The Spears Stadium scoreboard showing Montgomery Bell Academy 34, McCallie 14, Blue Tornado football coach Ralph Potter could only shake his head and mutter, "I don't think I've ever had a team commit seven turnovers in one game."
Yet that's exactly what happened Friday night in a Division II-AAA showdown between the two state-title contenders. The visiting Big Red took a 14-0 lead on two defensive touchdowns less than eight minutes into the opening quarter, then never let up before heading back to Nashville.
"We might have the smallest defense in Division II, but they play their guts out," winning coach Marty Euverard said after MBA's 14th straight victory over McCallie. "Any time you get a win on the road in this league, it's big."
The biggest play by that defense may have come only 10 seconds into the game, when senior defensive back Jake Herbstreit — one of ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit's twin sons on the MBA roster — scooped up a fumble and scored to shock a boisterous home crowd and put the Big Red up 7-0.
A blocked punt soon led to a 14-0 lead with 4:04 left in the period.
"I was kind of lucky," said Jake, whose twin, Tye, is a wide receiver. "The ball just popped out and I was there to pick it up."
Asked to comment on his coach's remarks about the MBA defenders being small, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Herbstreit noted, "We've got heart. We play hard and we're good athletes."
McCallie is loaded with athletes, beginning with junior quarterback DeAngelo Hardy, sophomore running back B.J. Harris, senior running back Shannon Walker and junior wideout Thompson Byrd.
And all four had their moments against MBA, McCallie actually outgaining the Big Red in total yards 346 to 162, Hardy's arm accounting for much of that by connecting on 12 of 17 passes for 227 yards. His Hail Mary touchdown throw to Walker was first tipped at the goal line by junior John Hardy on the final play of the first half.
But that touchdown only pulled the Blue Tornado within 27-7. A scoring run by Harris late provided the final margin.
Said Potter as he searched for an answer to those three interceptions and four lost fumbles: "We're lucky we only got beat by 20. Our defense really played pretty well, but you just can't turn it over seven times."
McCallie (2-1) travels to Knoxville Webb next week. MBA (3-0) hosts Memphis University School.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.