NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (4-2) at POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (5-1)
Storyline: The Irish will look to get their ground game going again after being limited last week, including Auston Banks, who was held 65 yards below his season average. One way to re-open the running lanes is to throw the ball to Kareem Orr early and often. There's no secret to the Wildcats' plan, which will be giving Zach Miller 25-30 carries.
CLAY COUNTY (2-4) at WHITWELL TIGERS (2-5)
Storyline: The Tigers definitely found an offensive rhythm last week as Clay McHone and Tyler Tate each ran for more than 130 yards and Cody Ingrassia scored three TDs. Going against a Clay County defense that's giving up an average of four TDs a game could mean more offensive fireworks for the improving Tigers.
GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (1-5) VS. SALE CREEK PANTHERS (0-6) at FINLEY STADIUM
Storyline: The Panthers' introduction to the varsity level has been tough so far, and they likely will see a steady diet of Golden Eagles RB Will Slack tonight. Slack ran for more than 150 and 2 TDs last week and this will be one of three games in the next four weeks that Grace can win and close out the season near .500.
MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (6-1) at COPPER BASIN COUGARS (0-6)
Storyline: The Warriors have another tune-up game as they prepare for their playoff run. This will be the third winless opponent in the last four weeks for Marion, so expect big numbers from all-state RB Blake Zeman and QB Logan Walters and company.
McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (2-4, 1-1) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (5-1, 2-1)
Storyline: Aside from Cleveland, the Hurricanes may be as prolific a passing team as Bo Cagle's McMinn team will see this year. But he noted, "They can still grind out the tough yards when they have to." Coach Ted Gatewood hasn't faced a Cherokees team since leaving Ooltewah and coming to East Hamilton but said one thing hasn't changed: "Their kids play hard for four quarters." McMinn County doesn't rely on the run as much as last year, but still expect a physical District 5-AAA game with blocking and tackling at a premium.
BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (4-2, 1-1) at CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (4-3, 2-1)
Storyline: Both teams are coming off narrow losses -- Bradley by two to Ooltewah and Cleveland by a missed extra point to East Hamilton -- and tonight could be the same, as this game could serve as an elimination game for each team's aspirations to be one of the district's top seeds and earn an automatic bid to the playoffs. Although both have high-powered offenses and solid defenses, tonight could come down to the kicking game -- an area in which both teams have at times struggled this season.
OAKLAND PATRIOTS (6-0) at BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (5-1)
Storyline: Oakland's defense is stout, having held four opponents to 14 or fewer points and three of those to eight or below. Baylor hasn't lost to a public school since a 23-20 game in 2007 against Lincoln County. With 183 yards last week against McCallie, Red Raiders RB George Porter has topped the 3,000-yard career rushing mark. The Patriots' top performers are RBs Fredarius Wade and Darryle Hood, each averaging 7-plus yards per carry. The Patriots have several college prospects, including 2015 Tennessee offensive line commitment Jack Jones and senior athlete Emmanuel Smith, a Vanderbilt commitment. Junior LB Josh Smith has offers from Tennessee, Vandy, Ole Miss and Kentucky. Both teams are ranked No. 2 in their respective state classes.
SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (5-1) at BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (2-4)
Storyline: While the Bucs were breaking a four-game losing streak and securing their first district win last week, South Pittsburg was using an open date to get a leg up on preparation following a victory over Grundy County. The game, which will be televised by EPB, features three prospect-type players in Buccaneers QB Jim Cardwell and second-ranked Pirates RBs Jajuan Lankford and Kahlil Mitchell.
RED BANK LIONS (2-4, 2-0) at EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (3-4, 2-1)
Storyline: The teams have two common opponents with each beating Brainerd and Central in 6-AA games. Lions will be coming off an open date while East Ridge suffered its first 6-AA loss at Hixson. The winner will stay in the playoff picture.
This also could be a running QB battle featuring the Pioneers' Jo Jo Tillery and the Lions' Michael Robinson, who was slowed earlier in the year with an ankle injury. Red Bank has won four straight over the Pioneers since joining 6-AA and five straight dating back to 2004. The Pioneers' last win was 21-7 a decade ago.
WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (3-3, 0-2) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (6-1, 3-0)
Storyline: The Mustangs, who had an open date last week, have lost two straight after surprising 6-AAA leader Rhea County. Now they tackle 5-AAA leader Ooltewah, which held on for a two-point victory over Bradley Central. The biggest question mark is whether the Owls' "Superback," Desmond Pittman, will be cleared to play. He was sidelined last week by a sprained knee.
McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (3-4, 1-2) at BRENTWOOD ACADEMY EAGLES (4-3, 1-2)
Storyline: The Tornado's youthfulness seemed to catch up with them against Baylor last week, and the "deer in the headlight" play cost them their fourth consecutive loss after a 3-0 start. The Eagles, meanwhile, broke a three-game losing streak on Sept. 2 and have a two-game win streak after thumping Pope John Paul II 57-6 last week. They've scored 102 points the past two games behind QB Tyler Swafford, who has 17 TD passes and a 61 percent completion rate.
BRAINERD PANTHERS (1-6, 1-2) at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (3-3, 1-2)
Storyline: Will Brainerd build on its first 2013 win (over Howard) under first-year coach Brian Gwyn? Central was touted as a possible district contender but has abandoned its season-opening spread offense for coach John Allen's bread-and-butter wing-T. Both teams have used two QBs this season -- Sam Caffey and LaTony Word for the Panthers and Scout Morgan and Terry Tiller for the Pounders. Caffey is a key man for Brainerd, and Isyah Funk for Pounders.
HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (1-5, 0-2) at TYNER RAMS (0-6, 0-2)
Storyline: The Rams got a jolt earlier this week when they discovered an ineligible player had participated in four games. It cost them their two-game win streak and put even more heat on a strong finish. The Tigers made a fourth-quarter comeback behind Cudjoe Young, Terrance Brooks and Lorenzo McCauley last week but lost to Brainerd.
SILVERDALE BAPTIST SEAHAWKS (6-0) at CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN CHARGERS (2-4)
Storyline: Silverdale had an open date while CCS was suffering its fourth straight loss (at Grundy County). The SBA defense has been fairly stiff and has three shutouts, but the Seahawks most recently struggled in a three-point win over Sweetwater. The Chargers have now been shut out in back-to-back weeks.
STONE MEMORIAL PANTHERS (5-2) at SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (4-2)
Storyline: The Panthers' top runners have been Nathaniel Clayton, Justin Johnson and Brady Wattenbarger, and Wattenbarger has been fairly effective throwing the ball. The question for Stone Memorial, though, is how successful the defense will be against the Indians' veer option attack. Entering the season, the Crossville school had a 15-49 record since its inaugural season in 2006. The Panthers need one more victory to secure their first winning season.
McMINN CENTRAL CHARGERS (3-4) at CARTER HORNETS (6-0)
Storyline: Knoxville Carter is one of the state's top offensive teams, scoring 43.3 points per game, and is the state's ninth-ranked Class 4A team. The Chargers are coming off a strong offensive showing against Sweetwater and have dramatically improved the last three weeks. They also have already faced one unbeaten in Knoxville Grace Christian. Central's top performers are RB Denzell Boyd and LB/FB Gage Johnson.
MEIGS COUNTY TIGERS (1-5) at LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (0-6)
Storyline: Meigs' losing streak was extended to three against unbeaten Knoxville Grace last week, while the Jackets lost to Whitwell. The Tigers are led by Quincy Parris, Dakota Rickert and Bryson Baker; Lookout Valley by Javonte Epps, Sean Kirk and Jaylen Wynn. The team series is tied at 1, but schools last met in 1980.
RHEA COUNTY GOLDEN EAGLES (5-1) at SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (3-3)
Storyline: The Eagles continue to roll under second-year coach Mark Pemberton, who has their offense flying high. Rhea County has scored 134 points in its last three games while allowing just 10 points on defense. The Trojans picked up a win when Tyner forfeited its win over the Trojans on Wednesday.
