MONTEREY WILDCATS (6-4) at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (10-0)
Storyline: The Wildcats are on a hot streak, having scored 67 and 51 points in their seventh and eighth games before knocking off Red Boiling Springs by 20 last week to earn a playoff spot. This will be the first time these teams have met since 2002. Under head coach Vic Grider, the Pirates have won their past eight first-round games by an average score of 53-13. Junior FB/LB Garrett Raulston and senior RB/LB Sawyer Kelley have almost identical numbers for the Pirates, each with more than 760 rushing yards and more than 50 solo tackles.
CLAY COUNTY BULLDOGS (6-4) at WHITWELL TIGERS (9-1)
Storyline: Whitwell has set a program record for regular-season wins and is looking to reach double-digit victories for the first time since 1991. The Bulldogs have scored more than 30 points four times but haven't faced a defense this good all year. Whitwell has given up an average of fewer than six points per game — only two opponents have scored more than six — including five shutouts. The defense is led by junior LB Thundur Roberts, who has 78 solo tackles, while the offense carries big-play potential with RB Trace Condra (912 rushing yards) and versatile Hudson Petty (800 total yards).
LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (5-5) at GORDONSVILLE TIGERS (6-4)
Storyline: The Tigers have won five of their past six games and have not lost to a Class 1A foe this season. This is the most wins for the Jackets in five years; if they can control the clock with their run-oriented offense and limit dangerous Braxton Givens, they have a shot at advancing to the second round for the first time in six years.
SOUTH GREENE REBELS (3-7) at MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (10-0)
Storyline: The Rebels went from more of a passing team to more of a running team as their season progressed. Still, they will jump into multiple formations, ranging from a four-WR set to one with two TEs. Likewise, on defense they might line up in a 4-4 front, maybe a 3-4. QB Levi Myers directs things, and he likes to get the ball to RB Derick Howlett. South Greene also has a couple of big senior linemen in Bryson Casteel (6-foot-4, 330 pounds) and Jordan Susong (6-6, 220). But with seven or eight Rebels playing both ways, Meigs has an edge as only QB/S Aaron Swafford starts on both sides. The Tigers have been ready every Friday, and it's hard to believe tonight will be different.
JACKSON COUNTY BLUE DEVILS (5-5) at TYNER RAMS (8-2)
Storyline: Tyner has averaged a 37-10 margin while winning its past eight games and will be going against a defense that has struggled in the second half of the season. The Rams are balanced on offense, with several players who can break open the game when they touch the ball, including RBs Jeremy Elston, Tyon Young and Ke'un Webb — they have combined for more than 1,800 rushing yards — and sophomore WR Jeremiah Batiste (676 receiving yards). DT Tracey Justice has 16 sacks and 24 tackles for loss.
WESTMORELAND EAGLES (5-5) at MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (5-5)
Storyline: The Warriors have eliminated the Eagles in the first round the past two seasons, winning 42-6 both times. Marion, which has reached three straight Class 2A title games, has won three of its past four games and scored at least 47 points in each. Senior ATH Jacob Saylors has rushed for nearly 600 yards total the past two games. The Eagles prefer to line up in the wing-T and play the game between the tackles, relying heavily on RB Tate Sloan and QB Blake Eakle.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (4-6) at YORK INSTITUTE DRAGONS (8-2)
Storyline: The Dragons run a wing-T offense, something Signal Mountain hasn't seen a great deal of this year. And they are ground-oriented — as in they've thrown three passes total in their past two games. QB Joey Dunford is the sleight-of-hand artist who moves the ball around. Heath Rexroat and Cole Cooper are among those who carry the rushing load. York's defense operates from a 3-3 stack as its base front and prefers man-to-man coverage. It will bring some pressure at times, so protecting Eagles QB Tom Vatter (2,004 passing yards, 15 TDs in nine games) and having him get the ball out of his hands on time will be of paramount importance.
SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (6-4) at RED BANK LIONS (8-2)
Storyline: Indians senior QB Ethan Barker is 18-4 as a starter and has nearly 1,200 yards of total offense this season. He guided the Indians to a semifinal last year, and with FB Brett Hicks (746 yards, 16 TDs) healthy, this will not be an easy first-round game for the Lions. They will need big plays from RB Zay Brown and ATH Calvin Jackson on offense and another strong game from DL Jamel Davis to put stubborn Sequatchie away. Three of the Indians' losses have been by one score, so they know how to hang around even when facing a team with more dynamic athletes.
SULLIVAN SOUTH REBELS (7-3) at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (6-4)
Storyline: Central knows to be successful it must contain shifty QB Ethan Ward, who is particularly good at making would-be tacklers miss in the open field. The Rebels run some option plays with him, and he's his own favorite option, although there are others, such as Mason Armstrong, capable of doing damage. Central hasn't had a home playoff game since 2001, but 16 of its 22 starting positions on offense and defense at least have playoff experience from last year. Pounders RB Michael McGhee (1,322 yards from scrimmage, 24 TDs) is a thoroughbred, so don't expect them to be shy about working him.
EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (7-3) at GREENEVILLE GREENE DEVILS (10-0)
Storyline: East Ridge needs a plan to curtail QB Cade Ballard, who will try to get the ball to athletes such as Dorien Goddard and Cameron Hite. Making that task more difficult is that the Pioneers are going to have to contend with a line that averages 270 to 280 pounds per player. They know they're going to have to play their best game of the season to have a chance. RB/LB Lorenzo Stewart has steadily improved as he has recovered from an injury, and his ability as a power runner could help East Ridge move the chains. However, that's contingent on the Pioneers limiting their mistakes — something they've struggled with. There's a chance of rain. Maybe that will help East Ridge's pass defense.
KNOXVILLE WEST REBELS (6-4) at RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (5-5)
Storyline: When West is successful, it's because its defense played well. The Rebels, who have held seven opponents to 17 or fewer points, have a fierce front seven. Two of those are the Rebels' only seniors on that side of the ball. NG Zach Stokes has an offer from Navy, and OLB Cal Cook is a playmaker. Rhea County likes to run the ball out of the wing-T and will repeatedly need to make positive yardage on first downs. Rhea QB Zack Pemberton may have to put the ball in the air a few times. The key will be if the Eagles can throw the ball when they want to, instead of because they have to.
SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (6-4) at OAK RIDGE WILDCATS (8-2)
Storyline: Oak Ridge QB Johnny Stewart directs a run-oriented offense that attempts to spread the defense out and look for openings. The Wildcats are sparked by scatback Jordan Graham (5-7, 160). On defense, their objective is to stuff the run and force teams to beat them through the air. The Trojans have a capable passer in QB Gavin Chambers (1,959 yards, 19 TDs), but expect them to try to test Oak Ridge with their running game. Chambers, not unlike many QBs, is most efficient when his team can dictate when he throws, rather than him repeatedly trying to have to convert third-and-long situations.
SCIENCE HILL HILLTOPPERS (7-3) at BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (8-2)
Storyline: The Hilltoppers had an impressive worksheet through nine games, averaging 46.9 points in their victories, and scoring 26 and 27 in losses to Class 4A's Greeneville (10-0) and Class 6A's Farragut (8-2). Then, with a chance to gain a share of the Region 1 title and host a playoff game, they scored the first two times they had the ball but proceeded to lose 31-14 as Jefferson County earned its first region win. What? Bradley played last week at Maryville for the Region 2 title and might've been able to compete for it if not for falling behind 14-0 seven minutes into a 31-7 loss. Science Hill, which has had two weeks to get ready, relies heavily on QB Jaylan Adams. The potential Football Championship Subdivision recruit had thrown two interceptions all season before throwing three in his last game. The Bears' offensive approach is to take what the defense gives, and it's gotten them this far.
