30+ Years of State Champions

Top Dogs: 30 Years of Chattanooga’s State Champions

By Catherine Smith

Ever since Tennessee switched to a playoff system to determine champ-ionships in 1969, the strongest teams in our state have battled it out year after year to see who would come out on top. Since the 90s, nine Chattanooga-area schools have brought a grand total of 22 championship trophies home to the Scenic City. Read on to learn more about these title-holding teams and how they became the top dogs of their seasons.

marion county football team

eric westmoreland of marion county

Marion County High School | 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995

In November of 1989, Marion County went all the way to the quarterfinals before a 30-20 loss came at the hands of Alcoa to knock them out of the bracket. But after narrowly missing their shot at a championship title, the Warriors came back strong in 1990 with head coach Ken Colquette in command. The team became a true powerhouse over the next seven years, going 70-7 and pocketing four state championship trophies along the way.

In 1990, the Warriors fought their way back to the playoffs with a total of 12 wins and just three losses in the season. In the final matchup against Memphis University School, Marion snagged their first championship title with a punishing final score of 26-7. With this win, they became the first runner-up in Tennessee history to return and win a championship the next year, but that was just the beginning.

Marion County came back for more in the 1992 playoffs after an undefeated season, and their final game was arguably one of the most exciting championship games in Tennessee history. With just under four minutes on the clock, defending champions Brentwood Academy were set to win at 20-14 when Marion quarterback Scott Stephens made a 39-yard touchdown pass to Guy Hansard and brought the score to a nail-biting 20-20. Hansard then made a stunning interception and returned 33 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

In 1994, the Warriors secured their third state title in five seasons with a 43-14 win against Portland with Eric Westmoreland leading their offense, taking 15 carries for 151 yards and securing four touchdowns. The following year, Westmoreland kept that momentum going as the Warriors pummeled Humbolt for a 28-7 win. Marion County took home another championship and Westmoreland was named both the Offensive MVP of the championship game and 1995’s Class 3A Mr. Football for his efforts.

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Photo Courtesy of Marion County High School

(Image #1) 1990 state Championship Team; (Image #2) Eric Westmoreland

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cleveland high football team

cleveland high football team

cleveland high football team

Cleveland High School | 1993, 1994, 1995

The Cleveland Blue Raiders were undeniably a force to be reckoned with in the early 90s. Under the leadership of head coach Benny Monroe, the 1993 team boasted a top-tier offense and an undefeated season that started with a 70-0 blowout against Hixson. Cleveland breezed their way through the playoffs that year, but their luck almost ran out when they met Brentwood Academy on the field for the title game. With less than a minute on the clock, the Blue Raiders narrowly secured their 26-21 victory with a 17-yard touchdown pass.

Cleveland’s 1994 team continued this trend, tacking on a second undefeated season to Monroe’s repertoire. Led by All-State running back Dante Hickey, the Blue Raiders continued to wreak havoc on the scoreboards, winning a total of 523 points and only giving up 151 throughout the season.

Though they had every right to be confident, the defending champions maintained razor-sharp focus as they sailed into the finals to contend with Haywood – a powerful team in their own right with just a single loss in their regular season. With neither team willing to budge, Cleveland’s first touchdown finally came in the 3rd quarter with an 11-yard run, and the PAT narrowly secured their 7-6 victory.

Not content to ride the coattails of two consecutive winning seasons, the 1995 team continued this momentum and added yet another state championship trophy to the hallowed halls of Raider Drive at the end of their own undefeated season. This winning streak lasted another year, rounding out 54 consecutive games across nearly four seasons before finally coming to an end in November of 1996. At the time, this was the longest winning streak a school in Tennessee had ever seen, and the Blue Raiders certainly earned their spot in high school football history.

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Photos Courtesy of Cleveland High School

(Images #1-#3) 1993 State Championship Team

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south pittsburg football team

south pittsburg football game

south pittsburg football game

South Pittsburg High School | 1994, 1999, 2007, 2010, 2021

South Pittsburg won their first title in 1969 in Tennessee’s first-ever state championship playoff. After that, Pirates fans had to wait 25 years to see the team bring home another championship, which came with a 14-7 win against Lake County under head coach Danny Wilson and with the help of linebacker coach Vic Grider, who would later take over as head coach.

