Taking into consideration each era, level of talent and competition beaten, here are the Chattanooga area’s all-time greatest state championship teams as ranked by the Times Free Press sports staff.
(Tennessee teams ranked since 1969, when the TSSAA began deciding champions under playoff format)
1. Cleveland (1993)
Top Players: Kevin Cobb (RB-DB), Keith Cobb (RB-DB), Cory Prigmore (QB), Dante Hickey (WR-DB), Tez Davis (QB-DB), Tennille Hudgins (WR-LB), Chris Whaley (FB-LB), Carlos Thompson (FB-LB), Demetrice Smith (DL).
Coach: Benny Monroe
The Blue Raiders defeated opponents by an average of 42 points, outscoring them 623-105, and knocked off unbeaten and perennial state power Brentwood Academy 26-21 in the state-title game. Prigmore tossed a 17-yard pass to Keith Cobb with 43 seconds remaining for the winning margin and the first of three consecutive Class 4A state championships. This team was so talented that Hickey was a fourth option to carry the ball, and the next season he was a finalist for the state’s Mr. Football award. The Cobbs and Whaley each ran for more than 1,000 yards. The Blue Raiders did not allow a touchdown until the sixth game of the season and had nine games in which they did not allow a TD.
“We had 11 stallions on defense,” Monroe said. “You could have taken any one of those guys and built an entire team around them. Everybody talks about the offensive speed, but you just couldn’t score on us. I’ve coached a lot of teams and players, but I’ve never had a team close to the talent level we had on that team. The only weakness was punter, but we never punted.”
2. Red Bank (2000)
Top players: Gerald Riggs (RB), Jim Thurman (TE-DE), Ryan McGinnis (WR-DB), Fred Holder (QB), Jamichael McGoy (RB), Cole Goins (FB), Jeremy Gooden (DB), Fletcher Williams (LB), Richard Phillips (OL-DL).
Coach: Tom Weathers
The first Hamilton County team in 27 years to win a championship in the state’s largest classification, the Lions finished the season ranked No. 11 in USA Today’s national poll. Led by junior Riggs, the Class 5A Mr. Football and BlueCross Bowl offensive MVP, the Lions pounded opponents into submission. Riggs ran for 2,435 yards and 37 touchdowns despite carrying more than 22 times just once. That came in the state-title game, in which he ran 31 times for 209 yards and three TDs, helping Red Bank outgain Riverdale 359-94. Red Bank’s offense accumulated 6,493 yards, outscoring opponents an average of 40-12, and its turnover ratio was plus-31.
3. Baylor (1973)
Top Players: Andy Rutledge (FB), David Hannah (OL), Bobby Worthington (QB), Scott Price (DB), Cal Jumper (DE), John Wooley (OL), Rob Davis (LB), Van Bunch (DB), Mike Shuford (RB).
Coach: E.B. “Red” Etter
Despite being outgained 209-140 in total yards, the Red Raiders fed off three turnovers in a 6-0 championship-game win over Hillcrest and were later chosen the New York Times’ mythical national champions. Worthington hit Tim Tucker for a 6-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and the defense made it stand. Hillcrest’s biggest scoring threat came when Robert Coleman caught what would have been a 15-yard TD out of bounds on fourth down, turning the ball over to Baylor late in the fourth quarter.
4. Marion County (1995)
Top Players: Eric Westmoreland (RB-DB), Anthony Martin (RB-DB), Josh Dobson (QB), Steven Dover (LB), Larry Ziegler (OL-DL).
Coach: Ken Colquette
There had been many questions concerning how the Warriors, who had dominated opponents in their classification, would fare against an upgraded schedule. Beating Baylor, Soddy-Daisy, Rhea County and Shelbyville — all from larger classes — validated how good the Jasper program was. The Warriors cruised through the playoffs, winning every game by 20 or more points, including a state-championship whipping of previously unbeaten Humboldt. On offense, Westmoreland ran for more than 2,300 yards and was selected Class 3A Mr. Football.
5. Tyner (1997)
Top Players: Rory Hinton (QB), Kelvin Hughley (RB-LB), Anthony Jones (WR), Windarek Stewart (RB-DB), Cortez Stokes (OL-DL), Aaron Ellison (LB), Napolean Clark (DE), Rashaun Strickland (WR).
Coach: Wayne Turner
The Rams became the first public school from Hamilton County to win a state championship, outscoring opponents 670-127 (45-8 average) along the way. They opened the season with a 95-3 win over Boyd-Buchanan and scored first against all but one opponent. Their only loss was to eventual Division II champ Battle Ground Academy in a shootout, and six players earned scholarship offers, including linebacker Hughley to Georgia Tech and receiver Jones to Vanderbilt.
6. McCallie (2001)
Top players: Keppy Baucom (LB), Jason Hall (DE), Ryan Moore (QB), Wayne Fullam (RB), Chris Johnson (RB-LB), Campbell Thomas (FB), Jed Roebuck (DE), David Pennington (DL), Chris Bell (OL-DL).
