In a battle of border state powers, two of the area’s most accomplished football programs lined up on opposite Finley Stadium sidelines Friday night looking for a resume win. It was the pride of the Peach state versus a Tennessee titan, with 12 state title appearances and six state titles between the two programs.
And for all but one 47-second stretch of actual game time in the fourth period, Calhoun versus McCallie was everything it had been billed in a back-and-forth confrontation that had both sides of the stadium standing.
Those 47 seconds, though, saw the defending Tennessee state champs put up three touchdowns and in a blink of an eye, and the boys in blue took control in an eventual 38-22 victory.
Bolstered by five forced turnovers, a relentless dose of Missouri commit B.J. Harris and the poised quarterback play of William Riddle, McCallie was clearly the better of the two giants. Harris opened the final period with a 3-yard scoot to give McCallie a 25-22 lead with 11:17 left in the battle. Calhoun fumbled on its first play after the kickoff and big Thomas Pilon pounced on it at the 17. Harris went untouched on the next play to make it 32-22 just 17 seconds later. Lightning struck again, this time with Riddle hitting Eric Rivers all alone for a 3`-yard score on the first play after John David Tessman second interception and it was 19 points in 47 seconds to all but end the suspense.
“Yeah, the turnovers killed us. We had some opportunities in the first half to pull away and couldn’t do it, and that goes back on us. You aren’t going to win a game like this with five turnovers, but credit McCallie because we didn’t give it to them,” said Calhoun coach Clay Stephenson.
The Jackets had hit home runs on all three of their scores and it seemed as if a big play was sitting in their pocket at all times no matter how much McCallie controlled the time of possession. Calhoun got the first one on a 98-yard pitch to Cole Speer after McCallie had been thwarted twice on downs deep in Calhoun territory, turning it over on downs at the 14 and 25 on its first two drives. Jacket quarterback Christian Lewis dropped into his end zone and found Speer just past midfield and Speer won the race to the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 2:43 left in the opening quarter.
McCallie bounced back with a preview of what was to come. Tessman intercepted a Lewis pass and sure enough Harris did his thing, reeling off a 17-yard run before crashing in with the tying score from the 3 just before the period ended.
“When the defense goes out and does its job, you have to reward them. And that’s what we tried to do,” said Harris, who scored three times and was a workhorse with 33 carries and 206 rushing yards.
Calhoun again went big play with Lewis linking up with Will Seamons for a 56-yard pitch-and-run just two plays in the second period to make it 14-7, but McCallie used another interception, this one by Michael May, to set up a score before half. On a fourth-and-5 play, Riddle ran to his right, stopped and flipped it back across the field to Kenzy Paul, and when Jack Gentle demolished the would-be tackler, Paul went in untouched for a 17-yard score. A missed PAT left it 14-13 at the break.
Perhaps the biggest question mark facing McCallie coming into the year was replacing quarterback DeAngelo Hardy, but Riddle seems to have settled into the role nicely. Riddle completed 15-of-24 attempts for 193 yards, including three TD passes.
“He threw the ball really well tonight. Nobody is going to fill DeLo’s shoes, but William has a lot of poise and it showed tonight. The two fourth-down throws kept us in it when we needed them,” said McCallie boss Ralph Potter.
It was Riddle who gave McCallie the lead again in the third and it came with two big throws. The first was an 18-yard toss to Jose Osa on a third-and-22 before converting the fourth-down with a 29-yard pass to Eric Rivers to put McCallie on top 19-14.
Lewis again responded for Calhoun, staying in the pocket as a big defensive lineman bore down, hitting Steer across the middle, and when Rivers’ leg cramped up in chase, Steer was off to the races for a 70-yard score. The two-point conversion made it 22-19.
“Other than the three big plays, I thought we did some good things on defense. We had a blown coverage on the first one, a bad matchup on the second one, and bad luck with Rivers’ cramp on the third one. But we got better today. We were better today than we were last week,” Potter said.
One constant for the Big Blue, continues to be Harris. He slashed and gashed the Jacket defense time and again. It was his best game since last season’s 259-yard outing against Father Ryan.
“B.J. just continues to get better. The improvement he made from his sophomore year to junior year is the same type of improvement he has made this year. It helps having him back there as a workhorse, especially when you are trying to salt one away,” Potter added.
It was almost all Harris after Calhoun seized the lead. His two TD runs aside in the fourth period, he carried it seven times as McCallie bled away the clock, gaining 64 fourth quarter yards. McCallie wound up running 73 offensive plays to Calhoun’s 45.
Calhoun’s Steer had a monster game as well with his seven catches accounting for 220 of the Jacket’s 340 total yards of offense. Aside from the three big plays, though, McCallie held Calhoun to 90 yards of offense in the other 42 plays. Offensively, the Blue Tornado rolled up 406 total yards.
Tessman had two of the four interceptions while Nic Robinson added one and May one. Matthew Plunkett had a pair of sacks as well.
Calhoun will travel to Cedartown next Friday while McCallie plays at Knox Catholic.
CALHOUN 7 7 8 0 – 22
MCCALLIE 7 6 6 19 – 38
CA – Cole Speer 98 pass from Christian Lewis (Carlos Orozoco kick) (2:43, 1st)
MC – B.J. Harris 3 run (Jack Conklin kick) (0:12, 1st)
CA – Will Seamons 56 pass from Christian Lewis (Carlos Orozoco kick) (11:44, 2nd)
MC – Kenzy Paul 17 pass from William Riddle (kick failed) (4:01, 2nd)
MC – Eric Rivers 29 pass from William Riddle (Pass failed) (6:18, 3rd)
CA – Cole Speer 70 pass from Christian Lewis (Will Seamons run) (2:03, 3rd)
MC – B.J. Harris 3 run (Run failed) (11:17, 4th)
MC – B.J. Harris 17 run (Jack Conklin kick) (11:00, 4th)
MC – Eric Rivers 31 pass from William Riddle (Kick failed) (10:36, 4th)
CA STATS MC
7 1st Downs 22
16-28 Rush 49-213
314 Pass 193
342 Total 406
15-29-4 Passes 15-24-0
6-68 Penalties 7-68
6-32.2 Punts 5-46.4
1-1 Fumbles 2-0
Rushing: Jerrian Hames 13-33, Christian Lewis 3-(-5) (C); B.J. Harris 33-206, Nic Robinson 2-23, Austin Breedlove 2-14, Zack Porter 1-(-2) (M).
Passing: Christian Lewis 15-29-4 314 yards (C); Willaim Riddle 15-21-0 193 yards (M), Austin Breedlove 0-3-0 0 yards (M).
Receiving: ACOle Speer 7-220, Jerrian Hames 3-23, WillSeamons 2-54, Peyton Law 1-9 (C); Eric Rivers 5-68, Jose Osa 5-59, Kenzy Paul 4-61, Emile Bellerose 1-5 (M).
Records: Calhoun (1-1), McCallie (2-1)
(Contact James Beach via email at email@example.com or Twitter @beachnut1134)