As the summer months continue at a snail’s pace, we’ll dive into some Sequatchie Valley Football history. Hopefully as the summer and the season goes on, we’ll find our way farther back into the time capsules stored along the 150-mile canvas that is the Sequatchie Valley.
We’re starting off our Top Tens with a period most fans can remember: the 2000s. It was a time of meager Valley success with two State Championships and several other title game appearances. For the purposes of this countdown, each team will only be allotted three spots maximum on the countdown as not put too much emphasis on one school and get the best of all Valley schools in the mix (Hint: we’ll feature at least one team from each school).
For future reference, we’ll consider anything after 2000 the modern era, anything from 1969-2000 the playoff era, and anything before that the conference era in remembrance of the lost, and often forgotten, Sequatchie Valley Conference.
So the question remains, who’s the best modern-era team from your school?
10. 2001 Whitwell Tigers
Head Coach: Wes Green
Record: 8-4 (3-1, R3-1A)
Valley Record: 0-3 (0-4 Including Postseason)
Finish: 2nd Round Loss vs. South Pittsburg, 21-7
Tale of the Tape: The modern era has not been kind to the Tigers only forming a 64-96 record overall, but one season shines out among the rest. During 2001, the Tigers only losses came against Sequatchie Valley schools (Sequatchie County, South Pittsburg, and Marion County), and for the most part they were pretty successful. Some highlights include a 18-15 win over Boyd-Buchanan and two opponents whom the Tiger played twice. Whitwell met up with both South Pittsburg and Monterey in the regular season and the playoffs. The Tigers would take down the Wildcats but fall to the Pirates.
Claim to Fame: Many may question this ranking, but in all honesty the Tigers were a touchdown or two away from being a semifinal-caliber team. That is, if they had beaten South Pittsburg in the second round, this team could have very well been lore of the Whitwell town folk. Maybe it’s a little hypothetical, but nonetheless this team deserves at least a spot on our top ten.
9. 2002 Grundy County Yellow Jackets
Head Coach: Ken Colquette
Record: 9-3 (3-1, R3-3A)
Valley Record: 2-1
Finish: 2nd Round Loss vs. Trousdale County, 29-10
Tale of the Tape: Ken Colquette took over his alma mater’s program in 2001 and had some pretty good success considering Grundy County’s position in the regional alignments. While Colquette was there, the Yellow Jackets were in a pretty decent region that stayed competitive but to the advantage of Grundy County. Taking advantage of the small number of 3A schools in Chattanooga at that time, Grundy County put together an above average schedule. Colquette led his team to a second round playoff game for the first of two straight years, which still hasn’t been matched once since. The Jackets lost a robust Trousdale County team who were undefeated at that point. The Yellow Jackets from Hartsville would go on a semifinal run.
Claim to Fame: This is yet another case of what could have been for a team that the modern era has not been kind to. The Yellow Jacket faced a powerhouse in Trousdale County which is about as far as Grundy County could hope to get at the time because of how the playoffs brackets are aligned. Still, a 9-3 season is far from a disappointment, especially for a team that doesn’t get a lot of love on the gridiron currently.
8. 2013 Marion County Warriors
Head Coach: Mac McCurry (Resigned During Season)
Record: 10-3 (3-1, D6-A)
Valley Record: 4-1
Finish: State Quarterfinals Loss vs. Trousdale County, 41-14
Tale of the Tape: Sounding off the start of a deep-playoff-run era, this 2013 squad was probably under the most pressure, yet stepped up to everything thrown at them. Starting the season 4-1, this team averaged 36 points a game and a 20-point margin of victory that may pale in comparison to other, more dominant Warrior squads. In week 6, they faced off against an upstart Sequatchie County squad who they demolished 52-28 behind the rushing legs of Blake Zeman.
The head coach of that Indian team? None other than Ken Colquette who formerly coached four State Championship team for the Warriors in the 1990s. And did they give him a homecoming. The Warriors would cruise after that game until facing a speed bump in South Pittsburg, losing 35-17. The Warriors’ postseason would end in the quarterfinals, but their what they dealt with off the gridiron is the reason this team made our top ten.
