Football is back: McCallie-Cleveland matchup highlights season-opening showcase

Football is back: McCallie-Cleveland matchup highlights season-opening showcase

August 21st, 2014 by Ward Gossett and Jay Greeson in Life Entertainment

The Cleveland High football team enters the field for their 2013 game against McCallie.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

McCallie Blue Tornado head coach Ralph Potter (center) talks to his team following their 2013 game against rival Baylor.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Madaris Best of Preps Kickoff Classic

What: Cleveland Blue Raiders vs. McCallie Blue Tornado

When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Finley Stadium

Admission: Tickets available at the game

McCallie coach Ralph Potter: "It (7-on-7s and two-a-days) is always a long process, and I think everybody is always looking forward to getting the season started. I don't know how we're going to be, but getting the season started is a reward for the kids for their hard work, so we enjoy it."

Cleveland coach Ron Crawford: "I think it's going to be neat for the kids to experience playing in a college stadium. Finley is a cool stadium - I remember when the I-AA championship games were played there - and even though the kids are familiar with the venue from playing in the jamboree, they're even more excited to be playing there [tonight]."

McCallie ones to watch: Quarterback JaVaughn Craig could be poised for a big season with a slew of playmakers around him, including fullback Alex Trotter. Keep an eye on defensive back Nigel Edmonds, who has more than a dozen scholarship offers before he plays the first game of his junior year.

Cleveland ones to watch: Austin Massey is a load and has a ton of experience, even if this is his first year as the full-time starter. Massey is blessed with an offense that has speed and power, considering T.J. Parker returns after rushing for almost 1,300 yards last year and the Blue Raiders have five senior starters across the offensive line.

Home-Finley Advantage: Cleveland has never played at Finley Stadium. McCallie, however, has been involved in a number of the greatest high school games played on Gordon Davenport Field.

South Pittsburg's Brandon Tetter (56) carries the state championship trophy as he celebrates beating McKenzie at Floyd Stadium during the Class 1A 2007 TSSAA State Football Championship in Murfreesboro, TN. South Pittsburg defeated McKenzie 52-20.

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

Fall is officially a month away, when the equinox tells us that cooler weather is coming.

Forget the calendar. This is the real world, and for everyone in the tri-state area whose next three months revolve around Friday nights and the clear visions of green grass striped with chalked lines of truth and the sweat-stained smells of pads and passion, the fall starts tonight.

When McCallie and Cleveland take to the Finley Stadium turf tonight in the inaugural Madaris Best of Preps Kickoff Classic, the promise of potential and the preseason pronostications no longer matter.

Whether it's if JaVaughn Craig can start his junior season with the same flair that he began his sophomore campaign? Or if Quarterback Austin Massey can follow in the football footsteps of the Cleveland quarterback chain that has produced three consecutive Division I players.

It's game time, and tonight the questions start getting answered.

Welcome back, fall.


Thursday's high school football matchups

(Kickoffs at 7:30 Eastern unless noted)

CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS vs. McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO, 7:30

(Madaris Best of Preps Kickoff Classic at Finley Stadium)

Storyline: A year ago, both defenses were carved up as the offenses combined for 1,104 yards and 83 points in the Blue Tornado's 55-35 victory. McCallie QB JaVaughn Craig, then a sophomore, had a breakout game, with 381 yards and four TDs (two TD passes, two rushing). The Blue Tornado is bolstered by the addition of four-star CB Nygel Edmonds. The Blue Raiders, meanwhile, had to replace their quarterback along with their top three receivers. Senior Dynamite Dozen selection Austin Massey takes over under center, and despite injuries sidelining a pair of receivers and a running back, he will have help in the form of five returning offensive line starters and RB T.J. Parker, who gained more than 1,200 yards last season.

GRUNDY COUNTY YELLOW JACKETS AT MARION COUNTY WARRIORS, 8

Storyline: The Warriors are beginning the 2014 season with Ricky Ross as their third head coach in four years. Led by fullback/linebacker Blake Zeman, a Mr. Football finalist in 2013, they're looking to improve on last year's 10-3 effort which went three games into the postseason. Marion is hoping to put together a three consecutive winning season, something it hasn't done since 2003-05. Grundy County is anchored by versatile Terrince Bramhall, a lineman that will also play linebacker, tight end and possibly even fullback. The Jackets, although they had a 4-7 record a year ago, have made the postseason in each of Nick Bryant's five seasons as head coach.