Coach: Ralph Potter
During the regular season, McCallie defeated eight state-ranked teams, including defending Class 5A champion Red Bank. All 10 regular-season opponents advanced to the playoffs of their respective classifications. Trailing by two points in the Division II-AA championship game, the Blue Tornado converted a fourth-and-16 from Brentwood Academy’s 38-yard line with 1:11 remaining when Moore passed to Haddon Kirk for a 21-yard gain. That set up Trey Meyer’s game-winning 22-yard field goal with 11 seconds left.
7. Dalton (1967)
Top Players: Ricky Lake (FB-LB), Forrest Starks (RB-DB), Ray Evans (WB), Steve Norris (QB), Keith Whitworth (RB-DB), Bill McManus (OL), Ricky Townsend (K-P), Frank Dixon (OL).
Coach: Bill Chappell
The Catamounts avenged their only regular-season loss with a 33-0 whipping of West Rome in the Georgia quarterfinals and cruised to the Class AA state title by beating Carver-Atlanta 14-12. It would be the only state championship of Chappell’s three-decade coaching career. Lake and Townsend signed with Tennessee, while Whitworth signed with Georgia and Dixon with Auburn.
8. South Pittsburg (2007)
Top players: Robert Robinson (RB-LB), David Jones (RB-LB), Rashawn Weatherspoon (WR-KR), Terrell Robinson (DB), Cody Robinson (QB), Montrell Mitchell (RB-LB), Tony Roden (OL), Dominique Garrett (OL-DL).
Coach: Vic Grider
Facing a schedule with four region champions and eight state-ranked foes, the Pirates won 10 games by the state’s 35-point mercy rule. The quick-strike offense accounted for 41 touchdowns of 30-plus yards and the Pirates trailed only twice all season, for fewer than five combined minutes of actual game time. In the playoffs, they scored touchdowns on 31 of 38 possessions, including four possessions in which they took a knee to run out the clock. In the championship game against a McKenzie team that had allowed one touchdown or less nine times that season, the Pirates averaged 11.2 yards per carry in another mercy-rule win. Eight players from the roster eventually signed college scholarships.
9. Signal Mountain (2010)
Top players: Hogan Whitmire (QB), Donnie Garner (RB), Gervell Morgan (LB), Andrew Price (RB), Will Queen (WR), Will Sawyer (DL).
Coach: Bill Price
The Eagles became the highest-scoring team in area history, posting 722 points in 14 games (51.6 per game). They scored 40-plus points in every game and beat 10 opponents by the state’s 35-point mercy rule. After falling behind by 14 in the Class 2A championship game, the Eagles responded with five unanswered TDs and led by Garner’s 218 rushing yards and three touchdowns, set a title-game record with 688 offensive yards. Along the way, they beat 1A champ South Pittsburg in a game that featured six lead changes, and in a second-round win over Friendship Christian, they scored the go-ahead TD with 35 seconds remaining. They allowed 17 points a game.
10. North Jackson (1993)
Top Players: Gerrod Hutchins (LB), Stafford Henry (RB), Joey Guess (OL-DL), Ricky Sullivan (QB-DB), Eric Hutchins (DL), Mike Guess (SE-DB-K), Terry Collier (FB-LB), Chad Chisenall (TE-DE), Jimmy Matthews (LB), Owen Long (OL), Shaun Martin (OL).
Coach: Phillip Lolley
One of the best defensive teams ever from this area, the Chiefs shut out eight opponents and limited four others to one score. Their only loss was a narrow defeat at 5A Guntersville, which was the only team to score more than 14 points on the Chiefs all season. In the 4A state championship game, the Chiefs traveled eight hours to defeat defending state champion Daleville, 21-14.
Five more state champions to consider:
Marion County, 1992 (15-0): The Warriors cruised through the season, winning all but two games by 20 or more points. Despite being huge underdogs against nationally ranked Brentwood Academy in the title game, Marion scored late for a 28-26 upset win.
Bradley Central, 1976 (13-0): The Bears won five games by a touchdown or less, including a triple-overtime 50-48 victory over unbeaten Jackson Central-Merry in Murfreesboro.
Boyd-Buchanan, 2003 (12-2): The Buccaneers held eight opponents to a touchdown or less, and Matt Peardon had a breakout season, rushing for more than 1,800 yards. The Bucs outgained Donelson Christian 208-44 in the second half of the state final and more than doubled the Wildcats in time of possession.
South Pittsburg, 1999 (15-0): The Pirates completed the first unbeaten season in program history, beating eventual Alabama 1A champion Courtland as well as knocking off two-time defending state champ Trousdale County and three state-ranked teams in the playoffs. The first-team defense allowed an average just six points per game and six players earned all-state recognition, including two Mr. Football finalists.
Rossville, 1962 (13-0): The Bulldogs allowed only 58 points the entire season and beat North Clayton in the Georgia Class AA title game. They beat Cedartown in the quarterfinals 13-7 on a 60-yard run by Leroy Jones. This was the last and best team of the Bulldogs’ three state championship squads.