Claim to Fame: There’s so much more to this team than a quarterfinal run and a double-digit win total. What many remember about this team is the scandal that came about the morning of their game against rival South Pittsburg. They found what seemed like South Pittsburg-theme vandalism on their field house. That would later turn out to be the work of their own coaching staff. And due to that, a lot more illegal procedures from the program came to light. Either way, the fact that this team made it to the quarterfinals that year amazed most and lifted the attention from a broken coaching staff to a storied and historical program. Maybe this team is low on our list, but they definitely deserved a spot for their effort in the midst of one of the biggest scandals in Sequatchie Valley football history.
7. 2010 Sequatchie County Indians
Head Coach: Chad Barger
Record: 8-4 (3-1, D7-AA)
Valley Record: 3-1
Finish: 2nd Round Loss vs. Goodpasture, 54-17
Tale of the Tape: Head coach Chad Barger was remembered for his meager success with the Sequatchie County program, but often forgotten was the special run made by the Indians in 2010. Starting off 1-2 wasn’t the tale of signs to come as the Indians would continue through the rest of the regular season, only losing rival Bledsoe County in Pikeville. They would tromp their last four opponents of the season by a combined score of 174-41 with three 1,000 yard rushers in Hunter Lewis, Jerry Fain, and Justis Stewart. As fate would have it, they would be matched up with hated rival Bledsoe County in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs.
Losing by less than a score in the first contest, the Indians trekked back up to Pikeville determined to win. After a back and forth affair, the Indians would score late to tie the game up at 28 apiece. In overtime Bledsoe County scored and missed their extra point. Next up, the Indians took four downs to score before kicking in the extra point, as snow fell, to claim the first win against the Warriors in two years. The Indians fell to Goodpasture who ended up falling to Alcoa in the State Title game, but the game against Bledsoe County still stands as a true folk tale for the rivalry and as one of the best seasons of the modern era.
Claim to Fame: Anytime you knock off your hated rival in the playoffs, there’s something to celebrate. And although the Indians have fell on hard times until here of late, 2010 still stands as a reminder that all is not lost, and that the Indians can once again rise. The theatrics of such a season granted it the #7 spot on a our countdown. And to the Bledsoe County fans, your time will come soon enough in our countdown.
6. 2009 South Pittsburg Pirates
Head Coach: Vic Grider
Record: 11-3 (4-0, D-6A)
Valley Record: 3-0
Finish: State Runner-Up, 31-29 Loss vs. Union City
Tale of the Tape: Vic Grider is an all-time legend in the Sequatchie Valley, and it’s fitting to see the first Championship appearance in our countdown from the coach and school who put the Valley on the map. This team came two years after an elite squad (spoiler alert) and brought forth some great talent to nearly pull off another Championship run. The Pirates started off the season 6-0 in blowout fashion. That included a 48-20 smashing of then Class 2A Signal Mountain a year before their 14-o State State Title run. It would be that last win over the Eagles to this day.
After a close loss against rival Boyd-Buchanan, the Pirates continued on their quest, losing only to Polk County in Week 9. Led by that year’s Mr. Football, Terrell Robinson, the Pirates went on an impressive run scoring no less than 46 points in the four games leading up to the State Championship. South Pittsburg would fall short, but only by two points as they fell just short of another entry in the record books.
Claim to Fame: The Pirates fell just short of a State Title, but the big story was the new regional alignment system. With districts composed of teams from two classifications, it gave the Pirates somewhat of an edge instead of being force to play 1A opponents. The game versus Signal Mountain would mark both the beginning and the end of a showdown that the Chattanooga area couldn’t get enough of. The Pirates would lose the next year as rumors of recruitment on the Mountain began to swirl around.
5. 2014 Marion County Warriors
Head Coach: Ricky Ross
Record: 12-2 (4-0, D6-A)
Valley Record: 5-0
Finish: State Runner-Up, 34-7 Loss vs. Peabody
Tale of the Tape: Head coach Ricky Ross picked up the remnants of a quarterfinal run in 2013, but some were skeptical of the whether the new head coach would have success. He debunked that myth right out of the gates, blowing out their first three opponents before going toe-to-toe with 4A Chattanooga Central. The Warriors would tromp their 6-A counterparts in what would be the last year of the district, including their first win over South Pittsburg since 2005. The Warriors made it to the playoffs with a 9-1 record and a 1st round bye.
