The TSSAA District 5-A football championship is only one of the things at stake tonight when Boyd-Buchanan hosts Silverdale Baptist Academy at 7:30 p.m.
The Buccaneers have won 14 consecutive league games since losing 20-18 to Tyner on Halloween night in 2008 when they were in Region 3-A. Additionally, they're 4-0 all-time against nine-year program Silverdale. A 35-0 result in 2011 has been the closest margin.
"They've been a team that's kind of beat us down," said 5-foot-11, 190-pound guard and linebacker Daniel Guinn, one of Silverdale's 14 seniors. "But I look to the future. I don't really look at the past. We just want to keep working harder so we don't get beat again."
The Seahawks enter the game with a 9-0 record and a No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press Class 2A state poll. Even so, Silverdale coach Al Rogers isn't buying his team in the role of favorite over the 3-6 Bucs.
"We're the new kids on the block," Rogers said. "I think a win would help us earn some respect, not that anyone has disrespected us. But we do need to take that next step as a program.
"Last year's team set a great standard by going 10-2. Each year you try to do better than the previous year. You do that play by play, practice by practice and game by game. You can't get caught up looking at the season as a whole or you'll end up lost."
Boyd-Buchanan's record could be deceiving. Its losses have come to three Class 3A teams, two Division II teams and South Pittsburg -- the No. 1-ranked team in Class 1A.
"Not many of them beat us that bad," Boyd-Buchanan quarterback and safety Jim Cardwell said. "A play here or a play there and some of those games could've gone different. But things didn't go our way. There's going to be times when things don't go your way, just like in life."
There's been no secret to the Seahawks' success this year. Their effective running game complements coordinator Tim Couch's stingy defense -- one that's giving up an average of 6.7 points per game.
"They're number one in the state in scoring defense," Boyd-Buchanan coach Grant Reynolds said. "We've got a challenge in front of us."
The Bucs have had some strong defenses since Reynolds arrived as an assistant in 1996, but they've struggled in that phase at times this year.
"We're a work in progress," Reynolds said. "Every day we're getting things down a little bit better. We've had seven sophomores and one freshman at some point out there on defense. Our kids compete every week at a high level. We're just trying to figure it out on the go."
Cardwell is Boyd-Buchanan's offensive leader, having completed 110 of 187 passes for 1,195 yards and nine touchdowns. His 476 rushing yards are second on the team to Austin Jackson's 510, and they've totaled 15 rushing touchdowns.
"It's definitely crossed my mind once or twice that this could be my last game on that field," said Cardwell, one of nine Bucs seniors. "It all went way too quick. We want to go out with a bang."
Silverdale doesn't have a featured running back but rather features four backs -- each of whom has rushed for more than 300 yards on the season. Josh Rogers, the leader with 970 yards and 10 touchdowns, has teamed with Matt Millard, Matt McCulley and Lincoln Phillips for 2,149 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. Collectively they've averaged 7.4 yards on a combined 291 carries.
"They have the four horsemen of running backs, and they're all pretty good," Reynolds said. "They've lived up to their billing. We've played Notre Dame, Red Bank, and we've gone against Denzell Boyd from McMinn Central, so we've seen some good ones. These guys rank right up there with them."
Should the Seahawks put an end to the Bucs' ongoing streaks, it would also spoil homecoming. Boyd-Buchanan, in turn, would love to ruin SBA's perfect season. But mainly, winning the league championship -- which would be Silverdale's first -- is the main motivation for both teams.
"That's really big, no matter who we were playing," Guinn said. "With it being against Boyd, that would just add a little icing on the cake."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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