Tonight’s prep football matchups
Polk County (1-1, 0-0) at McMinn Central (1-1, 0-0)
Storyline: Central’s Chargers, who led District 5-AAA favorite McMinn County 16-6 at the half of their season-opener before losing, got a spectacular showing from player of the week Denzell Boyd (240 rushing yards, six TDs) last week at Notre Dame. The game could be a contrasting match-up of running games — the flashy but diminutive Boyd against the consistent banging of Polk’s bruising Zach Miller. The Wildcats may also have found a new punt returner in Duncan Coffey. The quarterback took one back against Central while filling in for injured Collin Wimberley, who’ll be back tonight.
East Hamilton (1-1, 0-0) at Central (0-1, 0-0), 7
Storyline: The Purple Pounders have new looks in both uniform and facility for their home opener but they’re coming off a close loss to Polk County in which they had a TD waved off on a holding call. The Hurricanes, behind a highly-efficient offensive line, got off to a great start with an unexpectedly lopsided win over Signal Mountain, but then dropped a heartbreaker to Ooltewah in the final 10 seconds. Their defense has already surrendered 45 points and the questions may be whether Central’s Dominique Dawson and friends can exploit weaknesses and can their defensive counterparts slow East Hamilton senior running back Logan Jackson? He already has 429 rushing yards.
Rhea County (1-1, 0-0) at McMinn County (2-0, 0-0)
Storyline: The Class 6A eighth-ranked Cherokees look to continue their recent dominance of the visiting Golden Eagles, having won seven of the last eight meetings. Rhea is vastly improved from last season’s 1-9 finish, but will have a huge challenge traveling down Highway 30 to Athens, where the Cherokees are riding a high after defeating McCallie. The Golden Eagles’ defense will have to figure out a way to slow down the production of McMinn backs Kelvin Wells, Jr., and Dre Sanders, who combined for 360 all-purpose yards last week.
Whitwell (1-1, 0-0) at Marion County (2-0, 0-0), 8
Storyline: It’s the first District 6-A game for both teams and one that also brings community bragging rights. Whitwell bounced back from a season-opening loss at Copper Basin to whip Midway 37-6 last week behind Dusty McColm’s 130 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He also caught a TD pass as the Tigers rolled up 407 total yards. Whitwell’s defense also forced six turnovers. Meanwhile Marion continued its turnaround after a one-win season in 2011 by claiming its second straight one-point win. The Warriors stuffed Bledsoe’s two-point conversion attempt with less than a minute to go and are looking for their first 3-0 start since 1995. Sophomore fullback Blake Zeman has 273 rushing yards and five TDs in two games and is also one of the team’s leading tacklers.
South Pittsburg (1-0, 0-0) at Lookout Valley (2-0, 0-0)
Storyline: It’s early, but tonight’s loser likely won’t end up District 6-A champion. Relatively speaking, South Pittsburg used the pass to set up the run in last week’s 58-25 win over Grundy County. Quarterback Jake Stone’s only completions accounted for the game’s first two touchdowns. The Pirates want to run it with their two speed-burners in the backfield along with Corbin Hale, who contributed two touchdown runs and two conversion runs last week. The Yellow Jackets need middle linebacker Levi Wallace to continue being busy making tackles like he has so far this year. Lookout Valley can run it, too, with Jamal Jones, who has piled up 296 rushing yards in two games. While concentrating on him, the Pirates can’t forget about senior quarterback Vann Scribner, who returned last week from a one-game suspension and produced 233 yards of total offense.
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (0-0) at Gordon Lee (0-0)
Storyline: This rivalry is back after a two-year hiatus and the key word in this matchup is change. The Warriors have new offensive and defensive schemes and a new featured running back in senior “Pooh” Harden. LFO coach Todd Windham will use this non-region game to hopefully settle the quarterback race between Trey Silmon and Sky Rogers. The Trojans have a new head coach in Charlie Wiggins, the team’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons. The defense, led by end Randall Smith, should be solid, though the offense is debuting several new starters.
Fort Payne (0-0) at North Jackson (0-0), 8
Storyline: Chiefs’ sophomore quarterback Kitt Grider, who threw for more than 2,100 yards last season, could be in for an even bigger year. Now more comfortable in the spread offense, Grider threw for 230 yards in the first half of last week’s jamboree game at Sparkman, including a 69-yard TD to Daqwan Lowrence. Senior Cesar Diaz, who is being recruited by several FBS programs, also had a 40-yard field goal for the Chiefs, who haven’t faced Fort Payne since a 2009 four-point loss. North Jackson opens this season ranked No. 5 in Class 4A but this will be a tough test from a 5A opponent, especially with new starters in each of the front seven positions for North Jackson.
All games at 7:30 EDT unless noted