McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO
Head coach: Ralph Potter (167-79 here; 235-111 overall)
Returning starters: 6 offensive; 6 defensive
Last year's record: 10-3, lost in TSSAA Division II-AAA semifinals
Key players: Jay St-Hilaire (6-4, 220) Sr. QB, Carson Gentle (6-4, 250) Sr. DL, Olivier Camerlain (6-6, 255) Sr. TE/DE, Marcellus Barnes (6-1, 180) Sr. WR/DB, Paul-Marie Dogui (6-2, 235) Sr. TE/DE, Carson Lawrence (6-2, 180) Jr. WR, Ja'Von McMahan (6-0, 190) Sr. RB, Enrique Jaimes LeClair (6-1, 190) Sr. WR, Mathieu Herbert (6-4, 200) Sr. WR.
Season outlook: After ending three straight seasons at the top of DII-AAA as state champions, last fall was marked by frustration for the Blue Tornado, whose three losses came by a combined eight points: by three to Montgomery Bell Academy in the regular season, by four at Baylor after having led by 10 in the fourth quarter with possession of the ball, and a one-point heartbreaker at MBA in the state semis when a late 2-point conversion attempt was stopped.
"It was a frustrating year in a lot of ways," Potter said. "Our coaches and players all feel like we let those games we lost get away from us. It has not set well with any of us."
Along with the admitted chip on the shoulder, there is plenty of talent on the roster, both returning and newly injected, to once again compete at the highest level in the state. It begins with a pair of all-state players — St-Hilaire, who's committed to Vanderbilt, and Gentle, who's committed to Tennessee — as well as receivers Barnes, a four-star recruit committed to Virginia Tech, and Lawrence, who recently committed to Vanderbilt.
Camerlain, Dogui and the speedy LeClair also bring loads of potential, as does McMahan, who takes over as the main option at running back.
"We're deep at the skill positions and at linebacker, but our concern is up front on both sides," Potter said. "We're two deep everywhere else, and even though the offensive line is young and smaller than we've been in the past, I like how scrappy they are.
"Leadership during the preseason has been phenomenal. Even the new guys understand the level of commitment that's needed to compete at the level we want. It will be a very mature football team."
The season's tone will likely be determined by a brutal four-week stretch in September, beginning with back-to-back trips to Memphis University School and Brentwood Academy, followed by home games against MBA and reigning state champ Baylor.
Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected].