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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / McMinn County running back Jalen Hunt (17) picks up a block and turns the corner on his way to the end zone for a touchdown during last Friday's win at Cleveland.

MARYVILLE REBELS (8-0, 4-0) at McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (8-0, 4-0)

The Region 2-6A title is on the line, but a win by the Cherokees would send a clear statement that they are also state title contenders. Maryville comes in riding a 135-game streak of region victories — not having lost to a league opponent in more than 20 years — and has won state championships two of the past three seasons, including going undefeated in 2019. The Rebels had to replace 17 starters from that team and have relied on a collection of talented players who waited for their turn, including senior RB Parker McGill, who has rushed for 933 yards so far. Maryville, which is plus-13 in turnover margin, has used 13 ball carriers, had 14 players catch a pass and boasts four players with at least eight tackles for loss. The Cherokees' offensive strength is up front, where all but one lineman is at least a three-year starter, including all-state tackle Bryce Goodner. That group has led the way for senior RB Jalen Hunt's eye-catching totals — 1,592 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. QB Jayden Miller has accounted for 20 scores and more than 1,300 total yards, while Noah Brown and Jalen James help lead the defense with a combined seven interceptions.

 

SALE CREEK PANTHERS (4-4, 2-1) at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (7-1, 2-0)

This will be the first home game for the Pirates since Aug. 28, a stretch of 56 days that included four road trips and two scheduled home games that were canceled due to opponents having to quarantine as a result of positive COVID-19 tests. Sale Creek has been on a roll, with its four straight wins including a pair of Region 3-1A games to earn the young program's third straight playoff berth. Braden Penny has been an offensive leader — rushing for 706 yards, throwing for 567 and accounting for 17 TDs — and fellow senior Will Roberts is another backfield weapon with 466 rushing yards and 18 catches, while LB Nick Hall's 57 tackles lead a defense giving up an average of fewer than 18 points per game during the winning streak. A win for South Pittsburg would set up next week's game against state-ranked Copper Basin as a region title showdown. The Pirates, who have averaged 51 points per game, have a speedy group of RBs led by senior Hunter Frame's 909 yards (13.4 yards per carry). Junior WR Reginald Hunter has four TD catches so far, while senior LB J.J. Beene's 46.5 tackles and junior DL Gio Davis's nine tackles for loss lead a defense that has held five opponents to single-digit scoring.

 

EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (5-3, 2-2) at HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (5-3, 3-1)

Region 2-4A seeding for the state playoffs is on the line as the Hustlin' Tigers have already secured a postseason berth and East Ridge can do so with a win in this game or next week against Hixson. If Howard wins, it could set up a potential second-place showdown at East Hamilton next week, while the Pioneers could also move up as high as third and have a better playoff matchup. The Hustlin' Tigers are on a three-game winning streak after a disappointing start to their season. The Pioneers have won two straight, led by QB Cameron Sanders, who this season has accounted for 11 touchdowns and more than 1,000 total yards, including 751 on the ground.

 

EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (6-2, 4-0) at ANDERSON COUNTY MAVERICKS (6-2, 4-0)

A win by the Hurricanes would give them the Region 2-4A title, their first league championship since 2012. However, a loss would mean they would still have to beat Howard next week just to secure second place in the standings and a home playoff game in the first round. The Mavericks have owned the region since 2017, having won 22 consecutive league games and the past three region titles. Their two losses this season have come by a combined three points to state-ranked Class 5A teams, but they have won four straight games by a 48-3 average margin. East Hamilton's offense has been explosive for much of this season — the Hurricanes had averaged 41 points before last week's loss to 5A's Walker Valley — under the leadership of senior QB Haynes Eller, who has thrown for more than 1,300 yards, with balance provided by RBs Juandrick Bullard (739 rushing yards) and Jeremiah Flemmons (425). Blaine Savage is a two-way star for the Hurricanes with 27 catches as well as 50 tackles, and Jason Brumlow leads the defense with 58 tackles, including 22 for loss with five sacks.

 

RINGGOLD TIGERS (4-2, 3-1) at LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (2-3, 2-1)

The Tigers firmly announced themselves as contenders in GHSA Region 6-AAA with a 23-17 win over Adairsville last week as their defense held a high-octane attack to less than 300 yards and forced four turnovers. The Tigers have found some balance offensively with QB Mason Parker to keep the pressure off the team's stout running game. Kori Dumas leads the ground attack with 632 yards and 16 touchdowns, with Peyton Williams and Price Pennington also capable of ripping off big gains. Though not big, the Ringgold defense is fast and physical, with Kyle White, Jordan Garnica and Malachi Hill the leading tacklers. That group will have to be sharp this week, because the explosive Ramblers can turn any play into six points behind QB Jaylon Ramsey (549 yards, seven touchdowns) and RB Jamario Clements (515 yards, eight scores). Ramsey has also found a go-to target in Junior Barber, who has 247 yards on 16 catches. The key question: Can leading tackler Brent Minor and the LaFayette defense, ripped by Adairsville two weeks ago, stop Ringgold's ground game?

 

BLESSED TRINITY TITANS (2-0, 0-0) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (5-1, 1-0)

This matchup of Class AAAAA teams with top-five state rankings is one of Georgia's best this week, and it will go a long way in determining postseason seeding in Region 7. The Titans, winners of three consecutive state championships, have had three games postponed for reasons related to COVID-19 and haven't played in nearly a month. Their two wins were against five-time Class A champion Eagle's Landing Christian Academy and Class AAAAAAA power Kell. Sophomore running back Justice Haynes, who recently received scholarship offers from Mississippi State and Tennessee, has rushed for 357 yards. Calhoun's offense, one of the area's most explosive, features four dangerous playmakers: Jerrian Hames (705 rushing yards, 10 TDs), Christian Lewis (1,229 passing yards, 13 TDs), Cole Speer (643 receiving yards) and Will Seamons (242 receiving yards, six TDs).

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

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Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Ringgold's Kori Dumas, with ball, has rushed for 632 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead the Tigers' potent ground game this season.

THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE

Friday, Oct. 23, 2020

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

TENNESSEE

Baylor at Montgomery Bell Academy, 8

Boyd Buchanan at Notre Dame

Central at Hixson

Chattanooga Christian at Knoxville Webb

Cumberland County at Bledsoe County, 8

East Hamilton at Anderson County

East Ridge at Howard

Fayetteville at Whitwell, 8

Grundy County at Sequatchie County

Karns at Rhea County

King’s Academy at Grace Academy

Marion County at Silverdale Baptist, 7

Maryville at McMinn County

Maryville Heritage at Ooltewah

Life Christian Academy (Virginia) at McCallie

Meigs County at Polk County

Pearl Cohn at Brainerd

Sale Creek at South Pittsburg

Walker Valley at Loudon

William Blount at Cleveland

GEORGIA

Blessed Trinity at Calhoun

Cedartown at Northwest Whitfield

Central-Carroll at Heritage

Christian Heritage at Walker

Coahulla Creek at Adairsville

Coosa at Chattooga

Dade County at Model

Dalton at Alexander

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at Rockmart

Mount Zion-Carroll at Gordon Lee

Pepperell at Gordon Central

Ringgold at LaFayette

Sonoraville at Murray County

 

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