With Grider at the helm, the Pirates sailed into the 1999 playoffs as a well-rounded team with both offensive and defensive prowess. The team went undefeated in the regular season, scoring an average of 40 points per game and only giving up an average of 12. Keeping with that trend, they beat Moore County 42-13 in the title game. In 2007, another undefeated season started with a 49-17 win against Marion County and ended with a championship win over McKenzie, during which running back Robert Robinson snagged an Offensive MVP honor with a strong performance – over 200 yards and four touchdowns.

After narrowly missing the title with a runner-up finish in 2009, the Pirates fought their way back to the playoffs in 2010. Armed with a hungry offense and shielded by a resolute defense, the pirates shut down Jo Byrns in a 41-6 victory. As a result, the team’s seniors made off with 50 career wins and two championship titles to their names. In a 30-year career with his alma mater, Coach Grider won 81% of his games and garnered a record of 232-54, solidifying his status as a legendary Pirate before retiring at the end of the 2020 season.

Following a heartbreakingly close loss to Fayetteville in the final round of the 2020 playoffs, the Pirates came back in 2021 the same determination they’ve shown before. Wes Stone lead the team to a 24-21 victory over McKenzie in the playoffs in his first season as head coach. With this win, the Pirates added a seventh trophy to their haul.

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Photos Courtesy of South Pittsburg High School

(Images #1-#2) 1999 State Championship Team; (Image #3) 2010 State Championship Team

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tyner football team

tyner football team

Tyner Academy | 1997, 2022

Spurred on by a disappointing end to their previous season, the Rams were united by a fierce determination to go all the way in 1997. The 32-player team, headed up by coach Wayne Turner, was a close-knit group that enjoyed a sense of camaraderie in the locker room but worked together as a lethal unit on the field.

The first game of their 1997 season set the tone for the rest of the year with a stunning 95-3 victory over Boyd-Buchanan. As they pummeled their way through the regular season, the Rams racked up an average score of 45-8 and took just a single loss to Battle Ground Academy.

When Tyner met Union City on Vanderbilt’s Dudley Field for the title game, the matchup threatened to cut their dream short, but the Rams refused to concede. With just over a minute on the clock, Rory Hinton faithfully launched a 29-yard pass to Windarek Stewart in the end zone, narrowly avoiding an interception by Union City. With that, the pair of lifelong friends secured Tyner’s 13-10 win.

Twenty-five years later, head coach Scott Chandler led Tyner to their second championship win in the 2022 playoffs after going 14-1 in the regular season. The title game had Rams fans sweating as the 1st quarter ended with Riverside leading 15-0, but Tyner pressed on. Ramping up their offense, the Rams secured a 20-18 lead in the 3rd quarter when Josh Jackson and Trae Ruffin connected on a 21-yard touchdown pass.

As the game went on, the “Ram Train” held the line with stone-cold defensive plays. Defensive lineman Jamarion Varnell struck down a pass on 4th-and-4, a pivotal moment that stopped a promising Riverside possession. In the final seconds of the game, defensive backs Zashun Hubbard and Rayshaun Hinton denied Riverside’s two-point conversion, and Josiah Bridgeman caught a line drive at his feet to secure the 26-24 win.

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Photos Courtesy of Tyner Academy

(Image #1) 1997 State Championship Team; (Image #2) 2022 State Championship Team

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red bank football team

red bank football players holding up state championship trophy

red bank football game

Red Bank High School | 2000

The Red Bank Lions had a disappointing season in 1999, going 5-6 when all was said and done, but the frustration would prove beneficial. Their tough break ignited a fire beneath them that spurred the team to train harder in the off-season. The Lions turned it around at the turn of the century, and head coach Tom Weathers led them through a perfect 15-0 season which culminated in their first championship title.

