Before McCallie could make some TSSAA football history with longtime rival Baylor, the Blue Tornado first had to rewrite some history against Montgomery Bell Academy.
MBA ended McCallie's bid last November for a fourth consecutive state championship and looked the part of spoiler again Friday night by taking a 9-7 halftime lead before a nervous crowd at Spears Stadium, but Ja'Von McMahan had second-half touchdown runs of 74 and 47 yards to spark the Blue Tornado's 33-15 triumph. McMahan's 47-yarder occurred with 3:41 remaining and sealed the game at 26-15.
Friday's Division II-AAA semifinal was a rematch of McCallie's 35-0 rout on Sept. 22, which was an instant runaway that required the mercy rule.
"MBA is a great team, and they always have great coaches and players who play super hard," McCallie senior tight end/defensive end Carson Gentle said. "I've got nothing but respect for them. Maybe we did blow them out early in the season, but we are both different teams now.
"A year ago, they took away our chance at a state championship."
McCallie's victory coupled with Baylor's 49-35 defeat of Knoxville Catholic at Heywood Stadium clinched the first all-Chattanooga state championship football game, with that showdown set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, at the BlueCross Bowl in Finley Stadium. The past two Baylor-McCallie matchups have been the most exciting in series history, with the Blue Tornado's 34-31 win on Sept. 29 featuring a rivalry record five lead changes.
Erik Kimrey's Red Raiders, 10-2 this year, won last season's state title with a 38-34 topping of MBA.
"It's going be a lot of fun, and it will be a historic thing," McCallie coach Ralph Potter said after his team improved to 11-1. "What an opportunity. We're going to be really excited for it."
Potter did not believe the potential of facing Baylor in the title game affected his players against MBA, which finished its season at 5-7.
"I honestly think it was MBA playing that well," Potter said. "I really do. I think they had an incredible game plan, and they really played hard. We showed a lot of guts, to be honest with you, because I think we're the better team, but they really, really played well.
"I give them a lot of credit, and I give a lot of credit to our team for fighting back and fighting through that adversity."
Liam Hackett's 26-yard field goal on the final play of the half put the Big Red up 9-7 and capped a frustrating first 24 minutes for McCallie. On the third play of the second half, however, McMahan broke free for his 74-yard touchdown to put the Blue Tornado ahead to stay at 13-9.
After McMahan started pounding the ball on McCallie's next possession, the Blue Tornado stunned the Big Red when Jeremy St-Hilaire found Keeyshawn Tabuteau deep down the middle of the field for a 54-yard score that made it 20-9. McMahan finished with 17 carries for 180 yards and three touchdowns, while St-Hilaire was 9-of-12 passing for 125 yards and two scores.
"We started putting our heavier packages in and started running more power," Gentle said. "When Javon breaks the first level, he's gone. He's got some jets."
A 21-yard touchdown pass from Price to Brooklen Davis with 11:07 remaining in the game kept MBA hanging around until McMahan's 47-yarder ended it. McCallie got some icing when Olivier Camerlain recovered a Price fumble at the MBA 19, which set up a 21-yard scoring strike from St-Hilaire to Zach Chari with 2:03 to play.
As McCallie players celebrated and Baylor was wrapping up its win, the countdown clock to history was ticking.
"These might be the shortest 13 days of my life," Gentle said. "I will be so excited. It's going to be a great, great, great time."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org.