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Staff illustration by Mark Wiedmer / Longtime rivals Baylor and McCallie will face off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Finley Stadium, with their latest meeting continuing an old football series that will have at least one new angle by being played during the COVID-19 pandemic. McCallie is 3-1 overall, 1-1 in Division II-AAA East Region play and ranked No. 2 in DII-AAA, while Baylor (3-0, 1-0) is ranked third.

BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (3-0, 1-0) vs. MCCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (3-1, 1-1)

There is no "home" team designated in this Division II-AAA East Region matchup at Finley Stadium, although Baylor won a coin toss to earn the right to have its fans sit on the home side. Similarities abound for the rivals this season, including both coming off open dates — Baylor had a planned week off and McCallie did not play due to its scheduled opponent (Battle Ground Academy) having a player test positive for COVID-19. Also, both teams earned region wins the last time they were on the field, with Baylor holding off Ensworth by two points at home and McCallie going on the road to beat Knoxville Catholic by two touchdowns. The Blue Tornado, ranked No. 2 in DII-AAA, are on a four-game winning streak in the series and have won five of the past six meetings. The teams combined for nearly 800 yards of total offense in last season's meeting, a 35-28 result at Baylor. Each is led by an all-state RB as McCallie's B.J. Harris (committed to Missouri) has averaged 7 yards per carry and has scored 11 touchdowns this season, while Baylor's Elijah Howard (committed to Tennessee) is one of the most versatile players in the area. One key advantage for third-ranked Baylor is having a senior QB (Neyland Jean) with experience in this rivalry; McCallie junior William Riddle, who has thrown for nearly 700 yards, is untested in the series. However, the Blue Tornado have endured a much more challenging schedule to this point, having faced Brentwood Academy, Georgia power Calhoun — also at Finley — and Knox Catholic.

 

BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (5-0, 1-0) at MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (3-0, 1-0)

This will be the first time Marion has played a game in 27 days, with a combination of coronavirus quarantine and a scheduled open date adding up to three weeks off. By comparison, Bledsoe sandwiched a bye week between two blowout wins. The winner will be in the driver's seat in the race for the Region 3-2A title; Bledsoe already owns an impressive victory over preseason league favorite Tyner. Bledsoe is off to its best start in a decade and has outscored opponents by an average of 34-8 thanks to a punishing ground attack led by RBs Cadillac Siever and Dylan Robeck and dual-threat QB Harmon Keith. Marion will also rely heavily on its running game, which features Taye Hutchins, a big-play threat on every snap who has averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Bledsoe snapped a seven-game losing streak to Marion last season.

 

OOLTEWAH OWLS (3-3) at RHEA COUNTY GOLDEN EAGLES (5-0)

The Golden Eagles, ranked sixth in Class 5A, continue to attack opponents with a ground-and-pound approach. Running with authority has always been coach Mark Pemberton's hallmark, and he has a lethal one-two punch this season with Dalton Hampton and Ethan Davis. A freshman, Davis has weaved and sprinted his way past defenders for 598 rushing yards in four starts; Hampton has 10 touchdowns and more than 600 total yards in his senior season. On defense, Drew Fisher leads Rhea in tackles and sacks, while Jadden Pankey and Amari Roddy each has three interceptions. Ooltewah's defense had seven sacks and was led by Blake Johnson (two sacks, fumble recovery) in last week's 27-7 win over Soddy-Daisy. Junior DL/LB Jaden Carmichael is among the area leaders with 60 tackles and 11 tackles for loss for the Owls of Class 6A. QB Fisher Perry will look to spark Ooltewah's offense again after totaling 222 yards and three scores last week.

 

SWEETWATER WILDCATS (3-2, 1-1) at RED BANK LIONS (4-0, 1-0)

Class 3A's third-ranked Lions, who return to action for the first time since beating East Hamilton 27-24 on Sept. 11, have won with dominant play in the trenches this season. An offensive line spearheaded by BJ Ragland had an impressive 86% grade in run blocking that night, setting in motion a 280-yard rushing performance despite not having a passing threat. Red Bank has averaged 315 rushing yards per game and 8.3 yards per carry while allowing averages of 52 and 1.5. Lumiere Strickland can make big plays out of the backfield and as a returner on special teams for the Lions, whose defensive front is led by Cameron Bell (10 sacks). Alex Cagle has also shown leadership on that side of the ball and had 10 tackles against East Hamilton. Now it's back to Region 3-3A competition against an opponent Red Bank has outscored a combined 108-19 the past two meetings.

