POPE JOHN PAUL II KNIGHTS (2-6, 0-5) at BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (7-1, 4-1)
Last time: Baylor won 35-14 last year.
This time: Baylor handed Division I Class 5A Columbia Central its first loss last week with a sound running game led by George Porter and Connor Davidson. PJP II is coming off a 45-7 loss to McCallie. The Knights are on a four-game losing streak following a 43-42 win over Goodpasture on Sept. 9. Since then, they have surrendered an average of 43 points per game.
Time to shine: Brad Jarreau is among the Division II-AA receiving leaders in the Nashville area with 34 catches for 516 yards and five TDs, and the Knights' Evan Carter is among the midstate's top punters and kickers. The Red Raiders have been without WR Deosha McColley and OG Derrick Green the past two weeks, McColley with a shoulder injury and Green with a concussion, but each is expected back tonight.
MONTGOMERY BELL ACADEMY BIG RED (3-5, 1-4) at McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (4-3, 2-3)
Last time: MBA won 46-36 last year.
This time: Tonight is McCallie's senior night and the school will honor 18 players before kickoff. MBA had a two-game win streak snapped by Ensworth last week, 52-10, while McCallie was beating up on Pope John Paul II (45-7).
Time to shine: McCallie senior Daniel McClure topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark last week and Tornado teammate Samir Usman added his second 100-yard rushing game of the season. McCallie welcomes back offensive linemen Tye Youngblood and Russ Robinson, who missed last week's rout with injuries. Eric Wolf and Hayden Cronan lead McCallie in total tackles and lost-yardage hits. MBA QB Dylan Hall is among the midstate's Division II-AA leaders, having passed for 1,141 yards and nine TDs. He also has eight interceptions.
SODDY-DAISY TROJANS (3-5, 2-3) at McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (6-2, 4-0)
Last time: Soddy-Daisy won 20-3 last year.
This time: A loss by Soddy-Daisy will likely end the Trojans' playoff hopes while a Cherokees' loss will add pressure to next week's anticipated McMinn-Bradley battle for the District 5-AAA championship. Since a 24-14 loss to Farragut, McMinn has won four consecutive games. Soddy-Daisy is 3-2 the last five weeks.
Time to shine: Cherokees QB Nathan Simbeck has completed 61 percent of his passes and has passed the 1,200-yard plateau with 12 TD passes and five interceptions. While Simbeck has shown he can run, coach Bo Cagle would prefer to leave that to sophomore Dre Sanders, who's tied for the team scoring lead with WR Cedric Nevins. The Trojans have more to offer than RB Cedric Edwards, who is far and away the team's leading scorer. While Edwards has shouldered much of the offensive load, sophomore QB Brett Standifer is 23 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark. He has switched targets among C.J. Brown, Zach Keller, Edwards and Matt Abens. Nathan Hodges leads the team in tackles, and Jake Ables has contributed 15 lost-yardage tackles.
EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (4-4, 3-2) at CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (3-5, 2-3)
Last time: Central won 9-0.
This time: Central broke a three-game losing streak last week, beating Brainerd 24-14 to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. East Ridge has scrambled back into the playoff chase with three straight wins, all over District 6-AA opponents, including East Hamilton. Both need to win out, although one might have some breathing room if a 5-5 regular-season finish is good enough to get into the Class 4A postseason.
Time to shine: Junior RB Dominique Dawson slid over to QB after a handful of Pounders were dismissed from the team and completed four of seven passes for 64 yards with a TD and two interceptions. With Nikolay Timoshchuk (knee) out for the year, the bulk of the rushing offense has fallen to Robert Cobb. East Ridge got away from the two-QB system before reaching the season's halfway mark but went back to it Friday and the "other" QB, Demetrius Bumpass, led the Pioneers to their winning score. However, coach Mike Martin says he will continue to start Eric McCurdy and keep Bumpass at wide receiver.
RED BANK LIONS (7-1, 5-0) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (4-4, 4-1)
Last time: Red Bank won 45-7 last year.
This time: One of these teams will be District 6-AA champion. The Lions could be crowned tonight. The Hurricanes would have to win tonight and beat Howard next week.
Time to shine: East Hamilton running back Logan Jackson is recovering from a high ankle sprain. Coach Ted Gatewood is hopeful his leading rusher will be able to play but lists his status as questionable. Because Jackson's substitute, Chas Holsey, broke his foot Sept. 30 against East Ridge and is likely out for the rest of the season, Gatewood said junior Lamond Greer is next in line. Although quarterback Niquia McDuffie is its leading rusher, Red Bank is missing its top running back, Randal Lee, who tore ligaments in his ankle in practice two weeks ago and won't be back until possibly the state playoffs. The rushing load at running back now falls to junior Demetrius Williams. Both coaches acknowledge a player for steady performances throughout season. For Gatewood that's outside linebacker Chansler Williamson. For the Lions' Tim Daniels it's inside linebacker and guard Jake Parker.
BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (6-2, 4-0) at CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (4-4, 2-2)
Last time: Cleveland won 33-15 last year.
This time: There has been plenty of hoopla surrounding this game, with ESPNU televising the game live, but on the field two teams fighting for playoff position will be battling with town pride on the line.
Time to shine: The focus on tonight's game will be on each team's defense. Bradley's offense, with quarterback Bryce Copeland, versatile Justin Houston and receivers James Stovall and Cal Pickel, likes to strike quickly, which in turn keeps its defense on the field for longer portions of time. The Cleveland offense, led by University of Pittsburgh commitment Chad Voytik at quarterback, has had its share of issues trying to get on track this season. That has put more pressure on the Raiders' defense, led by all-state defensive tackle Henry McClendon and linebacker Jesse Jones.
