published Friday, November 8th, 2013

Tonight's greater Chattanooga area high school football matchups

TSSAA kickoffs at 7 p.m. local time; Georgia games at 7:30

Class 2A

ROCKWOOD TIGERS (7-3) AT No. 6 SILVERDALE BAPTIST ACADEMY SEAHAWKS (9-1)

Key players: Sophomore QB Jarrod Neerman is counted on to be an efficient passer and to spread the ball around in Rockwood's wing-T offense. Tyler Brown is a 300-pound senior and a menace on both sides of the line. Senior Josh Rogers leads the Seahawks with 1,024 rushing yards, 345 receving yards, 118 points and 95 tackles. Junior QB Nathan Keylon has 12 TD passes.

Key matchup: Line play is always key, especially in the smaller classifications where many play both ways. How Silverdale's linemen perform on the offensive side in particular will be pivotal.

Up next: The winner plays at Hampton.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE CHRISTIAN COUGARS (6-4) AT No. 8 MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (8-2)

Key players: MTC is led by junior QB Justin Winn, who has thrown for 1,970 yards and 19 TDs. His favorite receiver has been junior Griffin Harper, whose 635 receiving yards are three more than that of sophomore and leading rusher Tanner Green. Sophomore Trey Hickey has eight interceptions. The Warriors have a gang of one in junior RB Blake Zeman, who leads the Chattanooga area in scoring (118 points), tackles for loss (30) and fumble recoveries (six). Sophomore QB Logan Walters' favorite receiver has been senior Clay O'Shields, who has 26 catches for 569 yards and seven TDs.

Key matchup: The depth of Marion's secondary will be tested. Five Cougars have more than 200 receiving yards each. A good pass rush by the Warriors front would also help those in the back.

Up next: The winner plays at Boyd-Buchanan.

Class 3A

GRUNDY COUNTY YELLOW JACKETS (4-6) at No. 3 UPPERMAN BEES (10-0)

Key players: Grundy RB/LB Michael Nolan is a 1,000-yard rusher and leads the team in tackles, and RB/LB Dylan Cleek is second in each category. Upperman QB Connor York has almost 3,500 yards of total offense, including 1,724 passing with 27 TDs, and RB Austin Butler has run for 1,158 yards.

Key matchup: Grundy will seek to play a ball-control offense and limit how much time the high-scoring Bees offense gets the ball.

Up next: Upperman would host the Tyner-Smith County winner. Grundy County would travel to the winner.

SEQUATCHIE COUNTY INDIANS (5-5) at No. 7 POLK COUNTY WILDCATS (8-2)

Key players: Blake Cates leads the Indians in rushing yards, receptions, touchdowns and tackles. He and Hayden Hicks both have double-digit tackles for loss. Polk's Zach Miller averages 30 carries a game and is producing 165-plus yards per game and has 23 touchdowns.

Key matchup: Both teams rely heavily on their running attacks, but the game might come down to which team can make a big play in the passing game with QBs Josh Silas for Polk and Dylan Harvey for Sequatchie.

Up next: Polk County would host Cascade or Notre Dame, while Sequatchie would travel to the winner.

TYNER RAMS (4-6) AT SMITH COUNTY OWLS (6-4)

Key players: Seniors Willie Stewart, Haasan Miller and Jarrett Watson are among those capable of making the big plays Tyner may need. Miller's job is twofold at QB, where he's also thrown for 1,137 yards. Jalen Manning (1,148 yards, 14 TDs) leads the Owls' rushing attack. Brad Rankin, great nephew of former Smith County player and coach Gary Rankin, who now coaches Alcoa, is the leading receiver. Another senior, two-way tackle Marquesas King, anchors the line.

Key matchup: This one is the classic battle of speed vs. size. The outcome could be decided by how well Tyner's defensive front handles its chores.

Up next: The winner will play at Upperman or host Grundy County.

No. 10 CASCADE CHAMPIONS (7-3) at No. 10 NOTRE DAME IRISH (7-3)

Key players: Cascade junior RB Creed Rose (6-2, 225) has rushed for more than 1,400 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. He runs behind a line anchored by juniors Dylan Vaught and Aaron Parker. The Irish missed Auston Banks for two games because of injury, but he's returned and they're running the ball effectively. "He's the back we know he can be," coach Charles Fant said. Inside LBs Tyler Enos and Kealey Green are among the top tacklers in the area, and Jared Andrews has been solid at CB. He'll be lined up against one of the Barnes brothers, Jesse or Nolan.

Key matchup: Rose and Banks are the stalwarts of their respective teams. But they can't do it alone. Fant said the game will be determined in the trenches, specifically with his defensive line against the Champions' line which consists of five juniors.

Up next: The winner will travel to Polk County or host Sequatchie County.

