Proving that some people can complain that their diamond shoes are too tight, veteran McCallie coach Ralph Potter admitted he was frustrated with his team's performance after its two quarters of action at Finley Stadium on Saturday, the final night of the three-day BlueCross BlueShield prep football jamboree.
"We still have to learn to line up right sometimes. We've got a long way to go," Potter said after his team defeated Notre Dame and Cleveland by a combined margin of 35-0. "We've got a pretty good idea about some guys, and other guys we don't really know much about yet, so what we use the preseason for is to play a lot of people and try to figure out exactly who can play at what level.
"It's a sorting process that's been taking place, which for me as a coach is harder because we haven't really been preparing for an opponent. But that's the mode we get to shift into this week."
The Blue Tornado will open the regular season Friday night at Chattanooga Christian, a matchup of TSSAA Division II semifinalists from last year. The Chargers made the deepest run in program history by being part of the final four in DII-AA, while McCallie's season ended with a painful one-point loss at Montgomery Bell Academy in the DII-AAA semifinals, halting the Blue Tornado's bid to return to the BlueCross Bowl at Finley and go for a fourth straight state title.
In its first quarter Saturday, McCallie's Javon McMahan broke a 30-yard run on the first play from scrimmage and scored four plays later on a 1-yard carry. Keylan Syam and Keeyshawn Schneider added short touchdown runs for the final margin.
The Blue Tornado followed that with an equally impressive performance against Cleveland as the defense was dominant, stuffing the Blue Raiders for lost yardage on two of their first three possessions, with Marcellus Barnes Jr. returning an interception 35 yards for a touchdown on the other.
In other action from the final night of the jamboree, East Ridge also looked sharp with a pair of 6-0 wins. The Pioneers opened Saturday's action by beating Brainerd and wrapped up their work with a win over Notre Dame.
Against Brainerd, the Pioneers had a three-play, 70-yard scoring drive, capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Jermaine Blackstock to Hasani Jackson with 20 seconds left. CaDion Harris helped set up the score with a 34-yard leaping catch in triple coverage across the middle.
Trey Hubbard had a sack to force a turnover on downs for the Pioneers.
"We are experienced on the defensive side and led by inside linebackers Javonte Pullom and Justin Ellis," East Ridge coach Chad Barger said. "Both of those dudes can run and get after it and are physical. To have the community out here loving on our kids and supporting them was special."
Terrance Lee was impressive for Brainerd, including a tackle for an 8-yard loss.
Against Notre Dame, the Pioneers got started when Xavior Hixson came up with a key fumble recovery to set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Blackstock. Landon Gollier had a 25-yard catch for the Fighting Irish, who also had a strip-sack from EJ Carter in the defeat.
Central and East Hamilton ended in a 3-3 draw, and East Hamilton also played Red Bank to a scoreless tie.
Red Bank defeated Central 14-7 behind two touchdown runs by Josiah Featherstone. The Purple Pounders scored on an 18-yard connection from Caden Jones to Ronye' Watson, who had intercepted a Red Bank pass to set up the possession.
Also ending in a scoreless tie was the quarter between Brainerd and Cleveland, which came up with a pair of interceptions from Camden Lockerby and Isaiah Davis. For Brainerd, Lee and the secondary were stout.