Through 1946 in Georgia and 1968 in Tennessee, state championship teams were determined by a team’s win-loss record and strength of schedule and chosen by the writers of AP, UPI and Litkenhous. Selections were seldom consistent and not unanimous. Subsequently, playoffs were implemented in both states to determine state championship teams: the first being in Georgia in 1947 and then Tennessee in 1969. What follows are 23 Chattanooga area teams that won state championships unanimously during what is now known as the playoff era.
50s & 60s
Year: 1954 >> Class: AA >>
Head Coach: Glenn Wade
The Rossville Bulldog’s 1954 team went undefeated, extending an unbeaten streak to 22 games and bringing the school its first playoff-era state title.
Wade’s Bulldogs blanked the Savannah Blue Jackets 38-0 in the ’54 championship game. Rossville was led by backs Doug Veazey and James Reynolds; together, they rumbled for a combined 170-plus yards and four touchdowns in the December showdown. A veteran offensive line that arguably played its best game of the year paved the way for the two backs. On the other side of the ball, Rossville put on a gut-wrenching performance for Savannah fans – seven forced fumbles and three interceptions. It was the beginning of a fruitful playoff-era for the Rossville Bulldogs.
Year: 1955 >> Class: AA >> Head Coach: Glenn Wade
Glenn Wade’s Bulldogs again made their way to the championship bout in 1955, carving out a 10-1-1 record along the way. That November, Rossville lost to Bradley which ended one of the greatest unbeaten streaks of all time at 31 games. A second consecutive state championship was still within reach. A stout LaGrange team would meet them in the finals.
The Bulldogs were led by Billy Baker, one of the only key returners from the backfield of 1954, and running back Charles Benefield. In the title game, Benefield punched in both of Rossville’s touchdowns. As the clock wound into the fourth quarter, the game was tied 13-13 and Rossville was stopped twice inside the Grangers’ five-yard line – once by the LaGrange defensive line and once by the game clock as it expired in the midst of what could have been the game-winning drive.
In 1955, the tie meant each team was a co-owner of the Class AA state title. Rossville became the second school to ever win back-to-back Class AA titles.
Year: 1962 >> Class: AA >>
Head Coach: Frank Fabris
In 1962, the Rossville Bulldogs completed a perfect season and won three games in the playoffs to earn their third state championship title in nine years. Head coach Frank Fabris coached a stingy defense as well as a prolific offense, led by quarterback Paul Painter and running backs Doug Flury, Doug Wallin, and Nelson Bowers. The team as a whole outscored their opponents 331-50 over the course of the season. Two regular season games were key: a 7-6 victory over Cedartown and a 14-7 victory over McCallie. The Bulldogs then easily paved their way through the postseason with the exception of a rematch against Cedartown in the Region 3-AA Championship Game, where they held off a driving Cedartown offense on their own five-yard line as time expired, keeping their playoff run alive with a 21-19 victory. On November 30, 1962, Rossville defeated North Clayton in the state championship game with a final score of 28-6.
Year: 1967 >> Class: AA >> Head Coach: Bill Chappell
The Catamounts had an unstoppable level of talent in 1967 and Bill Chappell knew what to do with it. The team featured seven All-State players, including Ricky Lake (RB/LB) and Bill McManus (C), a lethal combination. McManus went on to win the 1967 Lineman of the Year award and Lake went on to win the Back of the Year award a year later. With a loaded offensive line, Forrest Starks, Keith Whitworth, and Lake led a plentiful rushing attack. The team had only one loss in 1967, which was a 6-7 stumble against West Rome in the season opener (a loss the Catamounts later avenged in a 33-0 routing in the state quarterfinals). They defeated Carver 14-12 to secure the 1967 AA title. It was Chappell’s first and only state championship team.
60s & 70s
South Pittsburg (11-0)
Year: 1969 >> Class: 1A >> Head Coach: Don Grider
The legendary Don Grider achieved about as much as any loyal South Pittsburg fan could ask of him in his first year as head coach – a win over rival Marion County, a perfect season, and the program’s first state championship.
Throughout the season, senior All-State tailback Jimmy Wigfall, once described as a ”140-pound mighty mite,” was the token workhorse. In the title game, the 140 lbs. back was an integral piece of a rushing attack that gained 230 yards. Wigfall hit pay dirt twice in the game and, at the time, became South Pittsburg’s all-time leading rusher in the process. The Pirates stomped a Tennessee Preparatory School that was on a 22-game win streak and was averaging 50 points per game. In a 26-6 landslide, the TPS Bustin’ Broncos were held to just six first downs.
Many recall that in 1969, the Pirates had only one uniform – black pants and a black jersey. However, as the visiting team in the title game. The Pirates had to borrow a set of whites from Overton; the uniforms didn’t seem to affect their level of play.
