published Saturday, September 24th, 2011

Greeson: Stirring rivalry gives another classic

In a rivalry that can leave lifelong memories, the outcome was decided by a fingertip.

So it goes for the annual Baylor-McCallie showdown that has become the annual slugfest between the area's Division II heavyweights.

"That's our league, that's this rivalry," a relieved Phil Massey said after his Baylor team held for a dramatic 34-28 win at Heywood Stadium.

Massey's right, and he should know. He's been on each side of the emotional haymaker that is a grudge match. Win and you're a hero; lose and it's straight to the doghouse.

Massey was the Baylor coach for the last three years of McCallie's record-setting 11-game winning streak in this rivalry. Now he's won four straight meetings against the Blue Tornado in the last three years.

"No matter how much success we had in every other sport, all that anyone talked about was the streak," Baylor athletic director Thad Lepcio said. "It was like one cloud that was over everyone's head."

That cloud has shifted to the Blue's sky on Dodds Avenue. But it was not without a McCallie fight and a massive comeback that left the sold-out crowd of at least 6,500 uncertain whether to cheer or cover their eyes.

After Henrique Ribeiro's 52-yard field goal -- that cleared the crossbar with at least 10 yards to spare -- gave the Red Raiders a 34-7 lead, McCallie grabbed control.

Three consecutive touchdowns -- including a perfect 70-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Trent Lusk to Jack Williams -- and a final defensive stop gave McCallie the ball and a chance to win.

But a well-thrown pass from Lusk slipped off Samir Usman's fingertips, and a sure touchdown bounced off the Baylor turf.

Friday's game will be discussed for McCallie's comeback as much if not more than Baylor's dominant first half.

The rally, like this rivalry, never stopped: It just ran out of time until the next time.

"I just challenged them to play like they know they can," first-year McCallie coach Bubba Simmons said. "That's who we are; we don't quit. We dug a hole against the No. 1 team in the state and came back and got after it. That's just who we are."

It's also what this rivalry is. It's the game that everyone involved remembers most. It's the rivalry that draws fans from all across the area. It's the matchup that the vested eighth-graders and the interested 80-year-olds talk about in spring practice. It's the one in which the games are marked more by the big plays than the season.

"In this rivalry, you can't let them get back into it or they'll keep fighting," said Baylor quarterback Matthew Oellerich, who accounted for three touchdowns. "There are things we can do better, but give them a lot of credit for staying in it and getting back into the game."

So as the discussion this morning may be as much about McCallie's stirring comeback as the final score, history will be less kind and show that Baylor's streak is four consecutive wins.

And that's how it will be until all these folks come back for the next round.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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