RHEA COUNTY GOLDEN EAGLES (0-8, 0-4) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (0-8, 0-4)
Last time: Rhea won 42-20 last year.
This time: Both teams see this as their best chance to get in the win column. The Mustangs are in a 14-game losing streak, although they have scored 30 or more points on four occasions during the streak. The Golden Eagles are in the transition to a new coach this season and have failed to score 20 points in a game this year.
Time to shine: Rhea has been led by tailback Desmond Sharp, who has been solid for three seasons as the team's lead back. He'll warrant help from receiver/defensive back Tyler Mize. Walker Valley's attack has been led by tailback Kelvin Wells Jr. and wingback Gabe Cartwright -- both of whom have capable ability to break big plays.
POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (6-2) at SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (7-1)
Last time: Polk County won 42-7 last year.
This time: The Pirates are in the final stages of a schedule that will include eight foes that are either playoff bound or in a higher classification. And this likely is the toughest of those challenges. Class 3A's ninth-ranked Polk County already claimed the District 5-AA title and has whipped the Pirates physically and on the scoreboard unlike any foe each of the past two seasons. After two tough losses to open the season, the Wildcats have won their last six by an average of 38-16, including a victory over Signal Mountain. Aside from getting blistered by Signal Mountain, South Pittsburg's defense has held six opponents to one touchdown or less.
Time to shine: The game has been decided each of the last two years by Polk's size and strength advantage up front. The Wildcats again have plenty of experience in the trenches, led by senior linemen Seth Phillips, a three-year starter at guard, and tackles Derek St. John and Marty Parris. Quarterback Al Akins is a running threat and fullback Derrick Saxe is tough to bring down. While the Pirates are thin along the line, their skill positions getting healthy with the return of athlete Demetric "Little Man" Johnson and receiver Antonio Chubb from injury. They are the fastest players on the team and add two more weapons to an offense that has been led by sophomore running back Jajuan Lankford, who has rushed for more than 1,400 yards.
LOOKOUT VALLEY YELLOW JACKETS (6-3) at COPPER BASIN COUGARS (3-5)
Last time: Copper Basin won 63-7 last year.
This time: The Cougars crept back into playoff contention with last week's win over Marion County but can't afford a loss tonight. In fact, they likely also need to upset Boyd-Buchanan next week at home to secure a spot in the 1A playoff bracket. The Yellow Jackets are in the playoffs regardless but want to claim their fourth straight win to have momentum heading into the postseason. Lookout Valley is off next week and could earn a home playoff game with a win tonight.
Time to shine: Jamal Jones continues to help the surging Jackets roll. The junior speedster has rushed for more than 1,200 yards, averaging 8.5 per carry, while quarterback Vann Scribner keeps defenses honest with more than 860 passing yards and 14 TDs. With next week off, the Yellow Jackets not only can avenge last year's defeat but can put themselves in good shape to host a first-round playoff game with a win.
RINGGOLD TIGERS (5-2, 2-1) at RIDGELAND PANTHERS (3-4, 2-1)
Last time: Ridgeland won 21-0 last year.
This time: There is a lot on the line tonight in this Region 7A-AAA game, with the winner gaining the upper hand in earning one of the top three slots in the week 10 crossover play-in games. The loser would need considerable help to make it.
Time to shine: Each team wants to establish the run early and often. Senior RB Shaun Anderson has become Ringgold's top ground threat and is a reliable target out of the backfield for QB Slade Dale. Defensively, LBs Dakota Baer and Kile Sholl will have to have big games. Ridgeland's revamped wing-T now features the running -- and sometimes passing -- of Darrell Bridges and WB Vonn Bell, with Xavier Turner and Torrie Porter also providing big-play ability on the ground. Key for the Panthers' defense are LBs Porter and Daniel Johnson, the leading tackler.
LaFAYETTE RAMBLERS (5-2, 2-1) at DALTON CATAMOUNTS (5-2, 3-0)
Last time: Dalton won 33-21 last year.
This time: As Dalton awaits the outcome of a GHSA investigation into the eligibility of a player and possible forfeiture of its first two Region 7A-AAA wins, the Catamounts must focus on the task at hand while also dealing with homecoming week. A win by LaFayette would throw the region race up for grabs.
Time to shine: The Ramblers have moved the ball consistently in every game behind elusive senior TB Devarus Porter and playmakers Demarcus Simpson and Jarrod Beamon. Turnovers, though, have been a problem. The key defensively will be up front, where Will Mefford and Austin Whitten will be tested by the area's top offensive line. Dalton's already potent ground game will get a boost with the return of senior RB Tre Beck from a broken leg. His replacement, Tre Bonds, has averaged right at 200 yards per game and still will get plenty of touches. The play of LBs Robert Hardaway and Eder Mora, a freshman, will be a key for the Dalton defense.
LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (3-4, 3-1) at SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (3-5, 2-3)
Last time: Sonoraville won 35-3 last year.
This time: As improbable as it might have seemed a month ago, the Warriors have a very real shot at the playoffs after an 0-4 start. A win tonight would lock up a top-three subregion finish and secure a week 10 Region 7B-AA crossover play-in game. The Phoenix still have a shot themselves but need a win and help.
Time to shine: LFO is riding the powerful running of senior Bubba Cruz, who is closing in on 1,000 yards and has averaged more than 150 yards in the Warriors' three-game winning streak. Jok O'Barr, Josh Gibson and Kelly Payne man an improved line. Sonoraville's spread-option offense is keyed around senior RB Shaqueal McAffee, the school's all-time leading rusher, and an experienced line anchored by Noah Henson and Josh Bowling.