McCallie set to play for titleView 7 Photos
4,794 days. Come Thursday, that's how long it will have been since McCallie's football team defeated Montgomery Bell Academy.
When the Blue Tornado step onto the turf inside Tennessee Tech's Tucker Stadium for the Division II-AAA BlueCross Bowl, which is set for an 8 p.m. EST kickoff, they will be looking to snap a 14-game losing streak that spans 13 seasons and includes two playoff losses.
McCallie (10-2) is playing for a state championship for the first time since 2006, which coincidentally is also the last time it beat the Big Red.
"All of that stuff is irrelevant," said McCallie coach Ralph Potter, who did not coach in the series from 2007-11 before returning to his alma mater. "Our guys know about all those things because people talk about it, but we don't bring it up as a staff. We talk about how to line up against certain formations and things to be prepared for in this game.
"Since I've been back, we really haven't played them close. With that history, the pressure is on MBA."
The average margin during the Nashville program's winning streak is 36-21, including last year's 20-point game in which McCallie had seven turnovers in its only regular-season loss.
MBA (8-4) began this season 1-3, but those losses came by a combined 12 points and the Big Red gave up an average of less than 14 points per contest during that four-game stretch. Since inserting freshman quarterback Marcel Reed as the starter, MBA is 7-1 and avenged its only loss from that eight-game stretch with a 12-7 win at Baylor in the first round of the playoffs.
"They started the season poorly because they couldn't score, but the freshman quarterback has made a difference," Potter said. "Their formula has been the defense holds everybody they play way below their season average and they always seems to steal a touchdown with a blocked punt or kickoff return or points off special teams.
"They have the opposite formula from us, because we want to control the ball and wear you down by being physical. Something has to give there."
Besides Reed making the offense more complete with his dual-threat ability — 970 yards passing, 495 rushing and 11 total touchdowns — the most consistent aspect for the Big Red has been their defense, which has not allowed more than 14 points to any of their past eight opponents.
When MBA beat Baylor, defense was again the difference, with the Red Raiders limited to 196 yards of total offense, 115 fewer than in their previous meeting. In their semifinal win two weeks ago at Memphis University School, the Big Red intercepted five passes, giving them 24 forced turnovers this season to go with three blocked kicks.
"Their defense is what's carried them to the point where they're at," Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "But they haven't played anybody yet that has the weapons that McCallie does. MBA is patient and waits for you to make the mistake, and then they capitalize on it. They don't self-destruct or beat themselves, but what McCallie's offense presents is especially tough to stop because they can attack you in so many different ways.
"I know it sounds like a cliché, but the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win this one."