published Friday, October 26th, 2012

Chattanooga area high school football key matchups

Copper Basin (7-2, 1-1) at Boyd-Buchanan (8-1, 2-0)

Storyline: The District 5-A championship is on the line. If Boyd-Buchanan wins it has the title to itself and a likely No. 1 seed for the Class 2A playoffs. If Boyd-Buchanan loses but Silverdale Baptist beats Grace Academy, the Buccaneers still win the district. However, if Copper Basin wins and Grace upsets Silverdale, the Cougars take the district title, the Bucs are second and Silverdale finishes third. The Bucs have won two of the last three meetings by at least 35 points, including last year's 41-0 whipping. Boyd-Buchanan's defense ranks among the area's stingiest, and the backfield combination of quarterback Jim Cardwell and running back Rance Harden is difficult to defend.

Grundy County (5-4, 3-1) at Notre Dame (7-2, 3-1)

Storyline: It could be a battle of freshman quarterbacks in Grundy's Houston Mainord and the Irish's Alex Darras. Mainord, back in the lineup after recovering from a broken collarbone, completed 20 of 25 passes with two touchdowns last week, but the Yellow Jackets were upset by Grace. History says the game will be defense-dominated. Neither team has scored more than 21 points in any of the last five games. The game is for second place in the district, which carries a reserved playoff berth. However, in the past both teams have been more run-oriented and that isn't necessarily the case this year.

BRADLEY CENTRAL (6-3, 4-1) at McMINN COUNTY (8-1, 5-0)

Storyline: There is a lot more riding on this game for the visiting Bears, as the Cherokees already are guaranteed one of the two automatic bids into the playoffs. Should McMinn win, it locks up its second consecutive district title and third in four seasons. It would also push Bradley into a wild-card situation and sweating out a "where-to" approach in the 6A playoffs, whereas if the Bears win, they win the district title and get a little payback for falling to the Cherokees in a similar situation last season. McMinn can finish no worse than second.

Knoxville Grace (8-1) at South Pittsburg (7-2)

Storyline: Last year's meeting produced a triple-overtime, 3-0 victory for Grace Christian, marking the first time in 92 games the Pirates were shut out. This season the Knoxville team, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, averages scoring five touchdowns per game and is allowing two, with its only loss coming to 3A's second-ranked CAK. Senior running back Will McKamey is committed to playing at the Naval Academy, and linebacker Bryson Shelton is among the Knoxville area's leading tacklers. Pirates senior running back Demetric Johnson has more than 1,600 all-purpose yards and 26 touchdowns, averaging 17 yards per touch.

Sequatchie County (2-6, 0-4) at Signal Mountain (6-3, 4-0), 7

Storyline: Both teams are coming off open dates so each should be fresh and ready to go. The stakes are higher for the host Eagles in this one. While they have won District 7-AA and will host a first-round playoff game, they'll be battling to move up the Class 4A pecking order with hopes of staying at home a little longer. Sequatchie's close calls resulted in a disappointing season. Things started downhill for the young Indians in Week 3, a 35-14 loss to Grundy County that started a five-game losing streak including an unexpected loss to 1-8 Chattanooga Christian. In their two wins they've averaged 35 points, but their losses have been by an average of 33. Signal is riding a five-game win streak.

Central (2-7, 1-5) at Hixson (6-3, 5-1)

Storyline: Hixson coach Jason Fitzgerald felt his Wildcats were pretty focused at practice early in the week although they had rallied to lock up a second-place District 6-AA finish with a come-from-behind win over Brainerd. He'd like to keep them on track and match a three-game win streak earlier in the season with a win over the Purple Pounders, who have suffered three of their seven losses by a touchdown or less. A win would give Hixson its first seven-win season since 1998, but the Wildcats are concerned about the pure athletes the Pounders can put on the field. Too, there might be extra incentive for the respective coaching staffs. At least five, including Fitzgerald and Central head coach John Allen, have ties dating back to their days at Rhea County.

