Baylor senior Colton Jumper grew up hearing about McCallie's football dominance.
In the final moments of his final game in the city's premier rivalry Friday, Jumper capped a perfect four-year run against the Blue Tornado by leading a trio of Red Raiders who stopped Chad Toliver's two-point conversion run in Baylor's 28-26 win at a raucous Finley Stadium.
"We knew we had to make a play," said Jumper, who joined Blake Layne and Russell Burton in stopping Toliver an inch from the goal line with 1:24 left in the game. "We just ran our base and stuffed the nose and went all out."
It was an emotional end to an emotional renewal of this annual slugfest.
With offensive shark Ralph Potter back as the McCallie head coach after four years in Nashville, the Blue Tornado sprinted from the gate and dominated the first quarter. Using a perfect blend of offensive sets and calls, McCallie waltzed through two long drives for touchdowns, and after 12 minutes it was like Potter had never left.
McCallie had matching 11-play touchdown drives and gained 151 yards in the first quarter for a quick 14-0 lead on two Toliver touchdowns.
"I can't process this yet, but I know our kids fought really hard," said Potter, who had won 11 straight against Baylor as the McCallie coach before leaving for Brentwood Academy. "The effort was great. I just wished we had coached them a little bit better."
If Potter's return to this rivalry was pride-worthy, then Baylor quarterback Michael O'Connor's debut in this series was equally as dazzling. The 6-foot-6 Canadian delivered a river of perfectly placed passes to rally the Red Raiders. His strike to a streaking Jeffery Bowens turned into an 86-yard touchdown play.
"They tried to tell me about this game," said O'Connor, who afterward posed for pictures with his father, who traveled down from Canada to watch the game. "This game was the most fun I've ever played in."
O'Connor, who will visit Auburn for today's game against LSU, completed six of his first seven throws, including the long TD, as Baylor tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. He finished 8-of-12 for 216 yards.
"When we were down 14-0, I was really pleased with how our kids responded," Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "It's the type of character I knew this team had."
The second half belonged to the defenses, as turnovers and stops dictated play. Houston Clements scored from 1 yard out to give Baylor a 21-14 lead after Will Thomas recovered a McCallie fumble at the Tornado 15.
McCallie answered when Nelson Johnston threw the first of two second-half touchdown passes. Johnston hit Eric Wolf for a 17-yard score, but Baylor's Landry Taylor blocked the extra-point try.
O'Connor's 1-yard run extended the Baylor lead midway through the fourth quarter, before Johnston delivered a strike on a post pattern to Spencer Morgan for a 22-yard score for the game's final points.
"I hate to pin it on one play," Potter said, "but the turnovers and the kicking game were crucial."
Some things never change.
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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