CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Coming into the season, JaVaughn Craig was supposed to be the “emergency” starter at quarterback for the McCallie football team.
Thursday night, he caushed the Cleveland defense to need some aid.
Craig had a combined 381 yards of total offense and four total touchdowns running and passing, and the Blue Tornado offense piled up 599 yards of offense in a wild 55-35 victory over the Blue Raiders in the season opener. The sophomore starter was 15-for-19 passing for 293 yards and had 88 yards rushing.
“I had a few butterflies coming in, but the guys told me to just focus, prepare and I had trust in my teammates,” Craig said. “It’s hard to prepare for a team like Cleveland, but Coach [Ralph Potter] always told me to work hard and keep my head up, so I felt good about the game coming in.”
Potter had high praise for his newly crowned starter.
“He’s only been our quarterback for about three weeks,” Potter said. “We ask him to make so many decisions with the ball in our offense, but some guys just have a knack for making the right decision.”
With the teams tied at 7 early, Craig completed a pass to C.J. Fritz that turned into a 71-yard scoring play, and he threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Morgan in the second half.
And when the passing game was on hold, the Blue Tornado were churning yards out at an average of 5.7 yards per clip, led by Alex Trotter’s 121 yards. Craig and Andrew Busby each ran for two TDs in the first half.
McCallie took a 27-14 lead into the locker room. Craig and Morgan hooked up for their touchdown pass to begin the second-half scoring, but Cleveland responded as Austin Herink threw back-to-back touchdown passes to D.J. Jones and Parker Smith, cutting the Tornado’s lead to 34-28 with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter.
Jeffery Coleman returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score, however, and Cleveland never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
The Blue Raiders produced a ton of offense as well, as Herink threw for 478 yards and four scores, with Jones, Smith and Tyler Davis each going over the 100-yard mark in receiving.
“I didn’t think our guys quit,” Cleveland coach Ron Crawford said. “We just made too many mistakes against a team that didn’t make many. McCallie’s offense is unique in that they’re a no-huddle, tempo, triple-option team. They have a great scheme, but we need to do a better job of tackling in space.”
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.