KNOXVILLE CATHOLIC FIGHTING IRISH (3-0, 1-0) at McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (4-0, 1-0)
Both teams had last week off to prepare for this key TSSAA Division II-AAA East/Middle Region matchup between the state's No. 1-ranked Blue Tornado and the second-ranked Irish. Catholic has won each of its three games by double digits, outscoring opponents 59-7 in the first quarter and by the same total in the second half, and has scored a touchdown on its opening possession of each game. Irish quarterback Jayden Neal, who has more than 2,500 career rushing yards, has become a dual threat with 430 passing yards already this season, and running back Keondre Jarmon has 11 career 100-yard rushing performances. Defensively, led by Eli Jones' 41 tackles with six for loss, the Irish have allowed an average of just 79 rushing yards per game, and after picking off only four passes last season, they already have five interceptions this year, led by Sam O'Leary with two — including one he returned 99 yards in a 31-21 win over Baylor two weeks ago. But this will also be the first road game of the season for the Irish as well as the home opener for McCallie, which improved to 4-0 in the series with last year's 45-31 win. Against a challenging schedule so far the Blue Tornado have been impressive on offense, with the two-time reigning state champions averaging nearly 40 points per game. That's thanks in large part to the senior tandem of quarterback William Riddle (796 passing yards, 10 touchdowns) and receiver Xavier Gaillardetz (18 catches, 373 yards).
SILVERDALE BAPTIST SEAHAWKS (3-0, 1-0) at BOYD BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (1-2, 0-1)
Not including last year's COVID-19 forfeit, the Bucs have won 10 of 11 series meetings, with Silverdale Baptist's lone on-field victory a 42-0 triumph in 2018. Although it's still early, this shapes up to be a key Division II-AA East matchup in terms of playoff seeding. In manhandling Chattanooga Christian two weeks ago, the Seahawks proved themselves to be a legit contender in the region, and they have averaged 40 points per game. Quarterback Brett Rogers has compiled 822 offensive yards, and senior backfield mate Connor Delashmitt ranks among the area rushing leaders at 6.4 yards per carry. Turner Junkins, who is also a big-time contributor on offense, leads the defense — the Seahawks have allowed close to 17 points per game — with 18 tackles and two fumble recoveries. After opening with an impressive 62-0 win at Greenback, Boyd Buchanan has faced a pair of perennial powers the past two games, losing to reigning DII-A state champion Davidson Academy, followed by a loss to Christian Academy of Knoxville last week. The Bucs had trouble stopping high-powered offenses in both losses, but Boyd Buchanan's own offense showed flashes of big-play potential. Senior running back Matt Stone has been the Bucs' most consistent weapon on that side of the ball, averaging 6.5 yards per carry, while Caden Johnson has averaged 19.4 yards on his 16 catches.
RED BANK LIONS (2-1, 1-0) at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (2-1, 2-0)
Red Bank has won the past eight matchups in the series, although this will be the first meeting since 2018. It's also the first of four straight road games for the Lions, with three of those Region 3-4A contests, including this one. After a disappointing nonregion loss to Cleveland to open the season, followed by a COVID-19 forfeit win and a scheduled open date, the Lions found their footing in last week's thumping of region rival Soddy-Daisy. In that win, freshman Daune Morris made quite the impression by rushing for 156 yards and two touchdowns, and A.D. Crutcher added 135 with three touchdowns. Aside from those two speedsters, Red Bank has no shortage of potential playmakers, which includes quarterback Joseph Blackmon and athlete Reco Trimble, who is also one of the state's top defensive backs. Meanwhile, the Pounders have already equaled their wins total for each of the past two seasons while averaging four touchdowns per game. Quarterback Ronye Watson has thrown for 508 yards, most of that to Tyi Mosely and Donovan Smith, who have 10 catches apiece.
RINGGOLD TIGERS (3-0, 1-0) at LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (0-2, 0-1)
Ringgold's rally from 14 down to beat GHSA Region 6-AAA rival North Murray last Friday earned the Tigers statewide team of the week honors from Georgia High School Football Daily. The 31-28 comeback win highlighted Ringgold's potent ground game, with Peyton Williams putting up nearly all of his 233 yards after halftime and Kori Dumas adding 105 yards and two touchdowns. The two have 709 rushing yards and will no doubt look to add more against LFO, another rival. The Warriors have endured a completely opposite and frustrating start to the season, having yet to score a point while giving up 60. The Warriors installed a spread offense this year, but it has yet to get clicking behind quarterback Will Carroll. But what killed LFO in last week's 39-0 loss to LaFayette were four consecutive blocked punts to start the game, leading to a huge early hole. On the positive side, the Warriors held the Ramblers to 174 total yards. If they can duplicate that defensive performance and force Ringgold to throw the ball, this matchup of Catoosa County programs could be closer than expected. As Ringgold coach Robert Akins knows all too well, the Warriors have won three of the past four series meetings.
ROCKMART YELLOW JACKETS (2-1, 1-0) at SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (2-0, 0-0)
Region 6-AAA's other big tilt is at "The Furnace" in Calhoun, where the upstart Phoenix will host heavy preseason league favorite Rockmart. The Yellow Jackets graduated several key starters from last season but appear to have successfully reloaded. Last week's 42-7 win over Coahulla Creek led Colts coach Danny Wilson to say this Rockmart team could be better than last year's 10-win squad. With their offense largely ground-based last year, the Jackets now have dual threat J.D. Davis at quarterback and playmakers at running back in Brent Washington and receiver in Dennis Sims. However, Sonoraville has yet to allow a point and has had an extra week to prepare since pulling off a 32-0 shocker against Fannin County, which has won its other three games. The aggressive defense is led by Jebb Knight, Zach McAfee and Tristan Mullins, who have combined for 14 tackles for loss, while Nick Beddington has two interceptions and Wyatt Springfield has recovered two fumbles. The Phoenix, who opened with a 21-0 win at Model, are led on offense by Jaxon Pate (429 passing yards, 105 rushing yards, seven touchdowns), running back Zach Lyles (368 total yards) and one of the most physical lines in the area.
Compiled by Stephen Hargis and Lindsey Young. Contact Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis. Contact Young at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
Friday, Sept. 17, 2021
Games start at 7:30 p.m. Eastern unless noted
Brainerd at McMinn Central
Chattanooga Christian at Notre Dame
East Hamilton at Paul Bryant (Alabama)
Farragut at Cleveland
Hardin Valley at Bradley Central
Hixson at East Ridge
Knoxville Catholic at McCallie
Lookout Valley at Cannon County
Loudon at Signal Mountain
Marion County at Bledsoe County, 8
McMinn County at Howard
Meigs County at Tellico Plains
Polk County at Tyner
Pope John Paul II at Baylor
Red Bank at Central
Rhea County at Ooltewah
Sale Creek at Copper Basin
Sequatchie County at Grundy County, 8
Silverdale Academy at Boyd Buchanan
Soddy-Daisy at Sequoyah
Walker Valley at Smith County
Whitwell at South Pittsburg, 8
Calhoun at Woodstock
Carrollton at Dalton
Cedar Bluff at Trion
Coahulla Creek at North Murray
Dade County at Mount Zion-Carroll
Gordon Central at Gordon Lee
Heritage at Darlington
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe at Ringgold
Murray County at LaFayette
Rockmart at Sonoraville
Ridgeland at Cass
Southeast Whitfield at Armuchee