In the final minutes before McCallie took the field Friday night for its final regular-season game of the year against visiting Ensworth, the Blue Tornado honored their 18 seniors, who have won 25 games since the start of their sophomore season and won at least one playoff contest each of those years.
But despite McCallie having already clinched the No. 1 seed in the TSSAA Division II Class AAA playoffs, it was Ensworth senior Keyshawn Lawrence — a University of Tennessee commitment — who proved the difference in the Tigers' 33-29 victory.
"He didn't want this to be his final game," Ensworth coach Roc Batten said after Lawrence scored a touchdown, recovered a last-ditch McCallie onside kick and made big defensive stop after big defensive stop to secure a victory the Tigers had to have to reach the postseason.
"He stepped up big on both sides of the ball tonight."
Lawrence also sounded as if he was stepping up big on UT's behalf in the recruitment of Blue Tornado defensive lineman Jay Hardy, who's being wooed by most of the Southeastern Conference and intends to announce his college choice Wednesday.
"I told him last week in Knoxville that if we won he has to come to Tennessee," Lawrence said. "I talk to him every day. He better come to UT."
Told this, Hardy smiled and said, "We'll see on Wednesday."
What McCallie saw too much of against Ensworth (7-3) was a ground game that churned out 270 yards, including 75 and two touchdowns from quarterback Gerard Bullock and 72 from Charles Ingram.
Blue Tornado junior B.J. Harris did his best to counter that by scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 135 yards, including a 40-yard score that gave McCallie its last lead at 23-19, but that was just before Lawrence caught his game-turning 29-yard touchdown pass.
"This was a do-or-die game," Lawrence said. "If we lost, our season was over."
McCallie's season isn't over, but after starting the year 8-0, it will enter the playoffs at 8-2.
"I haven't felt good about our team for the last three weeks," said Blue Tornado coach Ralph Potter, whose team trailed 12-10 at halftime after leading 10-0 early. "We have to do a good job as coaches the next few days resetting our team for the playoffs, because what we've been doing lately isn't working."