The 2000 Lions snagged an average of 40 points per game with a strong offense headed by running back Gerald Riggs Jr., who was named Offensive MVP after carrying for 209 yards and scoring three touchdowns in the title game. Riggs also secured the American General Mr. Football Back of the Year title for his efforts. At the end of the regular season, the Lions found themselves in the top 15 of ESPN’s national poll as they confidently made their way to the playoffs.

It had been 22 years since Red Bank had last made a promising bid in the playoffs – the program had a single runner-up finish in 1978. Nevertheless, the Lions charged into the 2000 playoffs with confidence, delivering an incredible performance that football fans throughout the state still remember over two decades later. After knocking out Oakland, Ooltewah, Bradley Central, and Dobyns Bennett, Red Bank met Riverdale on a snow-covered field for the final bid. In the end, the legendary strength of their offense carried them all the way, and the game ended in a decisive victory of 27-7 to Red Bank.

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Photos Courtesy of Red Bank High School

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mccallie football team

mccallie football team

mccallie football team

mccallie football team

McCallie School | 2001, 2019, 2020, 2021

Under head coach Ralph Potter, McCallie took home their first state championship title in 2001. The game was hard-won, with McCallie narrowly securing a 17-16 victory over Brentwood Academy in the final moments of the game. Quarterback Ryan Moore completed a 21-yard pass to Haddon Kirk for a conversion, and Trey Meyer snagged a 22-yard, game-winning kick with just 11 seconds to go.

Eighteen years later, Potter brought a second championship title back to the school with a 2019 victory over Montgomery Bell Academy.  The first half of the game was largely a battle of the defenses, but McCallie managed to break through toward the end of the 1st quarter when cornerback Thompson Byrd intercepted a pass and ran 32 yards to score the first touchdown of the game. This changed the tides in McCallie’s favor, spurring them on to a final score of 28-7 and the first of three consecutive championship-winning seasons.

The Blue Tornado wasn’t out of wind yet. In 2020, they finished 9-3 in the regular season before returning to the playoffs for the second year in a row. After fighting their way through the bracket, McCallie defended their title and delivered a crushing 44-0 defeat to Memphis University School. Aided by impressive plays from Eric Rivers, who threw for one touchdown and ran two more, and B.J. Harris’ 56-yard touchdown, the 2020 team gave one of the best performances in McCallie history.

Their winning streak continued into 2021 as McCallie won all 13 games in their regular season before bringing home their third consecutive title. In the final game, McCallie once again faced off against Montgomery Bell Academy, delivering a déjà-vu-inducing defeat of 28-7 and finishing their three-season championship-winning streak the same way it started.

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Photos Courtesy of McCallie School

(Image #1) 2021 State Championship Team; (Image #2) 2020 State Championship Team; (Image #3) 2019 State Championship Team; (Image #4) 2001 State Championship Team

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boyd buchanan football team

boyd buchanan football player

Boyd-Buchanan School | 2003

In 2002, Boyd-Buchanan made it all the way to the title game of the playoffs for the first time in the program’s history, narrowly losing the title to Christ Presbyterian Academy with a final score of 26-20 in overtime. After that tough loss, the Bucs were hungrier than ever – determined to fight their way back to a second chance title run. Under the guidance of head coach Robert Akins, the 2003 team used the previous season’s loss as a springboard to come back stronger than before, capitalizing on what they learned from their first playoff experience.

Boyd-Buchanan’s strong offense made them a force to be reckoned with in the regular season, racking up an average of 38 points per game while giving up an average of 11. The Bucs went 12-2 that season, with their only losses coming at the hands of Baylor and Goodpasture. When it came to the playoffs, however, defense was the name of the game and they certainly held their own, giving up an average of under 10 points per game throughout the playoffs.

