McCallie's massive O-line pushes through at Best of Preps jamboree

Staff photo by Robin Rudd / McCallie running back Etienne Delisle (45) pushes past a Boyd Buchanan defender and picks up yards after making a catch during the Best of Preps football jamboree Friday night at Finley Stadium. McCallie won the exhibition period 14-0 and also topped Cleveland 7-0.

View more of our Best of Preps preseason coverage here.

After 40 minutes of football scrimmage action in Friday night's Best of Preps jamboree, if McCallie coach Ralph Potter wanted to go old school this year, no one would question the logic.

The Blue Tornado are coming off their third consecutive TSSAA Division II-AAA state championship, and in that time the team's offense has become more and more balanced. However, with seven first-time starters on that side of the ball this season, a return to the days of pound-and-ground football might be the path to another BlueCross Bowl.

McCallie's two periods Friday at Finley Stadium showcased how that would work, with electric senior Tario Price and junior Ja'Von McMahan getting consistent, and sometimes big, yards behind one of the state's largest lines.

"We've got three of our returning starters on the line, so we've got good experience up there," Potter said. "We've had a couple of guys that have come along to help fill us out. It's an area we feel good about."

Returning starters John Kirk (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), Tre Thompson (6-4, 320) and E.J. Smith (6-1, 399) led a unit that, along with newcomers Eliot Guay (6-6, 270) and Carson Coffman (6-2, 240), had its way on the ground with Boyd Buchanan and Cleveland defenses in 14-0 and 7-0 wins, respectively.

Price, the team's leading rusher last season, had 53 yards on seven consecutive runs, the last one a 1-yard touchdown, to open the period against Boyd Buchanan. He later took a short pass from new starting quarterback Jay St. Hilaire and went 39 yards for a touchdown versus Cleveland.

McMahan added to the exhibition success with 20 yards on two carries, including a 7-yard touchdown, in the first period and an electrifying 54-yard run against Cleveland. The two backs were rarely touched before getting to the second level of defense, something that made Price smile afterward.

"I love those guys to death," he said of his linemen. "They do their jobs and I do mine. I thought tonight we came in and played as a team and everybody did their part. We can be as good as we want as long as we have that mindset that we can get better every day."

(READ MORE: Final scores and photos from Friday night's Best of Preps jamboree in Chattanooga)

The McCallie defense, which has five returning starters, was its usual dominant self, with the only opposing first down coming on a penalty. With returning starters Carson Gentle and Jay Williams making big plays up front and linebackers Etienne Delisle and Xavier Gagne cleaning up against anyone who might have gotten through, the Blue Tornado allowed 1 yard in the two periods.

The three-day jamboree, which includes 23 teams in all, concludes Saturday.

Here's a look from Friday's other results at the event.

Brainerd 0, Soddy-Daisy 0: Soddy-Daisy running back Lane Robinson was tough to bring down as he rushed for more than 40 yards. On one play, Robinson broke three tackles to turn what looked like a loss into a tough 5-yard gain. Brainerd's Donivon Thomas was solid defensively and came crashing off the edge for a big tackle for loss. Soddy-Daisy was tough up front on the defensive line.

Marion County 6, Soddy-Daisy 0: Led by Keanun Cummings and Taylor Scharber, Marion's hard-hitting defense set the tone early - and then when the Warriors went on offense, on the second play E.J. Wilson produced the longest gain of the jamboree with a 73-yard touchdown run down the right sideline. Wilson also had another gain of more than 30 yards, but it was called back due to a penalty.

Brainerd 0, Chattanooga Christian 0: Brainerd's defense produced its second shutout of the evening as the secondary shined. After a 40-yard interception return by Chattanooga Christian junior safety Boo Carter, Brainerd's Terrance Lee used perfect timing to jump a sideline route for a pick in the red zone. Chattanooga Christian's Devoris Havis had a stellar showing as he produced back-to-back sacks to help stall a Brainerd drive that had crossed midfield.

Chattanooga Christian 13, Marion County 0: Conner Tyler caught a contested ball in the end zone as time expired to end the jamboree on a strong note for the Chargers, whose defense produced a stellar showing in both games. Bruising running back Javoris Havis had a 5-yard run for the other touchdown as the senior followed solid blocks up the middle. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has offers from Buffalo, Toledo and Eastern Kentucky.

Cleveland 7, Ooltewah 0: The Blue Raiders used a 70-yard touchdown run from Greyson Merckle to edge the Owls. On his team's second possession, Merckle broke off right tackle and outraced the Ooltewah defense down the sideline. The Owls, who allowed only two other first downs in the period, forced a turnover on downs late, but Kaden Minor's 20-yard pass to Jacob Biggs on the final play was stopped inside the 20.

Boyd Buchanan 3, Ooltewah 0: Ethan Lane's 28-yard field goal as time expired gave new Boyd Buchanan coach Gary Rankin's team the edge. On defense, the Buccaneers stopped an Ooltewah drive on downs at the 11, then used hard running from Jaylon Sanderfer and Matthew Stone to methodically move the ball downfield to set up Lane's kick.

Contact Lindsey Young at and follow him on Twitter @youngsports22. Contact Patrick MacCoon at and follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.