Two of the three Chattanooga-area players who were named finalists for the Tennessee Titans Mr. Football award Tuesday still have work to do on the field. McCallie quarterback William Riddle (Division II-AAA) and South Pittsburg running back De'Andre Kelly (Class 1A) each have helped their team remain alive in their respective classification's playoff bracket, while Meigs County athlete Cam Huckabey, whose team was eliminated in the second round after consecutive appearances in the 2A BlueCross Bowl, was also named a finalist Tuesday evening.
Riddle has led the Blue Tornado to the state championship game — where they will try to claim a third straight title next Thursday against MBA — and is the fourth finalist in five seasons for the program, while Kelly, whose team travels to Cloudland for a semifinal game Friday, is the fifth Pirates player in six years to be honored as a finalist.
The TSSAA trimmed each of the state's nine classification's list from five semifinalists to three finalists during an online ceremony Tuesday evening on the Titans website. The award winner will be revealed at the annual Mr. Football banquet on Dec. 7 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
The award is based on players regular-season performances — the playoffs do not factor into the decision. All three local players are seniors and each helped their team claim a region title and remain state-ranked throughout the regular season.
Riddle, a two-year starter who helped McCallie win its second straight state title last season, threw for 2,489 yards and 34 touchdowns in guiding his team to its first unbeaten regular season in 20 years. He did not throw and interception through the top-ranked Blue Tornado's first eight games.
His older brother, Robert — who was on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga roster this season — was also a Mr. Football finalist for McCallie in 2016.
"William has led us to a lot of wins, and that's the defining characteristic of a good quarterback," Blue Tornado coach Ralph Potter said. "He's a great leader. I've rarely coached someone who sees the things he does on the field and is able to put the ball where it needs to be with such consistency."
South Pittsburg played just eight regular-season games, but Kelly has totaled 1,066 yards, with 906 of that coming on the ground, where he has averaged 9.5 yards per carry and scored 14 TDs. The 6-foot, 195-pounder has also returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score and intercepted a pass against Class 6A's top-ranked Oakland.
"Dae-Dae has a great work ethic and comes to work hard every day," said Pirates co-head coach Wes Stone. "I'm really excited for him to have this opportunity. No one deserves it more."
Huckabey helped Meigs County win its region title for a fifth consecutive year before being knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by Trousdale County. He led the Tigers with 400 receiving yards and five TDs and finished among the area's leaders with four interceptions on defense, including one returned for a score.
On special teams he returned both a kickoff and punt for TDs, averaging 37 yards per kickoff return and 21 yards on punt returns, and led the area with a 44.3-yard punting average.
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