For the first half of Friday's high school football game at McCallie, the rush was on for the home team.
In their season opener, the Blue Tornado piled up 257 rushing yards on the way to a 33-point halftime lead and went on and defeated McMinn County 56-34.
Daniel McClure had 155 of those first-half rushing yards. Three of his 16 carries before the half were 1-, 12- and 9-yard scoring runs -- the last with five seconds left in the second quarter that made it 49-16.
McCallie coach Bubba Simmons said the combination of having experience in the backfield and the summer to prepare was invaluable.
"We've been practicing for four weeks for our opponent," Simmons said. "You don't get that much time to prepare for your second one. I was proud of our coaches. They did a good job preparing them."
Chad Toliver ignited the McCallie crowd right away by returning the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
But McMinn County (1-1) responded with a 71-yard scoring drive with Dre Sanders covering 42 yards on the sixth and final play. They then took an 8-7 lead with a trick play on the conversion with kicker Nathan Gill catching a pass from Dylan Plaster.
There was more trickery on the kickoff, but the Blue Tornado's Cameron Walker recovered the onside kick. McCallie had nothing but touchdown drives the rest of the half except for when the Cherokees scored their other first-half points on Ryan Fowler's 54-yard fumble return.
McMinn County coach Bo Cagle said the McCallie team he saw didn't look the same as the one he and his coaches saw during film study.
"I don't know if we could've stopped them anyway," Cagle said. "They had a great game plan in the first half."
The Cherokees had three touchdowns to the Blue Tornado's one in the second half.
"I told my kids they played a great half," Cagle said. "I don't know if all the technical stuff was there, but the effort was. This is one of those games you play to get better."
Simmons said he didn't feel his team let down any after halftime.
"Give credit to McMinn County," Simmons said. "Those guys are going to play hard, they're not going to quit and they're not going to give up. They had a lot to do with our performance in the second half."
McClure ended up with 194 yards on 25 carries. Teammate Samir Usman ran 17 times for 115 yards and had touchdowns rushing and receiving.
McCallie quarterback Trent Lusk was 11-of-12 passing for 161 yards and ran for two touchdowns. Kicker Arturo Rocha made all eight extra points.
Sanders topped the Cherokees in rushing with 59 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Nathan Simbeck completed 14 of 21 passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.