published Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Quarterfinals bring firsts for some area teams

Friday, Nov. 22

TSSAA quarterfinals

Fayetteville (6-6) at South Pittsburg (9-1)

Silverdale Baptist (11-1) at Knoxville Grace (12-0)

Marion County (10-2) at Trousdale County (12-0)

Notre Dame (9-3) at Upperman (12-0)

Knoxville Catholic (9-3) at Hixson (9-3)

Cleveland (9-3) at East Hamilton (10-2)

Georgia second round

Trion (5-4) at Irwin County (8-1-1)

Christian Heritage (8-2) at Darlington (8-2)

Cedar Grove (7-4) at Ringgold (9-2)

Greater Atlanta Christian (10-1) at Calhoun (10-1)

The third round of the TSSAA football playoffs will be a week of firsts for the Chattanooga area's surviving teams.

Hixson and Silverdale Baptist are making their first appearances in the quarterfinal round, while East Hamilton is looking to advance to the semifinals for the first time. South Pittsburg will face a first-year program, and Notre Dame and Cleveland can reach the semifinals for the first time in long whiles.

The Fighting Irish haven't gone past the quarterfinals since 2005, and Cleveland, which reached the quarterfinals last in 2002, hasn't gone past this round since 1995, its last state-championship season.

The area is guaranteed at least one team in the Class 5A semifinals since Cleveland is playing Friday at East Hamilton. The Hurricanes nipped Cleveland 21-20 when they met midway through the regular season, and this will be the second straight week East Hamilton has played a team it already faced this year.

In the 4A bracket, Hixson will host Knoxville Catholic, which edged Signal Mountain by stopping a two-point-conversion attempt in the second overtime this past Friday. Trailing 12-7 with just over six minutes remaining against Sequoyah Friday night, Hixson ran the ball 15 straight times to cover 74 yards, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with just two minutes remaining.

"When I got here, people told me when things got tough Hixson teams would quit," Wildcats coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "We learned last year to get past that, and this year we are doing something no one has ever done here.

"There are only eight teams left [in our classification], and we are one of them. These kids can go as far as they want."

Notre Dame rallied to advance in the 3A bracket, outscoring Polk County 17-7 in the second half , and this Friday will travel to third-ranked and unbeaten Upperman, which scored 70 points in beating Tyner in round two.

Silverdale Baptist earned a return trip to 2A's top-ranked Knoxville Grace Christian in the quarterfinals by rallying to force overtime at Hampton, then holding on in the second OT for the victory. The Seahawks lost by eight at Grace in last year's second round.

In another 2A rematch from last year, Marion County travels to second-ranked Trousdale County. Marion's Warriors rolled to a 27-point win over the perennially strong Yellow Jackets last year.

In 1A, top-ranked South Pittsburg overcame 21 penalties for 210 yards to beat stubborn Moore County and reach the quarterfinals for the third time in four years. The Pirates will host Fayetteville, a first-year varsity program that has scored 40-plus points in two road playoff upsets already.

Two area teams from northwest Georgia survived the first round of the GHSA postseason, and two Class A teams will join them in this week's second round. Ringgold hosts Cedar Grove in AAA and Calhoun entertains Greater Atlanta Christian in AA, while in Class A, Trion travels to Irwin County and Chrisitan Heritage plays at Darlington.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 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 seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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