Bradley Central (13-0)
Year: 1976 >> Class: 3A >> Head Coach: Louie Alford
With head coach Louie Alford at the helm, the ’76 Bradley Central Bears brought home their first playoff-era state championship. It was their first state title since all-time great Steve Sloan led the 1961 team to a voted title.
It was a triple-overtime, 50-48 victory over Jackson Central-Merry that completed the perfect season and state championship run for Alford’s gang. In front of 4,431 fans, Bears senior running back Danny Wooden put his head down and gutted out a two-yard, go-ahead touchdown run to put Bradley out in front 48-42. Running back Scott Kyle then lined up under center, faked a pass, and scrambled into the end zone for a successful two-point conversion. Alford later said that it was Scott’s decision to tuck the ball and run. It proved to be the difference in the game, as Jackson Central-Merry answered the touchdown, but failed on the two-point conversion.
Year: 1973 >> Class: 3A >> Head Coach: E.B. “Red” Etter
In 1973, Baylor obtained its first state title. The offense and the star-studded running game that included Clay Gibson and Andy Rutledge made headlines throughout the season. However, it was a stout defense, led by All-City and All-State defensive back Scott Price, that ultimately was the deciding factor in the state championship run. On December 7th, 1973, the Baylor squad, with key injuries on offense, relied heavily on its defense with a 6-0 win over Hillcrest to secure the state title. At the end of the season, the 1973 state championship team was also voted the top-ranked team in the nation by the National Sports News Service.
Marion County (12-3)
Year: 1990 >> Class: 2A >>
Head Coach: Ken Colquette
In the summer of 1990, Marion County fans weren’t aware that head coach Ken Colquette had plans for a seven-year, 70-7 run, during which the high school would harvest four state crowns.
During the 1990 season, the warriors finished 12-3, with their only losses coming at the hands of McCallie, Sequatchie Co., and Etowah (AL). However, as they rolled into the playoffs, there were several skeptics unwilling to give the team their due respect.
In the championship game against Memphis University School, Ken Colquette’s ”No Excuses” gang was led by running back Rodney Rankin, who rumbled for 118 yards and two touchdowns on only ten carries, a roughed-up quarterback in Shane Thomasson (6-9, 162 yards, 1 TD), and a prolific defense that wreaked havoc, forcing five turnovers. They downed MUS 26-7 and earned the respect they rightfully deserved. With the victory, they made history as the first district runner-up to ever win a championship the following year.
70s & 90s
Marion County (15-0)
Year: 1992 >> Class: 2A >> Head Coach: Ken Colquette
Marion County ended their 1992 campaign with their toughest game: a 28-26 victory over Brentwood Academy in the Class 2A state championship game. It was also one of the best championship games in the state’s history.
Defending state champion Brentwood Academy entered the game riding a 26-game win streak. Marion County was smaller, but played, and won, with heart.
With less than four minutes left in the game, the Warriors trailed 20-14 when quarterback Scott Stephens connected with Guy Hansard for a 39-yard touchdown pass, knotting the game at 20-20. After the PAT was missed, Hansard disrupted what looked to be a game-winning Brentwood Academy drive with an interception that he returned 33 yards for a game-winning touchdown, breaking two tackles along the way. Fans say the Marion County diesel horn sounded deep into the December night.
Year: 1993 >> Class: 4A >> Head Coach: Benny Monroe
In 1993, Coach Benny Monroe would unknowingly begin what turned out to be, at the time, the longest win streak in Tennessee high school football history with a colossal 70-0 win over Hixson on September 3rd. Arguably one of the best teams in state history, the 1993 Blue Raiders were a destructive force throughout the 1993 season, with an offense featuring All-State running backs Kevin and Keith Cobb and quarterback Cory Prigmore. Not to mention 10 of the 11 starters on the defense earned scholarships at the collegiate level. The ’93 team’s average margin of victory was over five touchdowns. The only challenge came in the Class 4A state title game against Brentwood Academy, where Prigmore connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Cobb with under a minute left to secure the 26-21 victory.
South Pittsburg (14-1)
Year: 1994 >> Class: 1A >> Head Coach: Danny Wilson
The 1994 Pirates earned South Pittsburg’s second state title, defeating Lake County 14-7 in front of a crowd of 7,000. It had been a 25-year wait since the first title win that included three bitter runner-up finishes. In the 1994 regular season, South Pittsburg suffered only a single loss; unfortunately for Pirates fans, it was a 6-7 loss to rival Marion County.