ARMUCHEE INDIANS (1-4, 1-1) at CHATTOOGA INDIANS (1-4, 1-1)
Storyline: Despite losing overall records, both teams are one game out of a tie for first place in Georgia Region 7-AA. Chattooga snapped a four-game losing streak in an emphatic way with a 56-13 win over Murray County last week. Armuchee's only win also came over Murray County, 41-0.
DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (3-2, 1-1) at COOSA EAGLES (2-3, 0-2)
Storyline: The Wolverines have been yo-yoing all season and needed double-overtime to topple Pepperell last Friday. Junior Brett Swader leads the Wolverines with an average of 64 yards per game. The Eagles took their medicine last week in a 49-13 loss to Calhoun.
MURRAY COUNTY INDIANS (1-4, 0-2) at MODEL BLUE DEVILS (4-1, 2-0)
Storyline: Model scheduled homecoming festivities tonight against the Indians, who have been outscored 97-13 in their last two games. The Blue Devils have been winning one-score-difference games, including a 13-12 win last week against Armuchee.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS (3-2, 1-0) at NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS (5-0, 1-0)
Storyline: One of the most highly anticipated meetings between the neighboring rivals features wildly diverse offenses and two very stout defenses. Dalton had a breakout game from QB Payton Veraldi a week ago and will need the same this week against the ball-hawking Bruins, who average forcing four turnovers a game. Northwest is riding the hot hand of its QB, Caleb Shiflett, who has thrown for 10 touchdowns in the last two games for a team averaging better than 40 points.
LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (0-5, 0-1) at HERITAGE GENERALS (0-5, 0-1)
Storyline: The good news here is that someone will get the goose egg off its record. The bad news? This may be each team's only shot at a win. LaFayette played perhaps its best game of the season a week ago and will look to QB Lance Estus to build on a two-touchdown game. Heritage managed to cut its turnovers in a blowout loss to Northwest Whitfield, but its offense is still missing in action.
SOUTHEAST WHITFIELD RAIDERS (3-2, 1-0) at RIDGELAND PANTHERS (1-4, 0-1)
Storyline: What a difference a year makes. The Raiders, long the the region doormat, have visions of playoffs dancing in their heads, while the Panthers, less than a year removed from a state-final appearance, are fighting for their postseason lives. Southeast had to rally to defeat LaFayette last week, using a return to the power running game to do so, while Ridgeland is trying to find any offense after being held, for the second time, to less than 100 yards. And the Panthers may have lost injured FB Noah Cooper for this week.
CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (4-1, 2-0) at PEPPERELL DRAGONS (1-4, 1-1)
Storyline: Calhoun had a bye week to get some of its starters healthy, and that's bad news for the surprisingly struggling Dragons, who usually are playoff contenders. Coach Hal Lamb wants to get the Yellow Jackets' running game going and has used the past two weeks to work out issues up front. Pepperell has no answer to Calhoun's two dynamic WR playmakers, Tydus Curtis and Chandler Curtis, so expect a few big plays there.
DARLINGTON TIGERS (4-1, 1-0) at CHRISTIAN HERITAGE LIONS (5-1, 2-0)
Storyline: After earning the second-year GHSA program's biggest win a week ago over Gordon Lee in resounding fashion, the Lions welcome Region 6-A kingpin Darlington. As Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag said, the Tigers don't do anything fancy, but what they do -- run the ball -- they do extremely well. The Lions, who have posted three shutouts, need to keep big plays at a minimum, which will allow the explosive offense and QB Trevor Brown to keep the game close into the final quarter.
MOUNT ZION, CARROLL, EAGLES (2-3, 0-1) at TRION BULLDOGS (3-2, 0-1)
Storyline: Trion coach Justin Brown called this Region 6A-A game pivotal. Falling into an 0-2 hole would be difficult to get out of, even this early. Good news for the Bulldogs is that, after a bye week, they are healthier than they've been all year. Star RB/LB Malik Martin played only a handful of snaps against Darlington, but he's ready to go, as is DE Daniel Sanford, who is making his season debut. The Eagles, trying to find an offense after graduating star back Nathan Barnhardt, also are desperate for a win.
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