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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / McCallie's cheerleaders root for the Blue Tornado during Friday night's home win against Father Ryan.

McCallie used a balanced attack with 556 yards of total offense to beat Father Ryan 38-21 on Friday night, clinching at least a share of the Division II-AAA East/Middle Region title and taking the No. 1 seed in the upcoming TSSAA playoffs.

Blue Tornado quarterback William Riddle threw for 282 yards and five touchdowns — three to Kenzy Paul — and Damian Scott rushed 26 times for 265 yards as the two-time reigning state champions improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the region.

"I know what I have to do for my team," Scott said. "They told me that they needed me, and I just did what I had to do. That was what was in my mind, that I had to do what I could, even if it's just getting 5 yards, to set up my team perfectly to score."

Both teams got off to a slow start offensively, with McCallie finally opening the scoring with an 8-yard pass from Riddle to Paul with 4:52 left in the first quarter. The Fighting Irish tied the game on a run by quarterback Matthew Derrick, but Riddle pushed the lead to 21-7 on touchdown passes of 50 yards to Xavier Gaillardetz and 45 yards to Paul.

Father Ryan (5-4, 0-4) refused to fold, and Derrick connected with James Reed III for a 48-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 remaining in the half. McCallie responded with a quick scoring drive of its own, capped by a 12-yard pass from Riddle to Paul with 29 seconds remaining in the second quarter to push the Blue Tornado lead to 28-14 at halftime.

(READ MORE: Final scores and photos from Friday night's Chattanooga-area high school football games)

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McCallie vs. Father Ryan on Oct. 15, 2021

"They got a good drive on us, so we had to make some adjustments," McCallie coach Ralph Potter said. "We played better after that, but we gave that long ball up right before the half to cut it to one touchdown. But our guys came back with a nice drive. That was really good."

Paul said the score late in the first half was important to keep McCallie's game plan on track heading into halftime.

"(Late) in the second quarter, we wanted to get that score to kind of seal the momentum, and that's what we did," he said. "We did let them score late, and we made some mistakes, but we'll be back next weekend."

Riddle had yet another strong showing for McCallie, completing 16 of 26 passes in a performance marred only slightly by throwing just his first interception of the season late in the first quarter.

"My offensive line doesn't get as much credit as they need to, but they deserve a lot of credit for keeping people off of me," Riddle said. "And then just having those beasts out there (at receiver), and knowing I can just trust them to win their routes and win their one-on-one matchups so I can just deliver the ball to them."

In the second half, McCallie scored on a 26-yard field goal by Alex Jacques and a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Riddle to Austin Breedlove, but the McCallie defense and continued strong running by Scott helped McCallie seal the win despite Father Ryan scoring a late touchdown on another run by Derrick.

With the postseason getting closer, McCallie will now focus on preparing for another title run. Despite being undefeated and with an impressive run through region play so far, Scott said he believes the Blue Tornado can do even more in the next few weeks.

"I think we're really good, but I don't think we've reached our full potential yet," he said. "I think we have a lot more in us. Even tonight we had a bad start, but we started picking it up. Now we have to start strong and not even have a bad start. So that's why I don't think we've even reached our full potential."

Contact Jim Tanner at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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