Class 4A

MARSHALL COUNTY TIGERS (4-6) at SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (7-3)

Key players: Tigers QB Austin Stacey has 1,600 passing yards and 400 rushing, and WR Chris Walker has 600 receiving yards and two kickoff returns for TDs. Signal Mountain's offense revolves around 260-pound FB James McClellan.

Key matchup: Signal had three backs with 95-plus rushing yards in its regular-season finale, and Marshall County coach Aaron Pitts is most concerned about Signal's wing-T offense and the Eagles' big defensive line.

Up next: The winner plays the Knoxville Catholic-DeKalb County winner.

CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (5-5) at SEQUOYAH CHIEFS (9-1)

Key players: Central has used several RBs and the corps has been led lately by Isyah Funk and Sean Morgan. Sequoyah QB Brett King has completed almost 62 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,964 yards, and RB Drew Carson averaged 115.3 yards per game.

Key matchup: Central will pressure the Chiefs' defense outside, and the Pounders runners are adept at cutting back. They'll need to use that for ball control in trying to limit opportunities for King and Carson.

Up next: The winner will visit Hixson or face East Ridge, which would visit Sequoyah or be home for Central.

EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (5-5) AT HIXSON WILDCATS (7-3)

Key players: Hixson RBs Isaiah Robinson (1,300) and Kedrick Bradley (1,050) will clearly be targets for the Pioneers defense. The fact that Hixson has rushed for more than 2,600 yards and thrown for only 500 is a clear indication of the style it wants to play. East Ridge must find help for JoJo Tillery to prevent the Wildcats from keying on the dual-threat QB.

Key matchup: Hixson lineman Charles Franklin and East Ridge's C.J. Baker will line up against each other, and the winner of that one-on-one matchup in the trenches will dictate which team can move the ball.

The Pioneers are seeking the third playoff win in program history.

Up next: Hixson would host the Central-Sequoyah winner; East Ridge would host Central or travel to the Madisonville school.

Class 5A

LENOIR CITY PANTHERS (5-5) at No. 6 RHEA COUNTY (9-1)

Key players: The Panthers' QB has more than 1,200 yards with 589 coming on the ground, and SS Ryan Weaver leads the defense with 81 tackles. Rhea passes only sparingly, using its wing-T and RBs Dimitrius Patterson and Jacob York to spring receivers.

Key matchup: Panthers coach Mike Zeller was impressed with the Rhea players' intensity and said the keys for his team were consistency and turnover-free play.

Up next: The winner plays the White County-Cleveland winner.

No. 5 CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (7-3) at WHITE COUNTY WARRIORS (8-2)

Key players: The Raiders' high-powered offense averaged 34.4 points and 430.5 yards per game in the regular season. QB Austin Herink has a multitude of weapons at receiver, as well as T.J. Parker and Raekwon Bunion in the backfield. Ninety percent of White County's yards have come on the ground. Blake Lynn leads the Warriors with 1,199 rushing yards.

Key matchup: The Warriors are going to try to grind out possessions in hopes of keeping the Cleveland offense off the field. The Raiders' defense, led by DE Kimsey Bell and LB Jonathan Terrero, will be tested in its ability to make quick stops.

Up next: The winner will host Lenoir City or travel to Rhea County.

No. 10 OAK RIDGE WILDCATS (7-3) at No. 8 EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (8-2)

Key players: Oak Ridge QB Jaylin Henderson has close to 2,000 yards passing for the season. Hurricanes counterpart Hunter Moore is an NCAA Division I recruit who is well over that mark. Tony Francois is a dynamic WR who has averaged 30.7 yards on 33 catches, while Tre Herndon is a playmaker on offense, defense and special teams.

Key matchup: The East Hamilton offensive line against the front seven of the Wildcats. The Hurricanes are looking to be more balanced in their attack, and if they can get their running game going early, it will create more opportunities for Moore to pass to Francois and Herndon.

Up next: The winner will travel to Ooltewah or host Stone Memorial.

STONE MEMORIAL PANTHERS (6-4) at OOLTEWAH OWLS (8-2)

Key players: Panthers TB Justin Johnson has 1,146 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground this season, while QB Brady Wattenbarger has been a viable threat with 1,340 yards and 12 scores through the air. The Owls will look to QB Brody Binder and a talented trio of WRs -- Mike Williams, Anthony Turner and Edward Hayes -- who have combined for 25 touchdowns.

Key matchup: The Ooltewah receivers against the Crossville school's defensive backfield. The Owls aren't a downfield-passing team, but Binder has the arm strength and ability to fit passes into tight spaces. If the athletes on the perimeter can make plays, the hosts will be tough to stop.

Up next: Ooltewah would host Oak Ridge or East Hamilton; Stone Memorial would visit the winner.

