McCallie School running back Ja’Von McMahan has played in a couple of Baylor-McCallie games. He’s won one and he’s lost one. Of Thursday night’s showdown between the two in the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Bowl for the Division II Class AAA state title, he condenses the ramifications of this game into six words: “It’s really all about braggin’ rights.”
Or as McCallie coach Ralph Potter said, “Downtown, they talk about it in boardrooms and law offices all year long.”
Indeed, as has long been discussed in the Scenic City, when you’re asked where you went to school, they aren’t asking where you went to college, but where you went to prep school, as in did you go to Baylor or McCallie? Do you bleed Baylor Red or McCallie Blue?
But never before in the 118-year history of McCallie (Baylor is 130 years old), have the two schools played for a football state championship, so the excitement, the hype, the nerves are all at a fever pitch this week heading into the 7 p.m.
kickoff at Finley Stadium.
“We’re just honored to be here and a part of this game, what’s going to be a historic matchup,” said Baylor coach Erik Kimrey, who’ll be attempting to win his second straight Division II Class AAA crown in his second season coaching the Red Raiders, a remarkable achievement. “It’s just incredible to think we get to do this.”
Said Potter, “It’s going to be a historic moment for our city and our two schools. It’s really gonna be fun to take part in it and I hope we can do well.”
In one of the best games played between the two in the 90-game series _ and Baylor believes they’ve played 92 times because of two “club team” wins _ McCallie won the first meeting this year 34-31 at its Spears Stadium in the kind of game you might expect between teams ranked No. 1 (McCallie) and No. 2 (Baylor) at that time.
At the end of that one, both Kimrey and Potter believed they’d see the other again and here they are. By 10 o’clock Thursday night EST, Baylor will either have repeated as state champ, or McCallie will be claiming its fourth title in five seasons.
Said Baylor wide receiver Amari Jefferson, who’s a verbal commit to Alabama, “The ultimate goal is to get a state championship.To get that opportunity again is special and then to do it against McCallie is going to be even more special.”
Countered McCallie linebacker Carson Gentle, a Tennessee verbal commit :”It’s a great honor to be able to make it this far. We couldn’t be in a better spot, so it’s exciting.”
It’s a stacked roster for both sides.each team possessing a handful of Power Five conference commits with several more mid-level FBS and FCS level talent sprinkled in.
Of Baylor’s numerous offensive weapons, Potter mused, “It’s just like playing a Power Five All-Star team.”
Countered Kimrey, “Same way about your defense.”
That Baylor offense has been explosive of late. And its defense has improved., Since its loss to McCallie at the end of September, Baylor has won its last five games by an average score of 45-10.
As Potter said Wednesday, “We’re not going to stop them. We just have to try to stop them a couple of times more than they stop us.”
But at the end of the day, one side will win and one side will lose and Chattanooga’s board rooms and law offices will have to deal with Red or Blue braggin’ rights at least until they meet again next autumn.
Said McMahan, “It’s always going to be a rivalry. It’s always going to be Baulor-McCallie. But for the town, I think this game is really big, really special..”