Baylor (6-3, 3-3) at Battle Ground Academy (4-5, 1-5), 8

Storyline: Baylor appears to be peaking and getting injured players back at the same time. The Red Raiders have won two straight and three of their last four. Emphasis the past two weeks has been on the running game, which coach Phil Massey says has allowed a relatively young offensive line to mature. Linebacker Blake Layne returns after missing a couple of games with a hip injury, and two others who have missed the last couple of weeks, defensive backs Jaylen Simmons and Josh Smith, hope to play. The status of kicker Rafael Gaglianone (groin strain) will be made tonight, but his replacement, Colin Brewer, went 5-for-5 on PATs last week and all of his kickoffs were at least to the 5-yard line. This is BGA's last season in Division II-AA. It has elected to move to Division II-A next season. BGA, which has lost five straight, is led by running back Keenan Bass. He needs just 34 yards to reach 1,000.

Brentwood Academy (7-2, 6-1) at McCallie (4-4, 3-3)

Storyline: the visiting Eagles had a seven-game win streak snapped by league-leading Ensworth last week (20-0). Their other loss (52-23) came in the season opener against Louisville (Ky.) Trinity. McCallie has won four of its last six games but had a two-game win streak snapped last week at Montgomery Bell Academy. McCallie coach Ralph Potter should know this opponent rather well. He coached most of the starters before deciding to come back home following the 2011 season. Among the Eagles' leaders is quarterback Max Staver, who has accounted for 16 TDs this season. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder has committed to Florida. McCallie's option offense, led by running back Chad Toliver, has averaged 249 yards and 40 attempts per game, and ball control will be a survival necessity for the Blue Tornado.

East Hamilton (8-1, 6-0) at Howard (2-6, 2-3)

Storyline: The visiting Hurricanes already have their second straight District 6-AA title in hand, but there is still reason to be motivated. East Hamilton needs to have momentum going into the playoffs after the memory of last year's first-round upset loss, and a nine-win season could help the 'Canes get more home games in the playoffs. Despite not having a chance of advancing to the playoffs, Howard has nothing to lose in its season finale and has proven to be a dangerous team at times when motivated. Although he sat out much of the second quarter of last week's game after taking a hard hit to the head, Hurricanes running back Logan Jackson returned in the second half and is healthy and cleared to play tonight.

RHEA COUNTY (1-8, 0-5) at CLEVELAND (5-4, 3-2)

Storyline: For the host Blue Raiders, a win means a probable spot in the playoffs. Cleveland enters the game reeling some after 17 penalties and eight dropped passes contributed to a 16-14 loss to Bradley Central. A win would have secured second place in the district and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, but now that adds pressure heading into tonight. The ability of the Raiders to scale down their emotions on the field will be big in determining who wins this game against a Rhea team that will be playing primarily for pride.

OOLTEWAH (6-3, 3-2) AT WALKER VALLEY (5-3, 2-3)

Storyline: Ooltewah is approaching the regular-season finale as if the playoffs were starting tonight. The Owls are playing for the potential to play host in a first-round playoff matchup. They had a week off to prepare for Walker Valley's wing-T offense implemented by coach Glen Ryan and featuring Justin Ware and Chas Wulford. The Owls, as usual, will rely on running back Desmond Pittman and a downfield attack with receiver Mike Williams.

Gordon Lee (5-2, 2-1) at Trion (5-2, 1-2)

Storyline: There doesn't need to be anything on the line to make this game special, but tonight there is a bonus. Since each team already has a loss to Region 6 leader Darlington, there is little hope of winning the region and the automatic state playoff berth that goes with it. Now, as two of the three public school teams in the region, and with each team on the bubble in the current Class A power rankings, the loser of tonight's game may have a hard time making the playoffs. The game will be won or lost on the ground. The host Bulldogs have the edge in the offensive line, but the Trojans have the more explosive running backs.

Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (5-2, 2-2) at North Murray (4-3, 1-3)

Storyline: Very similar teams go at it tonight in what is likely the biggest game in the brief history of North Murray football. The Mountaineers' playoff hopes are on life support, but a win tonight against the also-playoff-hopeful Warriors would keep them alive. The key to winning is the same for each team: Find a way to avoid a second-half letdown. Though each squad has good offensive talent, the lack of starting depth has led to several squandered leads.

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