McCallie took some big shots from GHSA power Calhoun early in Friday's high school football showdown at Finley Stadium, but the Blue Tornado defense made big plays and forced five turnovers, and running back B.J. Harris rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns to beat the Yellow Jackets 38-22.
Friday's game was the first meeting between the two legendary programs that have combined for six state titles in Georgia and Tennessee, with McCallie the reigning champion in TSSAA Division II-AAA. The game was scheduled just one week earlier after both teams had out-of-state opponents cancel games.
Calhoun (1-1) opened the scoring with a 99-yard touchdown pass from Christian Lewis to Cole Speer and took a 14-7 lead with a 56-yard strike from Lewis to Quin Smith in early in the second quarter. The Yellow Jackets' other touchdown came on a 70-yard pass from Lewis to Speer as McCallie two-way star Eric Rivers went down with a cramp while allowing the score.
Despite the big plays, McCallie coach Ralph Potter felt his team performed well and made plays when it mattered.
"For the most part we did OK," he said. "We gave up those three big plays but other than that we did OK."
Trailing 14-13 at intermission, McCallie's defense got even tougher in the second half. Calhoun managed only 28 rushing yards on 16 carries in the game and just 10 yards after halftime.
The Blue Tornado (2-1) picked off four passes — John David Tessman had two interceptions and Nick Robinson and Michael May grabbed one apiece — and a big fourth-quarter fumble recovery by Thomas Pilon to give the McCallie offense short fields to work with.
"Give the credit to them," Calhoun coach Clay Stephenson said. "We didn't just hand it to them. They made some good plays on the ball to get those interceptions and that fumble. Every time the ball hit the ground, we couldn't get on it and they could.
"You can't have that many turnovers and come away with the win against a quality program like that."
Harris wasn't the only star for the Blue Tornado offense. William Riddle threw for 193 yards and three touchdowns, Rivers caught two touchdown passes and Kenzy Paul had one receiving score.
The Blue Tornado offense had 222 of its 406 yards in the second half to pull away for the win in a big showdown on a big stage.
"In the first half, I think the defense was amazing," Harris said. "They started off great, but we couldn't get our run game going as much as we should. We had our halftime talk about the plays we could fix and the plays we could do better, then we just came out in the second half and went to work."
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