They may not have this game marked on a calendar like they do a rival or Valley opponent, but this is probably the stiffest competition they’ll face in the regular season.

For some this might mean a Valley foe, Region rival, or out-of-conference powerhouse, but in the end, you’ll be preparing double-time the the weeks before in hopes of taking down the biggest challenge on your schedule.  And though some seasons may look more ripe than others, these are the best teams on each individual team’s schedule.

And we’ll start our list at the head of the Valley in Pikeville.

13362139_warriorhead_1363054837640x360r-1Bledsoe County Warriors

Toughest Opponent:  Marion County, Region 3-2A Foe

Week Nine

Opponent 2015 Record:  13-2 (6-1, R3-2A)

TALE OF THE TAPE:  Let’s face it.  Not many teams can trump a Class 2A Title appearance.  Although there were some challengers in South Pittsburg, Boyd-Buchanan, and Sequatchie County (namely for rivalry reasons), the cake goes to Marion County who romped the Warriors last season 58-10 on their home field.  New Marion County head coach Joey Mathis will have to take over the streak that Rocky Ross left behind, but that’s easier said than done against a team who is probably the most underrated in the Valley and in Region 3-2A.  And though the purple and white clad Warriors don’t look to miss a step in 2016, a lot can happen in the eight weeks leading up to the matchup.

grundycountylogoGrundy County Yellow Jackets

Toughest 2016 Opponent: Marion County, Classic Valley Rival

Week Two

Opponent 2015 Record:  13-2 (6-1, R3-2A)

TALE OF THE TAPE:  There are a lot of challenging opponents when you go 1-9 in the previous year.  For Grundy County, the toughest team they’ll face happens to be a classic rival down the mountain in Jasper.  It’s the second entry for the Warriors on our list, and that alone shows how good this team can be in 2016 barring a complete meltdown.  That being said the Jackets have a lot of work to do if they hope to compete with the top team on their schedule.  I’m not saying they aren’t up to the challenge, but they better come out of week one flying high enough to get past the Warriors.  Still, there will probably be some trash talk on the side, regardless of who’s favored and by how much.

imagesMarion County Warriors

Toughest 2016 Opponent:  Boyd-Buchanan, Region 3-2A Foe

Week Six

Opponent 2015 Record: 11-1 (7-0, R3-2A)

TALE OF THE TAPE:  When you clicked on this article, this is more along the lines of what you were expecting.  Although South Pittsburg might spur more Valley and ticket interest (hold that thought), this game is definitely going to test the Warriors all four quarters.  The Buccaneers ran the table last year before losing to Tyner in the second round of the playoffs, which kept the Warriors from facing Boyd-Buchanan in a winner-goes-to-Cookeville type matchup.  Either way, the Buccaneers still have enough firepower to pick up a win at Marion County, but the Warriors are not one to make the same mistake twice.  Joey Mathis will have his hands full trying to tame the purple and gold beast from running off the tracks, but this game tops off the list of challenges he’ll face along the way.

11201885_1149829831709549_4573576693053996063_nSequatchie County Indians

Toughest 2016 Opponent:  Dekalb County, Region 4-3A Foe

Week  11

Opponent 2015 Record:  9-3 (5-0, R4-3A)

TALE OF THE TAPE:  The Indians have long been doomed by their region alignments, but the stars aligned with the talent head coach Adam Caine had last season.  They’ve still got some athletes left over on defense, which is a good thing when you have to stop a preseason all-state quarterback in Steven Jennings.  The Indians, though, have an all-stater of their own in linebacker Hunter Davenport.  That may not help too much in the deep passing game, but he can supplement a short passing game dominate any quarterback runs or rushing plays.  Sequatchie County will have a tough task in both Upperman and Dekalb County, but the edge as toughest goes to the team with Jennings after he gave the Indians numerous fits last year in Dunlap.  Add to the challenge that the game is in Smithville this year, and you’ve got yourself one heck of an opponent.

181506_103241129756250_100002110901581_27843_4868518_nSouth Pittsburg Pirates

Toughest 2016 Opponent:  Marion County, Classic Rival

Week Four

Opponent 2015 Record:  13-2 (6-1, R3-2A)

TALE OF THE TAPE:  The Pirates are a little underrated coming into 2016, and maybe that’s why the edge will continue to go towards the Warriors in the preseason.  Coming out of Region 3-1A, South Pittsburg’s toughest in-region opponent is up the street in Whitwell, who is still unproven.  The Warriors have two State Title appearances in as many years, but the Pirates could be on the verge of making their jurisdiction a two-championship county.  Under-hyped, it may turn out that the Pirates are well-qualified for a win at home against their bitter rivals, but for now, the orange and black faithful will have to live with last year’s defeat until September 9th when the rivalry is renewed.

Whitwell Tigers wisconsin-logo

Toughest 2016 Opponent: Davidson Academy, D-II A Program

Week Three

Opponent 2015 Record:  7-4 (2-1, DII-A)

TALE OF THE TAPE:  The Bears of Davidson might be on par with South Pittsburg, but the recruiting advantage gives them the edge in Whitwell’s toughest game.  Scheduled as a game that looks very lopsided, the Tigers host this year, and could put a chip in the Division II bottom feeder.  And sometimes all you need is a small piece to go your way.  The Tigers probably have the second hardest opponent on the list behind Marion County, but it’s a winnable game if new head coach Tracy Malone can get some excitement going in weeks one and two.  If the masses can be pulled to the stands it might counter the Bears who will likely bring a small crowd travelling from Nashville.  Either way, this is a daunting challenge, in week three no less.

Contact Chandler Morrison at TheSpearSportsBlog@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @RCS_Chandler!

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