MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (3-0) at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (3-0)
The 96th meeting in Tennessee high school football's second-oldest rivalry is also a showdown of teams with top-five state rankings as Marion moved up to No. 5 in Class 2A and the Pirates remained No. 1 in 1A in the latest Associated Press polls. This is the first time in 11 years the teams have met while both are unbeaten. The Pirates have won 12 of the past 14 meetings, including a current four-game streak, and lead the all-time series 51-40-4, but Warriors coach Dale Pruitt is 2-0 in the rivalry from his previous stint with the program. Pirates senior RB Hunter Frame is among the area's rushing leaders with 530 yards (12.6 per carry) and 11 touchdowns, and the defense, led by senior LB J.J. Beene's 21 tackles and senior DE Jamal Allen's five sacks, has given up just one touchdown so far. Marion, which has proven to be mentally tough by rallying from behind in two of its wins, has several big-play options for its punishing offense led by Taye Hutchins (368 rushing yards, 8.2 per carry), Rylee Rogers — who ran for more than 100 yards last week — and Alex Nunez. The Warriors have averaged 37 points per game.
CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (1-0) vs. McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (1-1)
This will be the first meeting between two of the most accomplished programs in the area. The matchup at Finley Stadium — featuring schools with a combined 12 state championship game appearances and six titles — came about after out-of-state opponents canceled on both teams. Calhoun opened its season last week with an impressive 27-point win over Dalton — its largest victory margin in the series between northwest Georgia powers since 1932 — that was led by Jerrian Hames, who ran for 122 yards and scored three TDs, and QB Christian Lewis, who threw for 288 yards and a pair of scores. The Blue Tornado, who lost a back-and-forth battle with perennial Tennessee power Brentwood Academy last week, have two of Chattanooga's top overall athletes in Missouri-committed RB B.J. Harris and WR Eric Rivers, plus a defense where the strength is up front.
HERITAGE GENERALS (1-0) at RINGGOLD TIGERS (0-0)
This matchup of Catoosa County programs has turned into one of northwest Georgia's most underrated rivalries. The teams have split the past four meetings after the Tigers had dominated the early matchups. One factor this time may be how much more in sync the Generals are after having played a game, and an impressive one at that. In topping Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 35-7, Heritage displayed a dominating defense, forcing six turnovers and getting a big game from LB Zach Brown. Senior QB Nick Hanson, who passed for 222 yards and three scores, will throw early and often to the likes of Dylan Brown and Logan Lowe. Ringgold, 0-10 last year in a season ruined by injuries, will throw new looks at Heritage. QB Kyle White and RBs Price Pennington and Peyton Williams will test the Heritage run defense again.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS (0-1) at RIDGELAND PANTHERS (0-1)
The fact that one of these proud programs could start 0-2 adds a bit more urgency to this nonregion game, especially considering the loss each is trying to shake. Dalton was blown out by Calhoun, 41-14, giving up 452 yards in the process despite big games from LB Mauricio Quintero and DB Parker Adams. The Cats will look to get the ground game going with Maurice Howard, who carried only six times last week. QB Ashton Blackwell had a nice debut, rushing and passing for scores. Ridgeland was blanked by Class AA No. 1 Rabun County, 35-0. The Panthers will focus on letting their big O-line of Jacob Klein, Tommy Lamb and Dylan Skates open things up for backs KeSean Eubanks and Jeremiah Turner, and Ridgeland will take big shots downfield to 6-foot-5 receiver Henry Ellis.
GORDON LEE TROJANS (1-0) at LFO WARRIORS (0-1)
Gordon Lee opened with a 50-28 win over Dade County while displaying a dangerous, deep running game. Five backs scored at least one touchdown for the Trojans, led by Cade Peterson's three TDs and 125 yards; Bo Rhudy and Cody Thomas each scored and combined for nearly 200 yards. The Trojans allowed 300 passing yards, which might not be a concern against the run-heavy Warriors. LFO is coming off a lopsided loss to Heritage in which its triple-option-based offense produced six turnovers and 85 total yards. When the Warriors are right, they can eat up huge chunks of clock with QB Malachi Powell and backs Jacob Brown and Jevonnie Womble.
EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (3-0) at RED BANK LIONS (3-0)
Red Bank's Kel Eddins made a great read to end last year's 21-14 road win with a leaping interception at the goal line. Heading into the rematch, both teams are state-ranked in their classifications: East Hamilton is No. 5 in 4A, while Red Bank is No. 3 in 3A. On defense, the Lions have held opponents to a 3-for-29 conversion rate on third downs the past two weeks; on offense, they have generated 985 rushing yards and 14 scores. The Hurricanes have received a jolt from sophomore Juandrick Bullard, who has averaged nearly 160 yards per game and has scored six times, and an enticing matchup to watch will be East Hamilton's Kaunyae Burgans against the Red Bank secondary.
SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (1-2) at CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (1-2)
Class 6A's Blue Raiders were 3-of-3 on fourth-down conversions in last year's 21-14 victory over the 5A Trojans, a matchup in which Cleveland RB Tetoe Boyd rushed for two scores and 100-plus yards as part of a season when he was one of the area's top rushers. Trojans QB Isaac Barnes counts on a receiving corps that provided four quick scores in the first half of last week's 56-point outburst against Lenoir City. Cleveland's attack can hit you in multiple ways as senior Gage Kinsey has thrown for 550 yards and six touchdowns and has a strong chemistry with WR Destun Thomas, who is having a breakout season.
OOLTEWAH OWLS (2-1) at McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (2-0)
The Cherokees have become a force in 6A and have shown no signs of slowing down after a breakthrough season last year. McMinn County is tough in the trenches and has worn out its opponents so far this season with a 75-0 score differential. Ooltewah will need to bring its best defensive effort on the road. Jaden Carmichael and Justice Cruz have combined for 12 tackles for loss, while Cole Steele and Blake Johnson made big plays in last week's victory over William Blount. The Owls will have their hands full this week trying to slow down RB Jalen Hunt, a big-play threat who has committed to Western Carolina.
Compiled by Stephen Hargis, Patrick MacCoon and Lindsey Young. Contact Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293 and follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis. Contact MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon. Contact Young at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
Friday, Sept. 11, 2020
All times EDT; kickoff 7:30 p.m. unless noted
Bearden at Bradley Central
Calhoun vs. McCallie at Finley Stadium
Central at Baylor, 7
East Hamilton at Red Bank
Grace Academy at Friendship Christian, 8
Grundy County at Bledsoe County, 8
Hixson at Sequatchie County, 8
Howard at Tyner
Lookout Valley at Brainerd
Marion County at South Pittsburg, 8
Meigs County at Clinton
Ooltewah at McMinn County
Polk County at McMinn Central
Soddy-Daisy at Cleveland
Tellico Plains at Copper Basin
Whitwell at Signal Mountain
Zion Christian at Sale Creek
Coahulla Creek at Southeast Whitfield
Covington (Tenn.) at Christian Heritage
Dalton at Ridgeland
Gordon Central at Northwest Whitfield
Gordon Lee at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe
Heritage at Ringgold
Model at LaFayette
Pickens at Chattooga
Trion at Coosa