Potential Baylor-McCallie state championship game would be historic

Staff Photo by Olivia Ross / Baylor's Amari Jefferson (7) is brought down by McCallie's defense Sept. 30 during a TSSAA Division II-AAA East/Middle Region game at Baylor.

If Chattanooga's McCallie and Baylor football teams both win their playoff games Friday night, they would compete against each other in an unprecedented state championship game at Finley Stadium.

"It would be historical," said Ronnie Carter, who worked for the TSSAA for 31 years, including 23 as executive director before retiring in 2009. "I honestly can't think of another game you could even compare that to, if it happens.

"You've got what is already considered by most people to be the biggest rivalry we have in our state, and then they're going to meet for a state championship in a game that's played in their backyard. Man, oh man, there's never been a game or event in (TSSAA) history that would come close to matching it."

(READ MORE: McCallie School releases 'hype video' ahead of Baylor vs. McCallie football game)

The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Division II-AAA semifinals will be Friday night in the Nashville area.

Second-ranked Baylor will play No. 4 Brentwood Academy, and No. 3 McCallie will face No. 1 Montgomery Bell Academy.

The winners will play in the BlueCross Bowl at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at Finley, the stadium for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

TSSAA has held its football state championship games at a central location since 1982. During the past 40 years, the title games have moved from Vanderbilt's Dudley Field to Middle Tennessee State University's Floyd Stadium to Tennessee Tech's Tucker Stadium and most recently Finley Stadium beginning in 2021.

There has never been a sellout crowd for any of the state's previous championship games since moving to the college stadium sites, but that could change if the Baylor-McCallie matchup is set for Finley, which seats 20,412.

Previous games between Baylor's Red Raiders and McCallie's Blue Tornado at Finley have drawn more than 15,000 for regular-season matchups.

(READ MORE: No. 2 Baylor, No. 3 McCallie bring big, talented lines into latest showdown)

Facing off with a state championship on the line -- and with fans in town for two other championship games taking place that day -- would likely mean exceeding those figures.

According to TSSAA figures, last year's BlueCross Bowl three-day total attendance of 27,052 exceeded the previous five seasons' highest mark by more than 6,000 fans. Last year's figures were boosted by having McCallie play on Thursday, drawing 10,211 for its game against Montgomery Bell.

McCallie is trying to join Brentwood Academy (2015-18) and Ensworth (2010-13) as the only teams to win four consecutive state titles in Division II-AAA. Baylor most recently played for a state title in 2011, finishing runner-up for the second year in a row. The Red Raiders won their lone TSSAA football state title in 1973. They were also crowned national champions that season.

"We'll accept anyone who earns the right to be there, of course, but we would definitely love to see a Baylor-McCallie state championship," said Tim Morgan, chief sports officer for the tourism promotion group Chattanooga Sports. "It's exciting just to think about it, but I just hope talking about it doesn't jinx it."

With a sellout crowd filling Baylor's Heywood Stadium and overflowing onto the track surrounding the field, the Red Raiders rallied to beat McCallie 31-27 on Sept. 30, snapping a six-game losing skid in the series.

(READ MORE: Baylor comes back late, ends McCallie's six-game series winning streak)

The rivals have met in the playoffs three times, the last to date coming in a 2010 quarterfinal as Baylor won 28-14 -- sweeping the season series -- on the way to its state runner-up finish. They also met in the 1997 postseason, with Baylor sweeping the season series with a 21-7 first-round victory, and in 1974, when McCallie avenged a regular-season loss with a 29-7 win in the first round of the Class AAA postseason.

This year's BlueCross Bowl could get a revenue boost if any of the other four local teams still playing -- Chattanooga Christian School in Division II-AA, East Hamilton and Red Bank in Class 4A and Tyner in 2A -- advance to their respective title games.

The Chattanooga area has had at least one team play for a TSSAA football state title in nine consecutive seasons and 12 of the past 13, with at least one champion from the area crowned each of the past four years.

"We would also love to see Tyner, CCS and either East Hamilton or Red Bank also get to play for a state championship here," Morgan said. "Having any local teams in it would be a huge attendance boost, and certainly if Baylor and McCallie were to both get there, it would make for a great atmosphere for our community."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.