With the game in hand, McCallie’s offense unleashed an impressive third-quarter drive that exemplified Cleveland’s inability to handle the Blue Tornado offense Thursday night at Finley Stadium.
The Blue Raiders’ only real scoring threat ended at McCallie’s 3 on successive incomplete passes by quarterback Austin Massey to intended receivers Eric Goodwin and Rod Dennard.
McCallie got the ball on downs.
The Blue Tornado could barely see the other end of Davenport Field, but in nine plays covered 97 yards, with reserve quarterback Robert Riddle scoring from 12 yards out on a keeper to push the lead to 37-0 with 3:24 left to play in the third.
“That came from all the work we put in over the summer and preparation during the week for the game,” said quarterback JaVaughn Craig, who had given way to Riddle a few minutes before the long drive. “We have an offensive line that does a great job for us and I give them a lot of credit for our success tonight. Without them we don’t get much of that yardage.”
Seven of the nine plays on the long drive went for at least 12 yards and as much as 15.
Running back Maxim Yeoh bolted for runs of 12 and 15 yards and had five carries on the drive for 42 yards.
Running back Alex Trotter twice had runs of 13 yards to open the drive and Paul Silverblatt had a 13-yard scamper in between Yeoh’s double-digit bursts.
Craig thought the Tornado’s ground game had a chance to be successful against the Blue Raiders.
“Yes, I did,” he said. “I thought we could do both – run and throw. We have a very balanced offense. The coaches do a great job setting up plays for us and having us in the right positions to make plays.
Craig got the McCallie scoring started with a 24-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Tyler Payne with 10:50 left in the first quarter.
The talented quarterback then capped a 90-yard, two-play drive with an 85-yard scoring gallop. Craig took the shotgun snap, ran to his right, faked a pitch to the trailing back, darted toward the left and raced down the far sideline for the touchdown.
“Cleveland plays a defense where they drop three defensive backs and I felt we could get out-routes on them all day,” Craig said. “We thought our quick pitches and option run game would work well against them, too. We used that to our advantage. When a team plays to our scheme and what we’re doing, that really benefits us.”
Craig ran only twice for 93 yards and completed 8 of 14 passes for 87 yards before turning the reins over to Riddle in the second half.
Trotter, a senior, finished with 152 yards on 16 carries and rambled 65 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter that gave McCallie a stunning 22-0 advantage.
Trotter’s effort helped McCallie pile up 472 yards of total offense, including 360 on the ground.
“I ran all right,” said Trotter, who ran on McCallie’s state champion 400-meter relay team last spring. “I trusted my line and their blocking. All week we worked on middle runs and perimeter blocking and the linemen and receivers really blocked well for me all night. They either got me around the edge of opened things up the middle.
“I came into the game thinking it was going to be hard because you can never underestimate a team like Cleveland. We just got after them. This was a good win.”
McCallie’s defense stymied Cleveland at every turn, holding the Blue Raiders to 126 yards of offense, just 22 on the ground.
Blue Raiders quarterback Austin Massey was pressured, hurried, forced out of the pocket and several times when he threw strikes the receivers dropped the ball.
Cleveland gained 42 yards of total offense at halftime, just 2 on the ground. Massey had minus-9 and star running back T.J. Parker, who is shooting for 2,200 yards rushing in his senior season, managed only 16 yards on 11 tries.
“This is probably one of the worst feelings you can have,” Parker said. “To work so hard over the summer, put everything you have into it and fall as short as we did is heartbreaking. But I’d rather it happen at the beginning of the season than in a game later on that keeps us out of the playoffs.”
Parker suffered a left leg injury in the first half and carried the ball once early in the third quarter before leaving the game. He was sitting on the Cleveland sideline with his leg propped up on a Gatorade container.
“I can’t really say what happened,” he said. “They were checking the tape on my leg and said I had a big cut and it was swollen. They said to back out there and see how it goes after halftime.
It was hurting and felt numb.”
Parker didn’t use the injury as an excuse for putting up low numbers. Instead, he credited McCallie’s tenacious defense.
“They are fundamentally sound and do what they’re coached to do,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for their defense.”
McCallie’s junior defensive lineman Corey McDonald was one reason Massey had a hard time getting the Blue Raiders’ offense cranked up.
McDonald sacked Massey for a 4-yard loss on the second play of the second quarter.
“I let him slip away another time so I should have had two sacks,” McDonald said. “Our main goal was to contain Massey and get him on the ground. We also wanted to stop Parker and their running game and force them into passing because we may have the fastest secondary in the state.”
McCallie’s Giovanni Hightower tackled Parker in the end zone for a safety late in the first quarter, giving the Blue Tornado a 15-0 lead.
On Cleveland’s next possession, Hays Cape almost intercepted a Massey pass on third down, forcing a 36-yard field goal try that came up well short.
Cleveland’s last possession of the first half was ruined when Massey was sacked twice in a three-play stretch for a total of minus-10 yards.
In the third quarter, McColley intercepted Massey at the Cleveland 47 and returned it to the 14. Three plays later Trotter scored from the 1 and McCallie was up 30-0.
Sophomore Kendall Watson picked off a Massey pass late in the game and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown and the final seconds – it was a mercy rule running clock throughout the fourth quarter – ticked away.
“We executed our plays on defense,” McDonald said. “We played hard and were physical. When we got in the goal-line situation we bowed our backs. I’m feeling good right now.”
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)