Ralph Potter has probably never been happier to get an ice-water bath following a football win than he was Thursday night at Finley Stadium.
With McCallie hosting Cleveland in the season-opener for both teams, what had been billed as a close game between two pretty good teams turned into a romp as the Blue Tornado put 22 points on the board in both halves en route to a 44-0 victory.
The Blue Tornado took advantage of speed in their running game and the fact that Cleveland's defense is riddled with injuries already, but McCallie appeared to be clicking on all cylinders as they finished with 472 total yards on offense, including 360 on the ground.
And the Blue Tornado defense even got into the act as one interception led to a touchdown early in the third quarter while another pick was returned 24 yards by sophomore Kendall Watson for a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter.
But this game never was close as McCallie took the opening kickoff and marched 61 yards in four plays, getting first downs on all four including a 24-yard pass from junior quarterback JaVaughn Craig to senior Tyler Payne with just 70 seconds elapsed off the first-quarter clock.
Craig scored on a nifty 85-yard sprint on an option play with 4:40 showing in the first while a tackle by Giovanni Hightower on T.J. Parker for a four-yard loss resulted in a safety and it was 15-0 before the first quarter ended.
Alex Trotter, surely one of the fastest high school football players around, raced 65 yards with 4:19 left in the second as McCallie carried a 22-0 lead into the dressing room at the half.
Cleveland received the second-half kickoff, but an interception by McCallie's Shawn McColley was returned 39 yards to the Cleveland 14 and it was quickly 30-0 after Trotter scored from the 1.
Backup quarterback Robert Riddle scored on a keeper from the 12 with 3:24 left in the third while that interception return by Watson concluded the scoring as the clock ran non-stop in the fourth quarter.
"I didn't flinch a bit," Potter said when asked how that ice water bath felt on a hot and muggy summer evening.
"It's hard not to be pleased, but it's still so early, we'll just take this with a grain of salt. We made a couple of athletic plays in the first half and we played good defense, but I'm sure there are things we can improve on.
"I'm much more happy than I was here last week, but we got off to a really good start and we felt like that set the tone for the entire game. Alex had fresh legs, but our offensive line did a nice job up front. It's a long season, but this is a nice way to get started," he added.
Cleveland coach Ron Crawford certainly didn't like the outcome, but he knows that his team is better than what they showed if they can somehow get past this rash of early-season injuries.
"Success is never final and failure is never fatal," he told his kids following the game.
"We knew our opponent would make life tough, but we wilted in the heat, especially in the second half. They just wore us down as the game progressed, but we'll go back to the drawing board and we'll learn from this.
"The heat affected us tremendously, but we can't afford to turn the ball over and expect to win. I thought we battled defensively in the first half, but we were really thin on defenders in the second half and it took a toll," he stated.
Trotter, a member of McCallie's state champion 400-meter relay team, had been hampered by injuries in the pre-season, but he appeared to be feeling good as he finished with 157 yards on 16 carries. He had touchdown runs of 65 and 1 yard.
Craig only carried the ball twice, but he finished with 93 yards rushing as McCallie piled up 360 yards on the ground.
Payne led the McCallie receivers with 36 yards on three grabs while Myles Patton and Romeo Gibbs both had two for 30 and 13 yards, respectively.
Parker was the leading rusher for Cleveland as he finished with 16 yards on 11 carries. McCallie was well prepared for him as he never had a chance to get in the open field.
Jacob Gibson had two receptions for 35 yards while Raekwon Bunion had one for 27. Romeo Wykle and Jay McIntyre both had one catch each for 13 yards.
Cleveland had its best drive midway through the third quarter when they marched from their own 19 down to the McCallie 3, only to be stopped on fourth-and-goal when Austin Massey's pass was incomplete.
While McCallie finished with 472 total yards, Cleveland finished with 126, including 22 on the ground and 104 through the air.
McCallie will head to Athens next Friday for a game with McMinn County while Cleveland will be at home to host Cookeville.
CLEVELAND 0 0 0 0 -- 0
McCALLIE 15 7 22 0 -- 44
M -- Tyler Payne 24 pass from JaVaughn Craig (Drew Viscomi kick), 10:50 left in first;
M -- Craig 85 run (kick failed), 4:40 left in first;
M -- Safety when Giovanni Hightower tackled T.J. Parker in end zone, 1:18 left in first;
M -- Alex Trotter 65 run (Viscomi kick), 4:19 left in second;
M -- Trotter 1 run (Payne run), 9:45 left in third;
M -- Robert Riddle 12 run (Viscomi kick), 3:24 left in third;
M -- Kendall Watson 24 interception return (Viscomi kick), 0:00 left in third.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)