EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (1-4) at TYNER RAMS (3-2)
Storyline: Since a season-opening win at Signal Mountain, the Class 4A Hurricanes have struggled mightily, scoring 41 points while allowing 170, including 53 last week to Central. Tyner took control of Region 3-2A with a big victory at Marion County last week behind Jeremy Elston and Jaylen Bowens. The Rams' losses have been to Class 6A's Ooltewah and 3A's Signal Mountain. Since those losses to open the year, the Rams have turned it around.
RHEA COUNTY EAGLES (3-2) at BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (3-1)
Storyline: Both are coming off close wins that netted Rhea a needed Region 4-5A victory (over Lenoir City) and the Bears a county title-clinching decision over archrival Cleveland. Behind QB Dylan Standifer, the Bears are riding a three-game winning streak. Rhea, the Class 6A Bears' homecoming opponent, also has won three straight and remains atop its region. While the Eagles must find a way to slow Bradley's passing game and especially WR Lameric Tucker, the Bears will have to clamp down on Rhea RBs Christian Simon and Gavin Morrison and QB Zack Pemberton.
SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (1-4) at EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (4-0)
Storyline: At least one of the area's top players is apparently going to be out tonight — Pioneers LB/RB Lorenzo Stewart. One of 39 unbeaten prep football teams left in the state this season, East Ridge will be celebrating homecoming. The Class 3A Eagles hope to have QB Tom Vatter (shoulder injury) back on a full-time basis. The Pioneers, who entered the Class 4A poll this week at No. 9, have won two straight over Signal.
WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (0-4) at CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (3-2)
Storyline: The Mustangs have the area's passing leader (1,353 yards) in Kolten Gibson and one of the area's top WRs in Zeke Westfield. Their defense, though, has been woeful and their running game, other than Gibson, questionable. Cleveland's secondary, led by Romeo Wykle, has been a strength most of the year. What the Blue Raiders have to do to win this cross-classification rivalry game is eliminate the inexplicable mistakes in crucial times. Class 5A's Walker Valley is coming off an open date, with two weeks to prepare, while last week 6A's Cleveland was in a physical battle with Bradley Central, the duo's other county rival.
BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (2-2) at SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (2-2)
Storyline: Although they might get along elsewhere, this isn't one of those love-thy-neighbor games. Is there anyone either would rather beat? Probably not. It was evident last year as Sequatchie, on its way to the state semifinals, had more trouble with Bledsoe than any team until the Indians lost that semi to Alcoa to finish 13-1. The Warriors, who finished 4-7, came closer to beating the Indians (Sequatchie won 15-12) than all but the Tornadoes. As for this season, the Indians were doing pretty well until last week, when they ran into Meigs County, the state's top Class 2A team. Bledsoe, meanwhile, put up a shutout on the road by beating Grundy County 13-0.
McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (4-1) at BLESSED TRINITY TITANS (4-1)
Storyline: McCallie heads to Roswell, Ga., for this one. Among the Titans' opponents, the one likely most familiar to McCallie supporters is Atlanta's Westminster, which Blessed Trinity defeated 28-0 to open the season. Both the Titans and Blue Tornado have won two straight games. While Blessed Trinity QB Jake Smith has thrown for 839 yards and six touchdowns this year, McCallie QB Deangelo Hardy has directed — and led — a ground attack, putting up a season-high four-touchdown, 233-yard rushing outing two weeks ago. He isn't alone, though, being joined by Xavier Brooks and even WR Rico Dozier. The Titans' leading rusher, with 454 yards, is the well-built Steele Chambers (6-2, 212). The GHSA Class AAAA program's top receiver, with 14 catches and five TDs, is Ryan Davis.
POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (3-2) at WHITWELL TIGERS (5-0)
Storyline: This could be a faster game than most, because these teams rarely throw the ball — Whitwell averages slightly more than six passes per game and Polk fewer than that. The teams last competed against each other in 1998, with Polk securing a 34-14 victory. However, the Tigers are stalking in unfamiliar territory. They're the first Whitwell team to start a season with five straight wins in more than four decades. Leading the way are RBs Trace Condra, Hudson Petty, Josh Wingo and Warner Ashworth, and each is averaging at least 6.5 yards per carry. Condra leads the way with an average of more than 100 yards per game. On the other side, FB Eddie Lamb has been impressive for the Wildcats and has teamed with Hunter Morgan and Kyle Dunn to lead the rushing effort.