Class 6A

BRADLEY CENTRAL BEARS (5-5) at No. 1 MARYVILLE REBELS (10-0)

Key players: The Bears lost four of their final five games after a 4-1 start. Brett Standifer and Cole Copeland have both taken snaps at QB the past few weeks, and their job will be to get the ball in the hands of WRs Dee Crisp and Cal Pickel. The Rebels have been led by senior RB Shawn Prevo, the all-time leader in rushing yardage in Maryville history.

Key matchup: The Bears against Maryville tradition. The Rebels have outclassed a number of opponents in recent memory just by being who they are -- with 14 state championships. If Bradley enters the game worried about the name on the front of the opponents' jersey, it will fall into that same trap.

Up next: Bradley would travel to Morristown East or Dobyns-Bennett. Maryville would host the winner.

Division II-AA

POPE JOHN PAUL II KNIGHTS at No. 7 BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (6-4)

Key players: PJP2 RB Gunnar Scholato has gained 385 yards and has 19 catches. He also leads the Knights with 102 total tackles, including seven for loss. Baylor has depended all year on RB George Porter, who has more than 3,500 rushing yards. QB Nick Tiano has shown excellent scrambling ability.

Key matchup: Baylor LB Ryan Parker, who has 123 tackles, including 18 for lost yardage, will have eyes on Scholato all night.

Up next: The winner plays at Montgomery Bell Academy.

McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (3-7) AT No. 10 FATHER RYAN FIGHTING IRISH (6-4)

Key players: Sophomore QB JaVaughn Craig has 11 rushing and 11 passing TDs. Alex Trotter ran for 120 yards in a 34-18 loss to Father Ryan on Oct. 25, and Andrew Busby had two interceptions, one for a TD. The Irish will spread the carries, but in the first meeting QB Cameron Towns threw for 160 yards with 107 going to Andrew Cox, including a 54-yard TD hookup. Father Ryan also has a solid kicking game with Luke Strebel, who last time made field goals of 23 and 37 yards and was 4-of-4 on extra points.

Key matchup: Trying to contain dual-threat Craig (1,970 yards total offfense) is the challenge for all teams that face the Blue Tornado (30.7 ppg).

Up next: The winner plays at Memphis University School.

Georgia (regular season)

RINGGOLD TIGERS (8-1, 6-0) at CARTERSVILLE PURPLE HURRICANES (9-0, 6-0)

Storyline: A case can be made that this is the most meaningful regular-season game in Ringgold history, especially considering the Tigers have never won a region championship. To do so tonight means finding a way to slow the Brooks Barden-led Cartersville offense, something no team has managed to do this year. In fact, the least the 'Canes have scored in a game is 36 points behind a QB who has passed for 2,184 yards and 37 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Ringgold, however, has played the tougher nonregion schedule and has its own impressive offense led by another star QB, Slade Dale.

RIDGELAND PANTHERS (3-6, 2-3) at CEDARTOWN BULLDOGS (8-1, 3-1)

Storyline: Despite a season in which nearly everything has gone wrong, the Panthers can get back to the playoffs, but to do so they have to defeat a team that was ranked fifth until being shocked in the final minute last week when Gilmer County scored 10 points on a Hail Mary pass and a turnover. And, there's the fact the Bulldogs defeated Ridgeland 36-14 in September behind senior stud RB Nick Chubb, who is closing in on 2,500 yards. Still, the Panthers have found their own ground game behind Noah Cooper, Caderius Word and Calvin Davenport.

MODEL BLUE DEVILS (7-2, 5-1) at DADE COUNTY WOLVERINES (6-3, 4-2)

Storyline: The Wolverines have quietly positioned themselves to play for a home playoff game, but as coach Bradley Warren pointed out, they need to play their best game of the season to clinch a spot. Offensively that means more good play from sophomore QB Houston Poston and senior RB Aaron Williams behind an improving line. Defensively that means slowing a strong Model offense that can run it and throw it.

LAKEVIEW-FORT OGLETHORPE WARRIORS (3-6, 2-4) at SONORAVILLE PHOENIX (3-6, 3-3)

Storyline: Points should not be hard to come by in this one, so the easy key is which defense will get some stops. The Warriors have found their running game behind senior Jacob Gilbert, and QB Sky Rogers has done enough in the passing game to help open up running lanes. The Phoenix have a home-run threat in TB Andrew Slaton and an emerging star in QB Cody Long.

DALTON CATAMOUNTS (7-2, 5-0) at GILMER COUNTY BOBCATS (8-1, 4-0)

Storyline: The Region 7-AAAA championship is a rematch of an earlier game won easily by the Catamounts, and the Bobcats left Harmon Field in a bad mood after a personal-foul late hit on their punter, so handling the emotion of playing in Ellijay will be the Catamounts' first order of business. Dalton will try to use the same formula that worked in game one -- a big dose of RB Kelvis Rhodes and a defense stacked to stop the run. Gilmer will have to block better to open holes for its two powerful backs, Tyler Bertollini and Johnie Flakes.

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 23 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including nine in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation at the Associated ...

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