In the title game, coach Wilson took to the ground game, calling running back Corey Tipton’s number 34 times, 10 of which came on an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to gain a 14-7 lead in the third quarter. From there, the Pirates’ defense simply didn’t break. It did bend, though. Lake County drove the ball to South Pittsburg’s six-yard line in the fourth quarter where Pirates linebacker Vincent Banks stuffed Jewel Flowers, who led the state in rushing and scoring during the regular season, on fourth down. Michael Grider was another key contributor on defense, finishing with five tackles, a fumble recovery, and an interception. It’s no surprise that the linebacking core on this crew was cool in the moment – Vic Grider, who would soon have a much larger role in shaping the program’s history (he became head coach), was the linebackers coach.
Marion County (15-0)
Year: 1994 >> Class: 3A >> Head Coach: Ken Colquette
By 1994, Ken Colquette had brought two state titles to Marion County in the last three seasons. The 1994 team looked to be just as promising, going undefeated in the regular season and allowing just 20 points on defense along the way.
The Warriors faced Portland in the 3A state championship game and gave up more points than they had allowed in a single game in nearly two years – 14. However, the win was sealed behind a 42-point offensive performance spurred on by Eric Westmoreland, who carried the ball 15 times for 151 yards and four touchdowns. Colquette snagged his third state title in five seasons with the 42-14 rout.
South Pittsburg also brought a championship back to Marion County in ’94, but Marion held on to bragging rights with their 7-6 win in the first game of the season. Warrior fans were sure to remind South Pittsburg fans that the Pirates were still number two in the county, even though they did bring home a title of their own.
Year: 1994 >> Class: 4A >> Head Coach: Benny Monroe
In 1994, Cleveland High School followed up the 14-0 1993 campaign with a second consecutive undefeated season. This time, they were led by All-State running back Dante Hickey, a finalist for the 1994 Tennessee 4A Mr. Football award. The team was completely dominant throughout the season, outscoring their opponents 523-151. The true test arrived in the form of the state championship game against a 13-1 Haywood team that had blistered opponents throughout the season. Hickey was the star of the game with an 11-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter: Cleveland’s only touchdown of the game. That and the point-after were just enough to earn the 7-6 victory and carry the Raiders to their second consecutive title.
Year: 1995 >> Class: 4A >> Head Coach: Benny Monroe
1995 brought more of the same to Cleveland, Tennessee – another Benny Monroe squad, another undefeated season, and another Class 4A state championship trophy perched inside the facilities at Raider Drive. After a third consecutive undefeated and state-championship earning season, the Cleveland Blue Raiders wouldn’t lose again until November 22, 1996. During the win streak, which started in September of 1993, Benny Monroe’s teams amassed 54 consecutive wins across nearly four seasons. Interestingly, Cleveland never played adversary Bradley Central during the win streak; the rivalry had been temporarily laid to rest after the 1992 matchup and wouldn’t resume again until 2001.
Tyner Academy (14-1)
Year: 1997 >> Class: I-2A >>
Head Coach: Wayne Turner
In 1997, coach Wayne Turner and his Rams made history in becoming the first public school to bring a state championship football title back to Hamilton County.
If the 95-3 win over Boyd-Buchanan to open the season wasn’t telling enough, Tyner went 8-1 in their next nine regular season games, winning by an average of 35 points. Their only loss came at the hands of a Battle Ground Academy team that went on to win a championship of their own in Division II.
On Friday, December 5th, the Rams found themselves down 10-7 with five minutes remaining. What followed came to be known to the Tyner loyal as ”the drive.” Turner’s offensive unit drove 63 yards for the score against a Union City defense that had given up an average of three points per game in the regular season. It was quarterback Rory Hinton that came through and capped the drive off with a 29-yard strike to Windarek Stewart. Tyner won 14-10.
Marion County (15-0)
Year: 1995 >> Class: 3A >> Head Coach: Ken Colquette
In 1995, Colquette had provided the program with an upgraded schedule to gain their already-deserved respect. Marion County handled strong Baylor, Soddy-Daisy, and Rhea County teams to validate the recent streak of success (the Warriors had gone 63-6 from 1990-1994).
In the playoffs, there was never a doubt of who was taking the title – Colquette’s team, led by Eric Westmoreland, never skipped a beat, ripping through the playoffs and pounding a then-undefeated Humboldt team in the finals 28-7. Eric Westmoreland (RB/LB) was the Offensive MVP of the championship game, as well as 1995’s Class 3A Tennessee Mr. Football winner. He would go on to play linebacker for the University of Tennessee and would have a five-year career in the NFL.
South Pittsburg (15-0)
Year: 1999 >> Class: I-1A >> Head Coach: Vic Grider
Vic Grider’s 1999 Pirates brought South Pittsburg a third state championship and another undefeated season. Strong on both sides of the ball, Grider’s bunch generated an average of over 40 points on offense while allowing an average of just 12 points. They defeated rival Boyd-Buchanan twice along the way – once in the regular season and once in the playoffs (the Bucs only two losses of the season).