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (7-3) at FARRAGUT ADMIRALS (8-2)
Storyline: The Admirals present a big matchup problem with TE Jacob Warren (6-6, 220) — he has committed to Tennessee — who will flex out wide at times. Others Cleveland must contend with include WRs Jaden Gibbs (6-3, 185), a junior who has some NCAA Division I offers, and Braden Collins (6-1, 195), a senior who seems to come up with key receptions at pivotal times. The line is not as big as some Farragut has had in the past. Blue Raiders QB Kellye Cawood topped the 300-yard passing mark in each of the past two games, but Cleveland coach Scott Cummings wants to get back to establishing the Keegan Jones-led running game that was averaging 230 yards per game before the past two.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (5-5) at DOBYNS-BENNETT INDIANS (7-3)
Storyline: Dobyns-Bennett plays a physical brand of football, attempting to be balanced and efficient offensively. Particularly solid is its defensive line, led by DE Blake Rodgers, who doubles as a power RB. The Owls must guard against the Indians' potential for methodical drives yet also can't afford to give up big plays. The plan is to get the Indians off schedule, because otherwise it could be long night for Ooltewah's defense. The Owls would like to see a duplicate of last week's performance by QB Kyrell Sanford (346 yards of total offense, two TD passes, two TD runs). Explosive RB Sincere Quinn (957 rushing yards, 12 TDs in seven games) has battled an ankle injury but appears healthy again and is expected to be ready to go.
GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (4-6) at FAYETTE ACADEMY VIKINGS (6-4)
Storyline: The Vikings are a run-first team, but get caught trying to stuff them inside and QB Spencer Hayden will fake a handoff and try to hit someone deep with a pass. Grace QB Cade Tinsley may have to take to the air a little more than usual, considering Fayette Academy likes to load the tackle box to stop the run and play man-to-man coverage in the back. The Golden Eagles have had some injuries, particularly along the line, and that hasn't helped in their current four-game losing streak. If they can win the turnover battle, something that hasn't happened lately, they can show the Vikings why they belong in the state playoffs.
LIPSCOMB ACADEMY MUSTANGS (1-9) at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (8-1)
Storyline: The Mustangs were a seven-win team in Class 4A last year but have struggled in DII, including losses to larger DII teams Ensworth and Pope John Paul II, as well as traditional powers Goodpasture and South Pittsburg. Lipscomb will rely on power runners Logan Sakarapanee (6-0, 205) and Caleb Silva (5-11, 200) in hopes of controlling the clock and limiting the number of possessions for Notre Dame's explosive offense, which has scored at least five TDs in seven of the past eight games and had last week off to rest.
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (5-5) at KNOXVILLE WEBB SPARTANS (6-3)
Storyline: This is a rematch of a meeting from two weeks ago, won 42-21 by the Spartans. The Chargers are looking to snap a three-game losing skid, while Webb has won its past four. Webb's wing-T offense is loaded with speed, including freshman Elijah Howard — who already has a scholarship offer from Tennessee — juniors Jahlil Jefferson and Roderick Lewis and senior Morgan Ernst, who is also the team's leading tackler. CCS relies heavily on the power running of junior Mondo Ellison, who is second in the city with 1,612 rushing yards and 18 TDs.
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (3-7) at ENSWORTH TIGERS (7-3)
Storyline: This is a rematch of a Sept. 8 game, won 35-21 by the Tigers, who are on a four-game winning streak that includes a 10-7 victory over sixth-ranked Montgomery Bell Academy. In the first meeting, Nicky Clifton and Keshawn Lawrence each ran for more than 150 yards for the Tigers, with Lawrence scoring four TDs. Baylor, which is trying to break a four-game losing skid, nearly pulled off a huge upset of MBA last week and has lost its past two games by a combined four points.