On the other side of the season finale against the Pirates, the Warriors took down Jackson County and state powerhouse Trousdale County, who had defeated the Warriors just one year prior. In the semifinals, Marion County would take on Grace Christian (Knoxville) and sneak by with a close 24-15 win in Jasper behind the leadership of then junior Bryce Massengale before heading up to Cookeville for the State Title game. Peabody came from the flatlands of West Tennessee and were too much for the Warriors as they took the Championship game, 34-7.
Claim to Fame: It would be the first year of Ricky Ross’s short dynasty in Jasper. That win helped form a team in 2015 that came closer to a title than any since the 1990s. 2014 put the Warriors over their late-postseason hump that they had up until then. And with a win over South Pittsburg that year, the Warriors took back the momentum in the County and in their rivalry with the Pirates.
4. 2011 Bledsoe County Warriors
Head Coach: Jason Reel
Record: 10-2 (4-1, D7-AA)
Valley Record: 3-0
Finish: 2nd Round Loss vs. Alcoa, 48-0
Tale of the Tape: At first glance, a 2nd round finish may not equate to a No. 4 spot on our list, but the regular season experienced by the Warriors was one for the ages, in the modern era at least. The Warriors took down their neighbors to the north and to the far south in Cumberland County and Marion County to start out before hitting their only snag of the regular season in Signal Mountain. The Eagles flew over and never touched the ground in Pikeville as they took the blowout victory.
From there, the Warriors took charge laying waste to several teams, including McMinn Central and rival Sequatchie County in a 21-17 bout. Bledsoe County would score at least 43 points in their next four matchups. The only problem with that run was a 42 point game by Chattanooga Christian. With the district title on the line for Bledsoe County and a wild shot at a wild card for the Chargers, CCS took it down to the wire in a game where the Warriors wouldn’t lead until the fourth quarter…with 25 seconds left. The Warriors would take it with a stout rushing attack by Brandon Smith who ran for 266 yards and cruise past Meigs County in much the same fashion in the first round of the TSSAA playoffs. The same couldn’t be said for their game against Alcoa.
Claim to Fame: This was the best this team could get in 2011. Not that this Warrior squad was anything below elite, but staring down the barrell at Alcoa in the 2nd round is always tough. That coupled along with a football scandal at Signal Mountain (An earlier blurb has finally caught up! See No. 6) gave this team a lot more than it could muster in a regular season. The Eagles were forced to give up wins, and with that the Warriors were able to claim first in a year that couldn’t have gone better except for a non-fatal bus crash between Pikeville and Alcoa.
3. 2010 South Pittsburg Pirates
Head Coach: Vic Grider
Record: 12-2 (3-0, D6-A)
Valley Record: 3-0
Finish: State Champions, 41-6 Win vs. Jo Byrns
Tale of the Tape: And we’re finally to the first State Champion on our countdown. The Fighting Griders do what they always do and dominate every 1A school in their midst. The Pirates took down their first three opponents and left a goose egg on two of them, including rival Marion County. Early in the season, with both South Pittsburg and Signal Mountain undefeated and lacking competition, their matchup was highly touted and with as much hype as the Chattanooga area can give. The Eagles taught an old dog a new trick as they tip-toed past the Pirates 40-36, taking their first win in the new-found rivalry.
The Pirates set a course and claimed victory over Chattanooga Central, Whitwell, rival Boyd-Buchanan, and district counterpart Lookout Valley with ease, even breaking records. In the game against the Tigers, quarterback Travis Millard connected with Josh Parker for a 99-yard reception tying with three others as the longest pass from scrimmage in TSSAA history. Another Double-A opponent in Polk County was the only thing stopping the Pirates from running the rest of the table as the Wildcats took no prisoners in a 42-7 win. The Pirates toughest outing in the postseason wasn’t in Cookeville but against Gordonsville as they edged their 2nd round opponent, 32-21.