The Pirates met Moore County in the state championship on December 3rd in Nashville. South Pittsburg running back Sam Pickett led the attack, rushing 27 times for 231 yards and six touchdowns. It was never a game, as South Pittsburg snagged the title with a score of 42-13.
With the win, head coach Vic Grider carried on his father’s (Don Grider) winning ways. He also helped make South Pittsburg one of the winningest programs in the area – the ’99 title win marked the 100th win for the program in the 1990’s.
Red Bank (15-0)
Year: 2000 >> Class: I-5A >>
Head Coach: Tom Weathers
In 2000, Red Bank defeated Riverdale 27-7 in the 1-5A state championship game. The Lions were led by Gerald Riggs, Jr. (RB) throughout the season, but especially in the title game where he carried for 209 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player.
Over the course of their perfect season, the 2000 Red Bank squad came to be known for their prolific offense, pouring on an average of 40 points per game. At the end of the 2000 season, the Lions ranked in the top 15 of ESPN’s national poll. The perfect, state-championship-winning season was a key piece of a 20-game win streak that Red Bank rode from August of 2000 into September of 2001.
Year: 2001 >> Class: II-3A >> Head Coach: Ralph Potter
The 2001 McCallie team had an unrivaled strength of schedule. All 10 of their regular season opponents ultimately advanced to the playoffs in their respective classifications. As expected, some close calls were the result – a 39-35 win in week three over Notre Dame was a result of 22 points scored in the final seven minutes of the game and an 18-13 win over defending champion Red Bank turned heads.
In the championship game, McCallie trailed Brentwood Academy 14-16 with less than 1:30 remaining when quarterback Ryan Moore completed a 21-yard pass to Haddon Kirk to convert a fourth-and-16. With 11 seconds left, kicker Trey Meyer, who reportedly missed the team bus and arrived late, booted a 22-yard game-winner to secure the title with a final score of 17-16.
Year: 2003 >> Class: I-1A >> Robert Akins
While the 2003 Bucs were strong on offense, in the playoffs it was all about defense. The defense held opposing teams to an average of under 10 points in the 2003 Class I-1A playoffs.
Going into the state championship game against the Donelson Christian Wildcats, Akins’ squad, though they had limited opportunities, had not come back from a halftime deficit in the 2003 season. On December 5th, 2003, they did. After giving up an easy field goal following a fumble in their own territory in the first half, Boyd-Buchanan outgained the Wildcats 208-44 in yardage, never allowing DCA’s offense to reach the 50-yard line in the second half.
On offense, Matt Peardon (RB) had 160 yards and two touchdowns in the victory. The Bucs were also guided by a cool and collected quarterback in Drew Akins.
South Pittsburg (15-0)
Year: 2007 >> Class: I-1A >> Head Coach: Vic Grider
Although there were three championships already in-hand at South Pittsburg, Vic Grider’s Pirates were no less hungry in 2007. A 49-17 win over Marion County kicked off the season and 14 wins later, they were I-1A champs. The playoff run wasn’t easy, but South Pittsburg made it look that way. The team averaged over 40 points in the playoffs and scored on over 80 percent of their offensive possessions, knocking off five-time state champ Trousdale County, and 2006 state runner-up Friendship Christian along the way. In the championship win over McKenzie, running back Robert Robinson was tagged with the game’s Offensive MVP honors following a 200-plus yard, four-touchdown performance. That season, McKenzie had allowed one touchdown or less in nine games.
Signal Mountain (14-0)
Year: 2010 >> Class: I-2A >> Head Coach: Bill Price
In 2010, the Eagles were perfect and offense was the name of the game. Under head coach Bill Price they made history, becoming one of the highest scoring teams this area has ever seen. Over the course of the regular season, they poured on 513 points for an average of over 50 per game. It was the high-powered offense that would get them through the playoffs.
In the 2A championship game, Signal Mountain gained 688 yards, setting a state championship game record. The team was led by quarterback Hogan Whitmire and running back Donnie Garner, who earned the game’s Offensive MVP award following a 218-yard, three-touchdown evening. En route to the championship game, the Eagles scored a go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds remaining against Friendship Christian in the second round, and then knocked off Trousdale County and Boyd-Buchanan in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
South Pittsburg (12-2)
Year: 2010 >> Class: I-1A >> Vic Grider
Following a heart-breaking runner-up finish to Union City in 2009, Grider’s Pirates were resolute in finishing the job in 2010. However, after a late season, surprising loss to Polk County, things got gloomy in South Pittsburg. Regardless, Grider guided the Pirates through the playoffs and into the state championship game against Jo Byrns where they pounded out four quarters of shutdown defense in a 41-6 victory. As they had been all season, the Pirates were efficient on the offensive side as well. An experienced offensive line helped lead running back Raquis Hale to 228 yards and five touchdowns on 23 carries. The seniors of the 2010 group departed South Pittsburg with 50 career wins and two state titles.