Walker Valley will be one of four area teams to kick off the 2017 high school season in a special doubleheader at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
“We are excited about the opportunity to participate in the Erlanger Sports Medicine Chattanooga Kickoff Classic,” stated Mustang head coach Glen Ryan. “Finley Stadium is a first class facility and provides a once in a lifetime experience for many of our players to play in a big time environment against a first-class opponent.”
The two-game event will take place on Thursday, Aug. 17, and will feature Notre Dame squaring off against Baylor at 6 p.m, in a battle of D-II powerhouses, to be followed by Walker Valley and Chattanooga Central at 8:30 in the inaugural Kickoff Classic, which hopes to become an annual event.
“We are extremely excited to have Erlanger Sports Medicine as the title sponsor for the Chattanooga Kickoff Classic. Given their work with Chattanooga area schools, it is a natural fit for the opening of the 2017 high school football season,” said Matt Pobieglo, event coordinator. “Having the participating schools working together has been a tremendous asset and their hope is to put together an event that Chattanooga can be proud of.”
Tickets are $10 and admission will be for both games, children 5 and under are free. Tickets will be pre-sold at participating schools or they may be purchased at the gate the day of the Kickoff Classic.
“What an unbelievable opportunity this is for our student-athletes and community. Most student athletes will not be fortunate enough to play in a facility like Finley stadium,” said Central head coach Cortney Braswell. “This event gives us the ability to provide a high school football experience second to none. To play on a Thursday night, surrounded by some of the best coaches and players in the Chattanooga area, and in the best facility in the area is an opportunity Chattanooga Central couldn’t pass up. We are tremendously honored and excited to be included in such excellent company.”
The two Chattanooga private schools echoed the sentiment. “We at Notre Dame are extremely happy and thrilled to play in the first Erlanger Sports Medicine Chattanooga Kickoff Classic,” said Irish head coach Charles Fant. “Our kids have always loved playing at Finley Stadium and the atmosphere it brings. To be in partnership with three other great schools and coaching staffs makes this event special.”
“The Baylor School is excited to be a part of the inaugural 2017 Erlanger Sports Medicine Chattanooga Kickoff Classic,” stated Red Raider head coach Phil Massey. “Season openers are always special but being part of this Classic will make it more exciting than usual for our players, students, and parents.”
All four teams participating made the TSSAA playoffs last season, with Walker Valley recording its first-ever postseason victory.
The Mustangs went 6-4 during the regular season before stunning sixth-ranked Region 3 champion Oak Ridge 35-27 in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs. Ryan’s Stallions, who have made the postseason three of his five years with the reins, unfortunately fell to seventh-ranked Ooltewah the following week to bring their campaign to an end.
In Braswell’s first year in command, the Purple Pounders, which had gone winless the season before, won three games, but all of them were Region 3-4A contests, earning them the third seed in the playoff bracket. Central dropped their postseason opener to a strong region runner-up Page squad.
Like Walker Valley, Notre Dame went 7-5 in 2016, splitting their two playoff games with Smith County (a 49-15 win) and state semifinalist Sequatchie County (a 56-28 loss).
Baylor finished at 8-5 last year with a pair of postseason victories over Pope John Paul II (35-20) and Memphis University School (16-12) before falling to state champion Brentwood Academy (38-3) in the semifinal round.
The rest of the area gridiron squads will open the 2017 season the following evening (Aug. 18) with Bradley Central hosting defending state 5A champion Farragut, Cleveland traveling across the river to Rhea County, which fell to Farragut in the second round of last year’s playoffs, and after a long absence Polk County will rekindle its intra-county rivalry at Copper Basin.