SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (3-0) at MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (1-2)
It's a nonregion game, but that doesn't take away any of the passion in Tennessee high school football's second-oldest rivalry. South Pittsburg leads the all-time series 50-40-4 and has won 11 of the past 13 meetings, including three straight. Class 1A's Pirates have allowed just 64.7 yards of total offense per game and 1.6 yards per play this season, but they are about to face an offense that appears to be finding its footing. Led by RBs Alex Nunez, Rylee Rogers and Kilan Summers and QB Taye Hutchins, the young Warriors have rolled up 586 rushing yards in their past two games and will present more of a speed challenge than the Pirates have faced thus far. Marion's defense gave up just 88 total yards (70 rushing) in last week's Region 3-2A win over Polk County. South Pittsburg hopes to have all-state RB/DB Ronto Tipton back after a minor injury kept him sidelined for the first few weeks. In his absence, junior Hunter Frame and sophomore DeAndre Kelly have scored five touchdowns apiece. Junior QB Brayden Sanders has completed 79% of his passes, with 11 of his completions going to senior WR Jaylyn Hubbard (205 yards).
McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS (1-2) at POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (0-3)
It was already a rivalry, but when Derrick Davis stepped down as coach at his alma mater last year after disagreements with Polk County administration over how to run that program and ended up at McMinn Central, it took things to a more intense level. Now Davis and his father Larry — the Chargers' offensive coordinator whose name is on Polk's football stadium — return to what had been their coaching home for several decades in what will be a surreal and very emotional matchup between 3A's McMinn Central and 2A's Polk. Both teams rely on run-heavy offenses, and the Chargers — led by LB Jace Derrick and FS Nate Austin — have held each of their past two opponents to 14 or fewer points.
TYNER RAMS (2-0) at HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (2-1)
(postponed until Saturday at 5 p.m.)
Both teams have explosive offenses — Tyner has averaged 49.5 points per game, Howard 33.7 — so this nonregion rivalry could come down to which defense can step up to make at least a couple of stops. Tyner, which moved up to No. 3 in this week's 2A state rankings, is one of the most balanced teams in the area and is led by senior QB Martavius Ryals, who also leads the team in tackles. Two-time all-state WR Jeremiah Batiste had 148 yards and a touchdown last week, and the Rams' RB-by-committee is led by Rashun Evans and Jeremiah Sawyer, with both capable of breaking off big plays. Class 4A's Howard will rely heavily on senior RB Eric Johnson (8.9 yards per carry, seven TDs).
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
Friday, Sept. 13
All Times EDT; kickoff 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Baylor at Central
Bradley Central at Bearden
Brainerd at East Nashville
Cleveland at Soddy-Daisy
Copper Basin at Tellico Plains
Red Bank at East Hamilton
Friendship Christian at Grace Academy
Sequatchie County at Hixson
Tyner at Howard (postponed until Saturday at 5 p.m.)
Hayesville (N.C.) at Lookout Valley (postponed until Saturday at 7:30 p.m.)
McMinn Central at Polk County
McMinn County at Ooltewah
Clinton at Meigs County
Sale Creek at Zion Christian
Signal Mountain at Whitwell
South Pittsburg at Marion County, 8
Bledsoe County at Grundy County, 8
Calhoun at Sonoraville
LaFayette at Christian Heritage
Adairsville at Coahulla Creek
Sequoyah at Dalton
Heritage at Pepperell
Murray County at LFO
Ringgold at North Murray
Stone Mountain at Northwest Whitfield
Sandy Creek at Ridgeland
Armuchee at Trion
DAR at North Jackson, 8
RED BANK LIONS (3-0) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (2-1)
East Hamilton is out to prove it is a major contender in Class 4A as its welcomes a stalwart from 3A not faced since 2012. Each is ranked in its respective state poll, with Red Bank third and East Hamilton 10th. The Hurricanes have averaged 40 points per game but are about to meet a top-flight defense — the Lions have allowed 10 points per game with a defense that has been a takeaway machine (four fumble recoveries, six interceptions). Red Bank's D-line is a load to block and one that can quickly make an opponent one-dimensional. East Hamilton must limit turnovers and get talented RB Adam Caudle going to have a chance. Both teams have played a similar schedule this season as each has faced Soddy-Daisy and Signal Mountain, with the Lions winning 38-7 and 28-7 and the Hurricanes losing 28-26 and winning 59-14.
McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (2-0, 0-0) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (1-1, 1-0)
The Cherokees have flown to the ball carrier this season while beating McMinn Central 35-0 and Sequoyah 50-0. They rely on a pair of Jalens — Hunt and Sharp — to make big plays on both sides of the ball. Ooltewah controlled all phases of the game last week while opening Region 2-6A play at William Blount, bouncing back from a tough finish against Red Bank the week before. The Owls have new leaders on offense and are excited about the talent sophomore Jaquan Greenhill and junior Fisher Perry have shown.
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (1-2) at SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (2-1)
The Trojans responded to an opening loss to Red Bank with a big win at East Hamilton and a dismantling of Lenoir City to begin their bid to repeat as Region 4-5A champions. Next up is a Class 6A opponent that already has faced reigning 5A champion Knoxville Central and opened region play against longtime state power Maryville. Soddy-Daisy's secondary will have to stop one of the area's toughest WRs to cover in 6-foot-4, 180-pound Robert Flowers, a sure-handed target. Cleveland's defense has a tough job facing dual-threat QB Hunter Maynard.
BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (3-0) at CENTRAL (1-2)
Baylor, which led 28-0 at halftime on its way to a 42-17 win at Father Ryan last week, appears to have returned to major contender status in Division II-AAA. The Red Raiders have outscored their competition 125-23 as a wealth of experience on the offensive line and a shutdown defense have proven vital. Central won its Region 2-4A opener last week at Sequoyah, 27-34, but now it's back to another tough test outside of its classification. The Purple Pounders have faced a pair of state-ranked No. 3 teams in DII-AA's Notre Dame and 2A's Tyner.
SEQUOYAH CHIEFS (1-1, 1-0) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (2-0, 0-0)
The Catamounts will open their Georgia Region 6-AAAAAA schedule with a shot at payback. The Chiefs handed Dalton one of its worst losses of 2018, rushing for nearly 400 yards while winning 42-14. Most of the players who accounted for that production are gone, though, including RB Cole Jacobs, who had 200 yards, and QB Collier Pecht. Sequoyah, known for its strong ground game over the years, has managed only 252 rushing yards so far, led by Aidan Moore's 85 and Jaden Mitchell's 71. Dalton is coming off a bye week after outscoring Ringgold and Northwest Whitfield a combined 135-17. Senior RB Jahmyr Gibbs has 603 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns already, but his 15.1 yards per carry rank second on the team to backup Maurice Howard, who has 227 on nine for a 25.2 average. QB Landon Allen has feasted on defenses gearing up to stop the ground game with 308 yards on just 18 completions, with Hunter Noland his favorite target (eight catches, 157 yards).
CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (2-0, 0-0) at SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (1-1, 0-0)
The Yellow Jackets have dominated this Gordon County series by winning each of the 11 contests, with the closest margin of victory 43-14 five years ago and Calhoun posting shutouts in five of the past seven meetings. However, much has changed at state and Region 6-AAA power Calhoun, including Clay Stephenson taking over for longtime coach Hal Lamb and having to install 18 new starters. After two games, the Jackets have found their ground game behind Jerrian Hames (333 yards, four TDs), with QB Jake Morrow adding 112 yards rushing and 168 passing. Calhoun remains strong on defense, led up front by Zeke Brown, Kendez Griffin and Dawson Hamby. Sonoraville is coming off a 38-28 loss to Darlington in which early mistakes dug a 31-0 hole. RB Blade Bryant is a dual threat out of the backfield, with QB Brad Lackey (18-of-38 passing with two TDs last week) giving the Phoenix a threat they haven't had in a few years.