Claim to Fame: The 2010 Pirates were not the first to win a title in the modern era or even the most dominant. They fought for their championship that year after falling in the title game just one year before. South Pittsburg would jump start a season for Signal Mountain who also went on to win a title in Class 2A, making District 6A the home of two champions in 2010. It was reminiscent of 1994 when both Marion County and South Pittsburg won Championships in their respective classifications in a year that Marion County struggled, getting blown out in the first round.
2. 2015 Marion County Warriors
Head Coach: Ricky Ross
Record: 13-2 (6-1, R3-2A)
Valley Record: 3-0
Finish: State Runner-Up, 40-35 Loss vs. Trezevant
Tale of the Tape: Maybe we look on 2015 with a little bit of nostalgia, but nonetheless, the Warriors shined among the new region alignments, sifting their way through one of the toughest regions in the state. Region 3-2A is a long jump from District 6-A which featured teams falling behind South Pittsburg and the Warriors on a constant basis. Starting out the season against a 4A opponent is not always the best way to come out, but Marion County did it in style against Hixson as they tromped the black and gold, 38-12. The Warriors were 5-0 coming into one of the most anticipated matchups of the Region Schedule against Boyd-Buchanan. The Buccaneers took the victory 21-14 after a close three quarter and an injury to starting quarterback Logan Walters.
Now starting Bryce Massengale, the Warriors finished out their season slate with only one blemish before Walters took over in the last game of the season against Polk County. The Warriors were in full form blasting the Wildcats 55-0 before blasting their first and second round opponents. Now facing region foe Tyner, fresh off a victory over Boyd-Buchanan, it was do or die for the Warriors. The fighting Ricky Rosses picked themselves up late and booked a trip to the tri-city area. That trip wouldn’t last long as they dominated the Bulldogs of Hampton early. In a thriller at Tennessee Tech, the Warriors fell just short, 40-35, to Trezevant out of Memphis.
Claim to Fame: Not many teams can muster a State Title appearance, but even fewer can do it while a quarterback recovers on the sidelines. Bryce Massengale lead his team to Cookeville in 2014, so he was ready to take over the team for as long as Walters needed. The Warriors still haven’t won a title since 1995, and over 20 years later, the purple and white faithful are beyond read for another one even if they have a new head coach.
1. 2007 South Pittsburg Pirates
Head Coach: Vic Grider
Record: 15-0 (7-0, R3-1A)
Valley Record: 2-0
Finish: State Champions, 52-20 Win vs. McKenzie
Tale of the Tape: It’s arguably one of the more dominant teams in the entire history of the Sequatchie Valley, and who else to lead it but the legendary Vic Grider. This was one of the two State Championships claimed in the modern era by South Pittsburg, and the first appearance in the Title game in the 21st century. The fighting Griders had little trouble until game five against Tyner Academy, where the Pirates snuck away with a 25-21 win over the Rams. Tyner was only one of three teams to score more than seven points on the Pirates.
Dominance is in the statistics of this dynamic 2007 squad. The Pirates averaged 48 points game with an average margin of 36 points, but during the regular season, South Pittsburg averaged a larger scoring margin at 49 points while averaging almost 60 points a game against regular season foes. In it’s most dominant Title game performance, the Pirates took down the McKenzie Rebels easily in their first game back to the big dance since 1999. And I assume they partied like it too (My first outdated reference of the countdown!).
Claim to Fame: With that win in the State Title game, the Pirates made it 7 championship appearances in 5 decades with many more to come later on in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013. This orange and black squad has long defined the football success of the Sequatchie Valley ever since its first Championship in the inaugural year of the TSSAA playoffs in 1969, and it’s fitting so a see a squad take the top spot in our modern era countdown with a 15-win performance.
POST TOP TEN DISCLAIMER: These teams are ranked based on success on the field but also bearing the difficulty of winning a championship in that classification along with where it ranks in that school’s football history. For example, a 2nd round matchup in Class 3A might bear more than a quarterfinal run in Class 1A just due to caliber of school teams will compete against. Please keep that in mind as you comment and give feedback. More Top Tens to come!