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Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Caleb Hampton runs the ball for Baylor during the rivalry game against McCallie in October 2020.

Even among the select, they have achieved upper-class status.

Although that narrative could also refer to where Baylor and McCallie stand in terms of financial aid given to student-athletes — Baylor offers just more than $2.9 million annually and McCallie a little more than $2.3 million (around $566,000 more than the next-closest school in Tennessee, according to TSSAA records) — it is a fitting endorsement of each school's football footing in its Division II-AAA surroundings.

The Blue Tornado are currently ranked No. 1 in DII-AAA after winning the past two state titles, while No. 5 Baylor has reached at least the state quarterfinals in nine of the past 11 seasons, including consecutive runner-up finishes in 2010-11. That means Friday night's rivalry renewal at McCallie is also a showdown of the state's football aristocrats because both teams have legitimate championship aspirations.

But while the game will determine playoff positioning in DII-AAA's East/Middle Region, of more immediate concern for the visiting Red Raiders will be trying to snap a five-game losing streak in the series.

"We don't mention it to our guys," Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "We don't really have to. They know, everyone on both sides knows the importance of this game."

The series has produced inexplicable streaks on both sides before. Baylor won five straight from 2009-13, not long after the Blue Tornado won 11 consecutive (1998-2006).

This year, McCallie (5-0, 2-0) already own three wins over state-ranked opponents, including Georgia power Calhoun and a 37-point thumping of DII-AAA's No. 2-ranked Knoxville Catholic two weeks ago. But now the test is familiar Baylor, and the Chattanooga rivals nearly mirror one another in terms of offensive output — each has averaged more than 40 points per game — and college prospects.

Despite replacing eight starters from last season, McCallie's offense has not dropped off, thanks largely to senior quarterback William Riddle's steady presence. Riddle has thrown for 1,168 yards, 16 touchdowns and has yet to have a pass intercepted. Much of that total has gone to Xavier Gaillardetz, who has averaged 19.1 yards on 25 catches, while junior running back Ontario Price is a big-play threat as well, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

Baylor (5-1, 1-1), which has scored 50-plus points twice this season, is on a three-game winning streak after a road loss to Knox Catholic. Cooper Wick (1,109 passing yards) and junior running back Caleb Hampton (807 rushing yards, 8.4 per carry) form arguably the area's top backfield, and the defense is led by linebacker Trey McDonald, who has committed to Virginia.

One college coach who plans to be in attendance summed up the showdown this way: "It's a game where you have to plan to get there early, not only to beat the crowd coming in but to have time to be able to walk around and check out all the talent on both teams during warmups."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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