The difference was clear as the Bucs sailed through to the final round with impressive consistency in their performance  – beating Clay County 47-6, Friendship Christian 49-20, South Pittsburg 20-7, and Christian Academy of Knoxville 37-6. In the title game, they faced off against Donelson Christian Academy with the same tenacity. Though they gave up an easy field goal after a fumble in their own territory in the first half, they made up for it in the second. As the game wore on, the Bucs gained 208 yards to the Wildcats’ 44, icing them out with an iron wall of defense that never let the opposing team’s offense cross the 50-yard line. Boyd-Buchanan finished the game with a 26-3 victory to bring home the trophy – the school’s first championship win since 1996 and the first ever for their football program.

The 2003 Bucs certainly earned their place in Boyd-Buchanan history, and their win is a fond memory to fans and alumni even two decades later. Members of the team are invited to attend a celebration of the 20th anniversary of their win this year during the school’s annual alumni weekend on Friday, September 29th.

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Photos Courtesy of Boyd-Buchanan School

(Image #1) Boyd-Buchanan State Championship Team; (Image #2) Matt Henley

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signal mountain football team

signal mountain football game

Signal Mountain High School | 2010

Signal Mountain’s 2010 team, under the leadership of head coach Bill Price, made history as one of the highest-scoring teams the Chattanooga area had ever seen. In the regular season, they kept a squeaky-clean 14-0 record, largely due to their powerful offense – the Eagles earned a total of 513 points in the season for a per-game average of 50.

That momentum carried them through the playoffs, and their offense continued to impress as the Eagles flew through the bracket, scoring a go-ahead touchdown with just 35 seconds on the clock to Friendship Christian in the second game. The team kept this energy to the final round with a 46-36 win over Trousdale County in the quarterfinals followed by a 51-12 win over Boyd-Buchanan in the semifinals.

The first half of the title game proved challenging for Signal Mountain as Trinity Christian Academy’s onslaught of powerful passes threatened to wear down their defense. Rather than losing focus, the Eagles stepped up to the challenge, their defense only getting stronger as the game went on. In signature Coach Price style, their offense wouldn’t be caught slacking either, racking up a record-setting 688 yards and putting 35 points on the board to pull ahead in the second half. 

The first half’s difficulties were anything but discouraging for the 2010 team – their determination to win seemed to only get stronger with the start of each new quarter. In addition to breaking state records, the Eagles soared past their own limits as well; for the first time in the season, the team had two 100-yard rushers by the end of the game. Donnie Garner, who earned the game’s Offensive MVP title, went for 218 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns, while Andrew Price logged 133 yards on eight carries. In the end, the Eagles came out on top and brought home the title with a 56-28 victory.

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Photos Courtesy of Signal Mountain High School

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baylor football team

baylor football team holding up trophy

Baylor School | 2022

Baylor won their first state championship title in 1973 when they beat Hillcrest 6-0, but fans would have to wait 49 long years to celebrate another title. Though Baylor did make several playoff appearances after that first win, their closest bids in 1977, 2010, and 2011 each ended in runner-up titles for the Red Raiders. After a dry spell of nearly 50 years, Baylor took home their second championship title in 2022 after a hard-fought battle against then-undefeated Montgomery Bell Academy.

Baylor won the toss and elected to receive, but a few errors in the 1st quarter allowed Montgomery Bell to quickly take a 7-0 lead. Baylor’s offense adapted quickly to make up the difference, with quarterback Whit Muschamp firing off a pass to connect with Louis Vincent for a 38-yard touchdown, but two more touchdown passes put Montgomery Bell up 21-7. Neither team was willing to concede as the game progressed; with all the back and forth, the teams combined gained nearly 600 yards in just the first half of the game. Baylor was down 18-14 come halftime, but it was still anyone’s game as they pressed on.

The tides changed quickly in the second half after the game’s first turnover gave Baylor a 46-yard pass that was run into the end zone for a 31-28 lead. Energized by this opportunity, Baylor tightened up their defense and let their offense loose, snagging another 45-yard touchdown run with just under seven minutes on the clock. Red Raider fans were on the edge of their seats as Montgomery Bell got one last scoring drive, but after their failed extra point locked in the final score of 38-34, Baylor was free to run out the clock and take home the crown.

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Photos Courtesy of Baylor School

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