HIXSON WILDCATS (0-5) at RED BANK LIONS (3-1)
Storyline: The most points Hixson has scored in a game this season are 15. Coach Gary Murray said Red Bank probably has the best defense his team will see all year. Not an ideal combination for the Wildcats. It hasn't helped that injuries have taken a toll at such positions as WR and DE. And those groups happen to be strong for Red Bank. Therefore, the spotlight for Hixson tonight will be on the offensive line and the secondary. Getting Lions DE Jamel Davis blocked is one priority. Knowing where Calvin Jackson — whose primary offensive position is WR — lines up is another. This is a bit of a rivalry game, and Red Bank coach Chad Grabowski acknowledges Class 4A's Hixson has some good athletes. But if the Class 3A Lions limit their mistakes, with the versatile offense they have that can be methodical or strike for big plays (they average 36.3 points per game), they should be hard for the Wildcats to handle.
BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (0-5) at GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (3-1)
Storyline: The Golden Eagles celebrated on their field two weeks ago after beating rival Silverdale Baptist 21-14. Coach Bob Ateca said none of the Grace players had been involved in a victory over Silverdale before — in high school or middle school. The same applies tonight against another respected rival. The once mighty Buccaneers, 8-0 vs. Grace, have struggled on offense against a rugged schedule and are still looking for their first multi-TD game of the year. It was a big drawback when RB/DB Mike Mincey was injured before the season. He hasn't played at all, and things were compounded by QB Eli Morris getting injured on the 12th play of the season. He hasn't played since. The roster has 37 players, and just 30 dressed out last week. The Golden Eagles have struggled some with turnovers, but the talents of QB Cade Tinsley, who has accounted for 11 TDs this year, can mask a few deficiencies. He's also their leading tackler.
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (2-3) at CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (4-1)
Storyline: Although it's a nonregion game, this will serve as a good midseason measure of where both teams are headed down the home stretch. After one of the toughest schedule runs in the state that had Baylor facing three straight state-ranked foes, the Red Raiders were able to get things going in the right direction with a big Division II-AAA East/Middle Region win last week, 42-14 over Pope John Paul II. Baylor was led by junior QB Lorenzo White's 237 passing yards and also got big plays from Brendon Harris and Jaylon Baker — each scored two TDs — while its defense allowed less than 100 rushing yards. Meanwhile, CCS has gained confidence after three straight wins, each by at least three TDs, and are led by bruising rusher Mondo Ellison. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers have allowed 10 or fewer points in three of their past four games.
LIPSCOMB ACADEMY MUSTANGS (0-5) at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (4-0)
Storyline: The Mustangs' overall record is deceiving. A seven-win team in Class 4A last year, Lipscomb moved to Division II this season and has struggled against a schedule that has included traditional powers Ensworth and Goodpasture, as well as state-ranked Columbia Academy. Three of those losses were by 10 or fewer points, and tonight will be the Mustangs' first game of the season against a public school. Lipscomb is led by senior power runners Logan Sakarapanee (6-0, 205, QB/LB) and Caleb Silva (5-11, 200, RB). The Class 1A Pirates are averaging 49 points per game and already have impressive wins over Marion County and Sequatchie County, state-ranked opponents in larger classifications. Junior FB Garrett Raulston (6-2, 230) and senior RB Sawyer Kelley (5-11, 185) have become a dynamic one-two punch, while sophomore QB Jaylyn Hubbard has shown big-play capability.
HUNTLAND HORNETS (0-4) at LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (2-2)
Storyline: Huntland will attack the Yellow Jackets with a wing-T offense that likes to spread the opposing defense. It's no secret the Hornets want to get the ball in the hands of RB Cameron Reed. Lookout Valley coach Lance Rorex knows it's unrealistic to expect his team to bring Reed down around the line of scrimmage every play, so how his team's secondary tackles in space should be a big factor. The Hornets have been limited to 14 points all season. But that's been against a beefed-up schedule, plus they've put the ball on the ground at some bad times. The Jackets are coming off whippings by two stout teams — Chattanooga Christian (4-1) and Whitwell (5-0) — so they welcome a return to more evenly matched competition. To win, they'll have to sustain some drives and score at the ends of them. It's up to QB Zane Howard (259 yards total offense), RB Joshua Ibach (313 rushing yards) and the O-line to get that done.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (2-3) at COALFIELD YELLOW JACKETS (5-0)
Storyline: Marion is looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak since the 2011 season but will have its hands full with Class 1A's sixth-ranked team. The Jackets are led by all-state QB Parker McKinney (6-4, 200), who's on the verge of breaking several passing state records. The Eastern Kentucky commitment threw for more than 2,600 yards and 40 TDs last year and has five of his top six receivers back to make plays. McKinney has also intercepted six passes as part of a Jackets defense that is creating an average of three turnovers per game. The Warriors also have plenty of offensive players with game-breaking ability, including Jacob Saylors, Kane Hale, Isaiah Sampson and Brett Nelson, but they will need the defense to step up against the state's highest-scoring offense.
McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS (0-5) at MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (5-0)
Storyline: Before looking at the records and dismissing this matchup, at least consider that it is a bitter rivalry game and the Tigers have had to prepare for some things they haven't dealt with a lot this season. Mavrick Buckner and Will Guy are active members in the front of the Chargers' 4-3 defensive scheme. Meigs County has faced mostly three-player fronts, so its O-line has had some crash courses this week. McMinn Central isn't bashful about letting QB Hunter Powers (6-4, 225) throw it often. The closest comparison on the Tigers' schedule so far was Sweetwater, which they beat 19-14 in their closest game. Both TDs allowed were on passes — but on fourth downs. McMinn Central's challenges include trying to block Meigs seniors Jawan Martin and Dalton Baker, who are team leaders in addition to being the top tacklers. Another problem is sophomore QB Aaron Swafford, who is coming off a game in which he had 359 yards of total offense while accounting for seven TDs.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (3-2) at SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (3-2)
Storyline: These schools are on opposite ends of Hamilton County, but they are rivals because they've been the county's largest schools, as far as enrollment, for a while. They've been league rivals in the past, but Ooltewah is now in Class 6A and Soddy-Daisy is in 5A. The Trojans haven't beaten the Owls since 2010, and only 2015's 30-21 score provided a final margin of fewer than 28 points during that span. But none of those Soddy-Daisy teams averaged 39 points per game like the current one. Some Trojans youngsters pressed into duty last year because of injuries are now veterans. Junior QB Gavin Chambers had 278 passing yards and four TDs in his last game, and he has grown within the system. Senior Ty Boeck, who played six positions last year, has been allowed to concentrate on defense and is among the area's top tacklers. Led by juniors Kyrell Sanford (878 passing yards this season) and Sincere Quinn (821 rushing yards), the Owls average 42.8 points per game. Coach Mac Bryan would prefer a 47-0 or 42-0 win like their past two games on the schedule, but he's braced for a conceivable shootout.
RIDGELAND PANTHERS (4-0) at NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (3-1)
Storyline: This Region 6-AAAA opener for both teams likely has major playoff implications and features two fresh teams coming off open weeks. Ridgeland has dominated its nonregion slate and has shut down elite RBs in Darlington's Tijah Whatley and Pepperell's Tae Hammonds. The Panthers will get a shot at another one in Northwest's 220-pound FB Dominique Sistrunk, who has 582 rushing yards in 2017. Offensively, the wing-T Panthers have become less predictable, combining the hard running of FB Jalyn Shelton and the speed of WB Markeith Montgomery with the improved passing game featuring QB Tanner Hill and WR Stephon Walker. The Northwest defense will look to eliminate big plays while hoping to hold the ball with Sistrunk and a healthier QB Luke Shiflett, who underwent surgery on his nonthrowing hand last week.
RINGGOLD TIGERS (2-2) at SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (3-1)
Storyline: Ringgold is coming off a wild Region 6-AAA crossover win over Adairsville and faces another crossover team, Sonoraville, which beat the Tigers twice a year ago. The second matchup, the regular-season finale that determined the final standings, went to overtime and ended with Sonoraville going to the playoffs and the Tigers going home. That 38-35 defeat, in which Ringgold held a double-digit lead late, was a motivating factor in the offseason. To reverse things this year, the Tigers need to ride their big three — QB Cole Kibler, RB Ty Jones and WR Andre Tarver — and find a way to get the ball more to TE Drake Starks, who's 6-4. Sonoraville has its own triplet offensive stars in QB Patrick Moore, RB Tristan Key and WR Trenton Daniel. The Phoenix secondary hasn't been tested like it will be tonight; how well it holds up could tell the tale of this one.
NORTH MURRAY MOUNTAINEERS (2-2) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (3-1)
Storyline: When it's on, the North Murray offense is as good as any around, having scored 61 and 57 points in its wins. However, a good Heritage defense held the Mountaineers to one offensive touchdown, and in a loss to Coosa, North Murray couldn't overcome a myriad of mistakes. In this 6-AAA crossover game, the Mountaineers need to play cleanly against a motivated opponent still smarting from a blowout loss two weeks ago at Cartersville. North Murray's hopes hinge on junior QB Preston Poag Jr., who has thrown for 997 yards, rushed for 274 and accounted for 14 TDs this season. Nine of those have gone to electric WR Connor Rice, who has 479 yards on 23 catches. Calhoun has an elite playmaker of its own in WR/S Brannon Spector and an accurate QB in Gavin Gray.
LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (2-2) at SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (4-0)
Storyline: The Region 6-AAAA opener for both unites an interesting mix of offenses. The Ramblers bring a ground-based approach and have had some success with RBs Dakota Cathey (415 yards this season) and Alan Hu (234) running behind an improved line. The Raiders like to strike through the air, with QB Porter Johnson (988 yards, 13 TDs) and WR Oscar Gonzalez (21 catches, 508 yards, 7 TDs) are on pace to shatter single-season program records. Any LaFayette hopes count on its offense putting together long drives and cashing in.