-2) at COFFEE COUNTY RED RAIDERS (1-2)
Storyline: It's a nonregion game and one that should not be considered a must-win for the Mustangs, but they have yet to put together back-to-back wins and really need a blowout to soothe some bruised egos and foster a possible return to the Class 5A rankings. Coffee might be a good place to get it. The Red Raiders have lost two straight by a combined score of 110-40. Walker Valley's passing game — QB Kolten Gibson and WRs Cooper Melton, Bryce Nunnelly and Zach Eslinger — cannot continue to throw up big numbers. They need more from RB Alex King and the offensive line; on defense, Skyler Swafford and Isaiah Also could use some help.
LENOIR CITY PANTHERS (1-2) at McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (2-1)
Storyline: The Cherokees took a big step in the Region 4-5A race with a win over Walker Valley, which was expected in the preseason to be among the title contenders. (The Mustangs have now gone nine games without beating McMinn County.) Lenoir City has lost, won and then lost again this season. The Panthers are averaging nine points per game while giving up an average of 25.3. Their scoring opportunities are likely to be limited. For those who haven't yet seen McMinn, the Cherokees are a ground-and-pound offense out of a wing-T set. The Cherokees might struggle for a down or two and then bust a big play with either Tabre Anthony, Xavier Abernathy or Julion Santos. Their most likely college recruit is Xzayvier Beckingham, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound DL.
SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (3-0, 1-0) at YORK INSTITUTE DRAGONS (0-3, 0-1)
Storyline: The Associated Press welcomed Sequatchie, which will be taking a 2 1/2-hour bus ride for a Region 4-3A game, into the state poll at No. 5 this week. Coach Adam Caine doesn't expect the ride or the ranking to create any interference for his veteran team. He's more concerned with whether his defense, led by LBs Kyle Cates and Hunter Davenport, can contain dual-threat QB Mason Cravens. Caine also wants to see a good effort from his QB, Ethan Barker, and continued production from the running game. Senior John Higgins returned earlier than expected this season from knee surgery in the spring and has been a mainstay on the Indians' lines.
SILVERDALE BAPTIST SEAHAWKS (2-0, 1-0) at GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (2-1, 1-0)
Storyline: Silverdale hits the road for a third consecutive game, but this one is simply a visit to play some neighboring Baptist brethren. As basic as it seems, lining up correctly and executing properly is the main objective for both teams. The Seahawks' base offense is the wing-T, but with QB Alex Gonzalez they can also go to a spread. Regardless, the Golden Eagles' LBs will have to produce in order for things to go their way. QB Jared Thompson directs Grace's offense, which goes in all directions. Trusting their reads and being disciplined will be pivotal for the Seahawks' defenders.
POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (2-1) at McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS (1-2)
Storyline: There are no secrets between these longstanding border rivals. Polk County will feed the ball often to FB Logan Griswold. Jackson Long will carry it as many times or more for McMinn Central. Polk coach Derrick Davis is putting a premium on gang-tackling this week, with the burden falling to senior Seth Sloan and the other three LBs. In anticipation of the Wildcats keying on Long, McMinn Central coach Josh Goodin expects several other Chargers will have to step up their play. QB Hunter Powers may have to take on an increased role. Both teams are healthy. There have been many close games in this series. This easily could be another one.
BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (0-2) at WHITWELL TIGERS (1-2)
Storyline: With first-year coach Tracy Malone, Whitwell has traded in its run-95-percent-of-the-time offense for one that features a lot of motion, multiple formations and more balance. Bledsoe coach Josh Owensby's biggest concern is his players having to defend the entire field. The Tigers are averaging right at 21 points per game, but Malone thinks it might take more than that to win against a Warriors defense he believes makes the opposition earn everything. On the surface it looks like the kicking game favors Bledsoe with Gabe Boring having put five of seven kickoffs in the end zone so far while averaging 38 yards per punt. But Whitwell's Austin Nunley showed some leg strength last week when he connected on a 43-yard field goal.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (2-1) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (2-1)
Storyline: Ooltewah is coming off a victory that more resembles a basketball score (69-55 over Clyde A. Erwin from Asheville, N.C.). Evidently the Owls' offense is alive and well, despite graduation losses. Coach Mac Bryan came to Ooltewah in 2013 and began showing a penchant for putting the ball in the air often right away. With the return of senior RB Cameron Turner, the ball may be kept on the ground a little more often this year, although QB Collin Thurman was 23-of-29 passing last week. The Hurricanes lost QB Nick Woods to a knee injury in their second game. Andrew Sturdivant switched over from RB, and now they've had a chance to get him more practice reps at QB. He responded with a long TD pass in a 31-14 victory over Sequoyah. K/P Jake McClure provides a strong kicking game. A big edge will belong to the team that limits its mistakes in this backyard rivalry.
MCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (2-1) at RED BANK LIONS (1-2)
Storyline: McCallie's defense appears to be much improved, having allowed just 17 total points in its past two games, both wins. The offense, led by senior QB Robert Riddle, is also beginning to click, piling up 400-plus total yards last week, when Riddle passed for 316 yards and a pair of TDs. McCallie hasn't lost to an area public school since 2012, and both teams have big league games looming next week.
HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (1-2) at BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (3-0)
Storyline: The Red Raiders have won their first three games by an average of 28 points, and if the past few meetings are any indication, they are again heavy favorites. Baylor sophomore QB Lorenzo White is a dual threat surrounded by plenty of weapons, including WR Emanual Williams and Brendan Harris, who can play WR or RB. Howard's defense, led by Tadarius Covington, was opportunistic in last week's win — its first at home in 10 games — by cashing in on five turnovers.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (3-0) at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (1-1)
Storyline: The oldest continual rivalry in the state is renewed for the 92nd time. The Warriors have won the past two meetings by the state's 35-point mercy rule, while the Pirates won eight straight before that, with five of those coming by mercy rule. The last game decided by fewer than two touchdowns was in 2005. Marion's offense can strike quickly with RBs Jacob Saylors and Hunter Zeman, or grind it out with FB Hunter McClain. Defensively the Warriors are led by one of the area's top line trio. The Pirates hope their speed — including RBs Joseph Lilly, Kyree Pryor and WR Cade Kennemore — can make enough big plays to keep them close into the fourth quarter.
RIDGELAND PANTHERS (2-0) at CHATTOOGA INDIANS (1-1)
Storyline: Ridgeland is 2-0 for the first time since 2007 behind a ground game that is averaging more than 300 yards per game. Jalyn Shelton has been unstoppable so far, piling up 403 yards and eight scores, and there is plenty of talent behind him in Grayson Moore. The Panthers have also been efficient throwing the ball and have big-play WRs in Markeith Montgomery and Stephon Walker. The Ridgeland defense, which passed a severe test against Darlington last week, will get another one tonight as Isaiah and Isaac Foster await. The Chattooga twins will touch the ball on nearly every play. Isaiah, a RB who missed the first week with a minor injury, returned in last week's loss at Dawson County and ripped off an 89-yard run. The defense, led by T Mike Adams, will have to hold up strong at the point of attack to keep this one close.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS (2-0) at SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (1-1)
Storyline: This initial meeting between the two schools features a Dalton team coming off impressive wins over and Northwest Whitfield and a Sonoraville team that just defeated Class AAAA Cass. The AAAAAA Catamounts have been dominant on defense, allowing just one touchdown. They are led by LB Tucker Sumner and 300-pound Ts Max Mainor and John Henry Whiteside and an active secondary paced by Kyric McGowan. The offense has been a bit spotty, but WR Zeke Cobb has developed a nice connection with QB J.P. Tighe. Sonoraville, hit hard by graduation on offense, found a running game last week behind Tristen Key (192 total yards, three touchdowns) and a developing pass game led by QB Patrick Moore and WR Cameron Keith. Can the Phoenix hit a few big plays to loosen the Cats up?
