CLEVELAND -- They had a shootout at Benny Monroe Stadium Thursday night and the visiting McCallie Blue Tornado came out ahead.
In a game where big-time defensive plays were few and far between, McCallie scored four touchdowns in each half and headed back home with a 55-35 non-region victory over the Blue Raiders.
If you like a lot of offense in high school football, then you should have been there because it was a dandy.
Austin Herink, Cleveland's highly-rated southpaw quarterback, had a brilliant performance in a losing effort as he completed 27 of 42 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns.
He also had a two-yard scoring run for Cleveland's first touchdown.
McCallie sophomore JaVaughn Craig, who was shifted from wide receiver to quarterback just three weeks ago, had the game of his life as he completed 16 of 20 passes for 303 yards. He was also the second leading rusher for the Blue Tornado as he picked up 89 yards on 18 carries.
Andrew Busby had two touchdowns for McCallie, including a one-yard run that got the ball rolling with 7:09 remaining in the opening quarter. His second came on a run from the 9 with 2:29 to play in the third.
But in a game where the defensive secondary got burned repeatedly on both sides, McCallie got the only turnover in the game when Kirsh Duncombe recovered a fumble late in the second quarter at the McCallie 35.
The Blue Tornado had a 27-14 lead at that point and the fumble kept the Blue Raiders from possibly getting to within a touchdown by intermission.
McCallie took the second-half kickoff and marched 80 yards in seven plays, using just over two minutes to make it 34-14 following a 44-yard pass from Vaughn to Spencer Morgan.
Cleveland came right back and scored back-to-back touchdowns to get within 34-28, but McCallie got a 94-yard kickoff return from Jeffery Coleman to stop that momentum before Busby's second TD just over two minutes later.
Those two McCallie touchdowns basically took the wind out of Cleveland's sails as the Blue Raiders never got much closer.
"It was all about the way our team executed, but it was a great team effort," said Craig shortly after the game ended.
"I'm not used to throwing that many passes, but it came naturally for me tonight," he added.
"JaVaughn has been our emergency quarterback and has done a lot better than we expected. He's so new, I hate to put too much praise on him. But for the first game of the year, I'm glad to get a win," said McCallie coach Ralph Potter.
"The Cleveland quarterback is really good. I think we had four busts in our defensive secondary, but I was looking at a film from last year and not a single defensive starter tonight was starting in our first game a year ago. We're brand new on defense.
"That kickoff return was huge as it was a big momentum shift," Potter added.
Cleveland coach Ron Crawford felt like 35 points would have been enough to win, but that wasn't the case in this game.
"We were hoping that we wouldn't get in a track meet with those guys. We scored 35 points, which ought to have been enough for a win. We had three missed scoring opportunities, but I don't think we quit.
"I thought that our offense executed well, but we made too many mistakes on defense. It seemed like we had a tough time getting off the field defensively, but McCallie has some speed and their quarterback did a great job.
"We need to tackle better, but their quarterback got loose too many times. And I need to do a better job of coaching, but everything is fixable," Crawford added.
While Craig was piling up 303 passing yards, the McCallie running game took control in the second half and finished with 294 yards on 53 attempts. That's 597 total yards for McCallie on 73 offensive plays for an average of just over eight yards per play.
Junior Alex Trotter was the leading rusher with 117 yards on 18 carries while Tyler Payne added 40 yards on five trips.
Morgan was the leading receiver for McCallie with 157 yards on seven catches while C.J. Fritz added 109 yards on six grabs. The Blue Tornado finished with 26 first downs.
Tyler Davis was the leading receiver for Cleveland with 159 yards on six catches, including a 60-yard TD in the first quarter.
D.J. Jones also had a productive evening with six grabs for 118 yards, including TDs of 25 and 4 yards. Parker Smith added 95 yards on seven snags.
The Cleveland running game was basically non-existent as it finished with 25 yards on 17 carries. Raekwon Bunion was the leader with 40 yards on nine carries. The Blue Raiders finished with 18 first downs.
McCallie will be at home next Friday to host McMinn County while Cleveland will be on the road to face Cookeville.
McCallie 21 6 21 7 -- 55
Cleveland 14 0 14 7 -- 35
M -- Andrew Busby 1 run (Peter Phillips kick), 7:09 left in first;
C -- Austin Herink 2 run (Oscar Galvan kick), 5:35 left in first;
M -- C.J. Fritz 71 pass from JaVaughn Craig (Phillips kick), 5:05 left in first;
M -- Alex Trotter 3 run (Phillips kick), 3:04 left in first;
C -- Tyler Davis 60 pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 1:37 left in first;
M -- Craig 2 run (kick failed), 3:52 left in second;
M -- Spencer Morgan 44 pass from Craig (Phillips kick), 9:32 left in third;
C -- D.J. Jones 25 pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 6:49 left in third;
C -- Parker Smith 20 pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 5:41 left in third;
M -- Jeffery Coleman 94 kickoff return (Phillips kick), 5:25 left in third;
M -- Busby 9 run (Phillips kick), 2:29 left in third;
C -- Jones 4 pass from Herink (Galvan kick), 11:39 left in fourth;
M -- Craig 2 run (Phillips kick), 11:22 left in fourth.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)