GEORGIA REGULAR SEASON
ALLATOONA BUCCANEERS (6-3, 5-1) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (7-2, 5-1)
Storyline: Expect a defense-dominated game with second place on the line in Region 6-AAAAAA. Allatoona boasts a defense that has allowed 14 points in its past three games and enters tonight with 65 tackles for loss and 32 sacks, including 18 combined from linemen James Daniels and Royce Francis. They will be a handful for the Dalton OL and the run-oriented attack featuring backs Jahmyr Gibbs and Tyis Love. The Dalton defense is coming off its best game, a shutout of South Cobb in which it allowed 41 total yards. The Cats are especially strong against the run, led by Harrison Hughes, Noah Bartoo and Grant Goldberg, which is good news for Dalton because the Bucs prefer to run the ball with Adrian Boyd.
PICKENS DRAGONS (5-4, 3-2) at HERITAGE GENERALS (8-1, 4-1)
Storyline: Heritage can secure a home playoff game with a win, but its defense will face the most balanced offense it has seen this season. The Dragons enter with 4,500 total yards, led by QB Jacob Brumby (2,030 passing yards), 1,000-yard rusher Robert Davis and WR Zach Goss (743 receiving yards, 14 TDs). Heritage counters with QB Blake Bryan, who has an area-best 26 TD passes, 14 of them to WR Luke Grant. The prolific Heritage LB corps of Zaine Burton, Hank Weldon and Zach Goins has a combined 53 tackles for loss but is likely to be tested tonight.
BREMEN BLUE DEVILS (8-1, 3-1) at RINGGOLD TIGERS (5-4, 2-2)
Storyline: Ringgold has a shot to turn around an up-and-down season and reach the playoffs, but it will have to get past a team still smarting from last week's 48-0 loss to Calhoun. The Tigers will try to emulate the Yellow Jackets and stop 1,200-yard rusher Turic Dobbs and force QB Wade Cartwright to beat them through the air. Ringgold can win a shootout if it needs to behind QB Cole Kibler (2,391 passing yards), RB Ty Jones (700 rushing yards) and big-time WRs Andre Tarver and Pete Brower, who have a combined 1,200 receiving yards and 15 TDs.
ADAIRSVILLE TIGERS (5-4, 2-2) at LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (5-4, 3-1)
Storyline: Teams that prefer a physical brand of football will settle a playoff spot in Region 6-AAA. The teams are similar offensively. Adairsville has a veteran QB in Mason Boswell, a strong runner who can make some big plays through the air. LFO relies heavily on QB Zach Vaughn, another strong runner. Each team has a physical lead RB, Christian Steele for Adairsville and Nathan Williams for LFO. If plays are to be made through the air, watch for the Tigers' Bryce Burgess and LFO's Ruddy Ware.
SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (4-5, 1-3) at NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS (6-3, 4-0)
Storyline: The Mountaineers can earn the program's first home playoff game, but they'll have to get past a team that has made four consecutive postseason appearances. The Phoenix will need a big game from QB Patrick Moore and RB Tristen Key if they want to hang with North Murray, which is playing its best ball of the year. QB Preston Poag Jr. has more than 2,000 yards of total offense, while WR Conner Rice has 825 receiving yards and 14 TDs. It's the defense, though, that has shone lately, allowing 35 points with two shutouts in the past four games.
TRION BULLDOGS (7-2, 5-1) at MOUNT PISGAH CHRISTIAN PATRIOTS (7-2, 6-1)
Storyline: A win likely secures a home playoff game for the Bulldogs, but they can expect to face a stiff challenge from the Patriots' offense, led by prolific QB Jacob Cendoya (2,248 yards passing, 1,012 rushing). Trion's wing-T offense is tough to defend because of its balance — FB Logan Blevins leads the way with 861 rushing yards and 15 TDs, with WBs Cole Phillips and Tanner Railey each with more than 500 yards. The Patriots are coming off a loss to Mount Paran Christian in which they gave up 452 yards on the ground.