There is an unmistakably familiar feel to this week's TSSAA football playoffs for the four Chattanooga-area teams still competing.
With the three public schools in that group attempting to advance to the semifinals and the lone remaining Division II team trying to return to the championship game, all four games involving area teams are rematches either from earlier this season or from last year's postseason.
Here's a look at Friday's matchups:
McCallie Blue Tornado (7-3) at Brentwood Academy Eagles (11-0): When these teams met on the first weekend of September, the Blue Tornado had practiced only a couple of days due to a COVID-19 quarantine, and the game wound up being a back-and-forth affair. The visiting Eagles scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining, then held off a late McCallie drive to seal the 30-27 victory.
Although still missing some key starters due to injury, McCallie did get all-state athlete Eric Rivers back last week, and his influence was immediate in a 42-28 win at Christian Brothers in Memphis to open the playoffs.
"On our first series, their defense lined up to stop (Tennessee Titans Mr. Football finalist) B.J. Harris and our running game," McCallie coach Ralph Potter said. "We threw to Eric, and once they realized he was back, they went back to their normal defense, which opened things up for us. He changes the game just by being on the field."
Rivers finished with a modest 77 yards of offense, including a 49-yard touchdown pass to Jose Osa, but the threat he poses helped open the way for Harris to rush for more than 100 yards for the ninth time this season. In the first matchup with BA, Rivers had two touchdown catches and one touchdown pass.
The top-ranked Eagles had to rally late in last week's game to beat Pope John Paul II, 34-31. It was BA's fifth win in as many weeks — and seventh this season — by 10 or fewer points. Similarly, each of the past three meetings between the Eagles and McCallie has been decided by five or fewer points, and the Blue Tornado won the past two trips to BA.
McCallie's defense, which due to injury now starts two sophomores and a freshman in the front seven, will need to find a way to disrupt a passing game led by quarterback Tayler Monteil — a Mississippi State baseball commitment who threw for 353 yards in the teams' first meeting this season. The Eagles also have a weapon in kicker Teagen Lenderink, a Mr. Football finalist who connected on field goals of 40, 41 and 48 yards at McCallie in September.
Up next: The winner will have a week off before facing the winner of the Memphis University School-Montgomery Bell Academy matchup in the BlueCross Bowl for the DII-AAA title on Dec. 3 at Tennessee Tech. McCallie beat MBA 28-7 to win the 2019 championship.
Loudon Redskins (10-1) at Red Bank Lions (9-0): It was just three weeks ago that Red Bank ended the regular season with a 13-0 victory at Loudon to win the region title and, as it turns out, the right to host this game. The Lions' defensive front four were dominant that night in shutting out a team that had averaged 40 points per game.
Red Bank scored both of its touchdowns in the first half — a diving 40-yard catch by Devon Benn on its first possession and a second-quarter run by Lumiere Strickland, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the game. Strickland also had a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone to turn away the Redskins' best scoring opportunity.
Much of the weight of the outcome will again fall on a Red Bank defense that has allowed more than 14 points just once all season. Loudon junior quarterback Keaton Harig is a dual threat who has accounted for more than 2,300 total yards and 24 touchdowns in 2020 and presents the toughest challenge.
Up next: The winner will host a semifinal next week against the Gatlinburg Pittman at Alcoa quarterfinal winner.
South Greene Rebels (12-0) at Meigs County Tigers (12-0): This is already the furthest the Rebels have advanced in program history and a rematch from last year's second round, when Meigs County won 39-7.
With all but one defensive starter returning from last season, the Rebels have elevated their level of play so far, holding eight opponents to 14 or fewer points, while the offense — led by quarterback Luke Myers, a Mr. Football finalist — has scored 35-plus points in eight straight games. South Greene has beaten its first two playoff opponents by a combined score of 70-3.
This group of Tigers seniors, which includes running back Will Meadows, a 1,300-yard rusher and Mr. Football finalist, has compiled a four-year stretch of success that includes a 50-4 overall record (two of the losses are by three or fewer points). Meigs is one win from reaching the semifinals for a third straight season.
Up next: The winner will travel to either Trousdale County or Watertown for a semifinal next week.
South Pittsburg Pirates (11-1) at Gordonsville Tigers (9-2): These teams have met 15 times in the playoffs, with the Pirates winning 10 of those, including each of the past two. The most recent time South Pittsburg went on the road for this matchup, it needed three unanswered touchdowns in the second half to rally for a 27-14 win in 2018.
Gordonsville's only losses this year are by single digits to state-ranked Trousdale County and Watertown, and defense is the Tigers' strength. They have allowed more than 14 points just once all season (28 in the loss to Trousdale) and have created 32 turnovers.
Along with 4A's top-ranked Elizabethton, South Pittsburg is the state's only team with two of the three Mr. Football finalists in its classification. The Pirates will need both of those two-way stars — running back/cornerback Hunter Frame and offensive lineman/linebacker Jared Stone — to again play key roles. Frame had his third 200-plus yard rushing game on a career-high 20 carries last week, while Stone has been the most consistent blocker (four pancake blocks last week) and has 16 tackles in the first two playoff games. Fellow senior J.J. Beene has returned to his all-state form of a year ago, tallying eight solo tackles and seven assists on defense and special teams last week.
This is the 11th time in a 12-year stretch the Pirates have reached at least the quarterfinals, and a win would advance them to the semifinals for the fourth time in five years.
Up next: The winner will host a semifinal next week against the winner of Coalfield and Oliver Springs.
THIS WEEK’S CHATTANOOGA-AREA PREP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Friday, Nov. 20, 2020
Games begin at 7 p.m. local time
Class 1A quarterfinal
South Pittsburg at Gordonsville, 8
Class 2A quarterfinal
South Greene at Meigs County
Class 3A quarterfinal
Loudon at Red Bank
Division II-AAA semifinal
McCallie at Brentwood Academy, 8
GHSA regular season, final week
Games begin at 7:30 p.m.
Coahulla Creek at Sonoraville
Dalton at East Paulding
Fannin County at Dade County
Gordon Central at Model (Saturday at noon)
Gordon Lee at Trion
LaFayette at North Murray
North Cobb Christian at Christian Heritage
Northwest Whitfield at Pickens
Rockmart at Ringgold