Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan watches the game against Cleveland Thursday, October 1, 2015 at Cleveland High School. (Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.)
It was unlikely their game needed any more hype.
Everybody knows that Bradley Central and Walker Valley are county high school rivals and that there probably is no love lost — at least once they get between the lines. Many have heard, too, that Walker Valley likely has the best team it has had in the school's 15 years of existence and that two of the state's best quarterbacks are gearing up for a shootout.
But to throw a little more pepper in the chili, both teams are ranked in the Associated Press preseason state poll as voted on by members of the media. Bradley Central was voted the fifth-best Class 6A team and Walker Valley was ranked No. 8 among Class 5A teams.
"It probably didn't," Bradley coach Damon Floyd replied after he was asked if the Thursday night game at Bradley needed any more hype. "Everybody knows that it's a crosstown rivalry and two quality teams. Shoot, I know some of their guys are in their fourth year of starting."
In another opening-week battle of ranked teams, Sequatchie County, No. 8 under second-year coach Adam Caine in the first Class 3A poll, hosts South Pittsburg, which enters the season as the No. 4 Class 1A squad. That game is Friday in Dunlap.
There are a dozen Chattanooga-area teams in the first Tennessee rankings, including No. 3 Baylor and No. 6 McCallie in Division II.
While Floyd said fifth was the highest he could ever remember his Bears being ranked, he was not surprised to see Walker Valley come in at No. 8.
"Offensively, they've got a lot of firepower," he said.
The game showcases two of the area's top quarterbacks: Bears senior Cole Copeland and Mustangs junior Kolten Gibson.
While rain forced postponement of last year's game from Thursday to Friday, there will be no postponement this year. "We're playing," Floyd said.
Bradley is the only 6A team in southeast Tennessee and the Bears are ranked behind Maryville, Oakland, Whitehaven and Blackman.
In 5A, Rhea County, a 2015 semifinalist, is ranked No. 2 behind Independence, while East Hamilton was according the No. 6 spot in Class 4A. The Hurricanes, led by quarterback Nick Woods, went three games deep into the 2015 playoffs.
Notre Dame, another 2015 semifinalist, was voted No. 4 in Class 3A behind Alcoa, Christ Presbyterian and Liberty Magnet despite losing quarterback Alex Darras, linebacker Tyler Enos and running back Ricky Ballard.
And there was little surprise, although the roles are reversed, in Class 2A. Boyd-Buchanan, which spent much of the 2015 season ranked No. 1, this preseason is ranked No. 3 behind No. 2 Marion County.
"I'd say that's great for some folks. It's good," new Marion coach Joey Mathis said when informed of the first rankings of the year. "I don't know for sure if we're there yet, but it's nice to know that somebody thinks that highly of us."
Mathis succeeded Ricky Ross, who resigned to become defensive coordinator at McCallie, but he feels good about 2016 even though the Warriors probably are replacing three-fourths of their offensive production.
"This is a different season and it really isn't fair to compare these guys to the (state finals) teams we had the past two years," Mathis said. "We've had some good days of practice but there are things to correct every day. I tell the guys we're just potential energy. That's all we are. Now if we get plugged in, we could be OK."
Tyner was ranked No. 6 in Class 2A.
Local teams ranked in AP preseason poll
Bradley Central No. 5 (6A)
Rhea County No. 2 (5A)
Walker Valley No. 8 (5A)
East Hamilton No. 6 (4A)
Notre Dame No. 4 (3A)
Sequatchie County No. 8 (3A)
Marion County No. 2 (2A)
Boyd-Buchanan No. 3 (2A)
Tyner No. 6 (2A)
South Pittsburg No. 4 (1A)
Baylor No. 3 (Division II)
McCallie No. 6 (Division II)
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.