 

COPPER BASIN COUGARS (6-0, 2-0) at LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (2-4, 0-1)

Just two years after going 1-9, the Cougars are one of top teams to beat in Region 3-1A and the classification. They have a No. 2 state ranking as they return to region play after winning by forfeit the past two weeks due to opponents dealing with COVID-19. Senior QB Bryson Grabowski has used a strong arm and tough running to account for 14 touchdowns in four games while averaging 292 yards (194 passing, 98 rushing) per game, and junior RB Sebastian Balilies rushed for 259 yards and three scores in a 47-0 win over Sale Creek in early September. Lookout Valley's offense leans on senior RB Corey Talley Jr., who rushed for a season-high 163 yards on 13 carries in a win at Mt. Juliet Christian Academy in late August. Yellow Jackets DL Jaylen Bates is a 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior who has shown leadership and made big plays.

 

RINGGOLD TIGERS (1-2, 0-1) at LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (0-3, 0-1)

It's too early to call the latest installment of this Catoosa County and Region 6-AAA rivalry a must-win game for the playoff race, but it's close. The Warriors have won the past three games after a long streak of Ringgold victories in the series, though the teams seem to be on differing paths this season. The Tigers have been much better on offense, averaging more than 30 points per game and coming off a loss to North Murray in which they amassed 485 yards. Coach Robert Akins may have found something in new QB Mason Parker, who had four touchdowns (three passing) last week, while the ground game continues to shine behind Kori Dumas, who has 337 yards and nine touchdowns in three games. The LFO offense, meanwhile, has been stagnant, averaging only 123 yards per game. Last Friday the Warriors managed just 111 against a LaFayette defense that gave up 56 points to Class A Gordon Lee the week before. Turnovers have been a major challenge, including three that led to 21 points early last week. LFO coach Bo Campbell knows how to attack the Ringgold defense. Can QB Malachi Powell and playmakers Benji Valdez and Jamillion Womble produce against an opponent that allowed 565 yards to North Murray?

 

LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (1-2, 1-0) at MURRAY COUNTY INDIANS (1-2, 0-1)

Two 6-AAA teams trying to break long postseason droughts meet in Chatsworth in what could turn into a shootout. The Ramblers are coming off easily their most impressive win, 43-7 over LFO in a game that was 43-0 at halftime. With teams keying on RB Jamario Clements, QB Jaylon Ramsey has started to make them pay. He had 175 yards and three touchdown runs on just seven carries last week and enters this game right at 400 yards this season, with Clements having averaged 100 yards per game. The LaFayette defense gave up more than 500 yards to Gordon Lee in the second week of the season, something Murray coach Chad Brewer will look to exploit behind his two elite playmakers — QB Kaleb Jones and RB Davis Redwine. They have combined for 633 yards rushing (with Jones adding 299 passing). Which defense can hem in the opposing QB will likely determine the winner.

Compiled by Stephen Hargis, Patrick MacCoon and Lindsey Young. Contact Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293 and follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis. Contact MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon. Contact Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / The LaFayette Ramblers take the field for a GHSA nonregion matchup against the Gordon Lee Trojans on Sept. 18 in Chickamauga, Ga.

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE

Friday, Oct. 2, 2020

All times EDT; kickoff 7:30 p.m. unless noted

Anderson County at East Ridge

Baylor vs McCallie at Finley Stadium

Bledsoe County at Marion County, 8

Bradley Central at Cleveland, 7:30

Copper Basin at Lookout Valley

Grace Academy at Mt. Juliet Christian, 8

Grundy County at Cannon County, 8

Hixson at Soddy-Daisy

Howard at Central

Lenoir City at Walker Valley

Loudon at McMinn Central

Maryville Heritage at McMinn County

Notre Dame at Christian Academy of Knoxville

Ooltewah at Rhea County

Sequoyah at East Hamilton

Smith County at Sequatchie County, 8

Sweetwater at Red Bank

Tellico Plains at Tyner

Whitwell at Sale Creek

GEORGIA

Armuchee at Southeast Whitfield

Cass at Ridgeland

Dalton at Carrollton

Darlington at Heritage

Gordon Lee at Gordon Central

LaFayette at Murray County

Mount Zion-Carroll at Dade County

Ringgold at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe

Sonoraville at Rockmart

Woodstock at Calhoun

 

 

 

 

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