MODEL BLUE DEVILS (2-0) at NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (2-1)
Storyline: Model brings one of the state's most impressive two-way players to Tunnel Hill to face a Northwest team still trying to overcome a 10-3 loss to Dalton in which it dominated play in the first half. Model QB/LB Kyler Eldridge led a 51-21 win over Adairsville with 105 rushing yards and three TDs, plus 124 more yards through the air, and he recorded 10 tackles to go with two interceptions and a forced fumble. He will, no doubt, be the focus of a Northwest defense that has been strong, led by DLs Jonathan Tant and Cyle Ledford and LB Chase Blackwell. The Bruins' offense, unstoppable the first two games, was unable to finish drives last week and will look to rebound behind QB Luke Shiflett and WRs Jay Jones and Will Blanchard.
GORDON LEE TROJANS (2-0) at LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (0-2)
Storyline: Gordon Lee is 2-0 for just the second time in 11 years and can thank an explosive running game paced by senior Drew Cobb. The speedy and powerful RB has 435 yards and nine TDs and is a threat to break off a big play at any time. Fellow RB Braden Jarvis is also coming off a 100-yard game against LaFayette and could receive more carries tonight. The Warriors, coming off an open week, have shown an improved defense led by LBs Drew Woodard and Jonathan Cutcher. The offense has moved the ball, with RB Nathan Williams averaging 100 yards, but mistakes have hurt several promising drives. Finishing them tonight is the key to keeping it close.
NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS (2-0) at HERITAGE GENERALS (2-1)
Storyline: Explosive offenses will tangle at Jeff Sims Field, though they're likely to go about it in different fashions. The Mountaineers, under first-year coach Preston Poag, have relied on a college-size line led by sophomore Luke Griffin to maul teams. RB Brady Harper is coming off a school-record 270 rushing yards and five TDs against Coosa and will be busy again tonight. The Generals prefer to do their damage via the pass — senior QB Corbee Wilson (567 yards, seven TDs) is both efficient and dangerous. WR Ryan Carter has emerged as one of the area's top threats with 239 yards and five TDs, while Luke Grant is dangerous as both a receiver and returner.
MURRAY COUNTY INDIANS (2-0) at CHRISTIAN HERITAGE LIONS (0-1)
Storyline: Murray County has won its first two games for the first time since 2001 (it did receive forfeits for its first two games of the 2011 schedule later that season) and have done so behind a much-improved offensive line and the one-two rushing punch of QB Dominick Genitempo and RB Tucker Gregg. The two combined for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns in an impressive 28-7 win over Southeast Whitfield last week. Genitempo, a powerful runner, has also improved as a passer and has a nice red-zone threat in 6-foot-5 TE Braden Weaver. Christian Heritage, with two off weeks early, is still trying to find its identity under first-year coach Jay Poag. QB Brandon Poag, the coach's son, was injured during the opening-game loss to North Murray but should be back tonight. Versatile Wesley Hagan has emerged as a a top playmaker and is a strong receiving threat out of the backfield. The Lions' defense must slow the Indians' ground game to stay in this one.
TRION BULLDOGS (2-0) at BREMEN BLUE DEVILS (0-3)
Storyline: Trion, hit hard by graduation, hasn't missed a beat in two impressive wins. RB Jarrett Pierce has assumed the lead back role and has responded with 251 yards (15.7 per carry) and five TDs, while WB/DB Evan Walker is a strong sidekick as evidenced by his four catches for 57 yards last week to go with a team-leading seven tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery for TD in a rout of Dade County. Bremen is better than its record shows. The Blue Devils' losses have been by a combined 30 points as they try to get things going under first-year coach Davis Russell. The defense is the strong point, led by LB Kyle Bailey and DE Logan Johnson.