Chattanooga Christian hosts McCallie in opener that will offer valuable gauge

Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Chattanooga Christian will host McCallie on Friday night in a season-opening matchup of TSSAA Division II football programs from different regions and classifications.

It has no bearing on either football team's playoff fate, but it's certainly the type of early gauge that will help both Chattanooga Christian School and McCallie prepare for those future region games that actually do determine TSSAA postseason seeding.

Although it's been a mismatch in most years — with CCS an up-and-comer in Tennessee's midsize private school division and McCallie at or near the top of the state's largest and toughest league — the matchup has helped the Chargers pinpoint areas where work is needed to compete with the elite teams in Division II-AA.

For DII-AAA's Blue Tornado, it's simply an advantage to have an area team not in their region willing to schedule them annually. With the exception of perennial GHSA power Calhoun from northwest Georgia in 2020-21, the last local team willing to schedule McCallie besides CCS was Red Bank in 2016.

With the exception of the pandemic-altered 2020 season, CCS and McCallie have played every year since 2017. And while the Blue Tornado have won all of those meetings, with an average margin of 38-7, their head coach will take nothing for granted when they visit the Chargers on Friday night to open the season.

"A win would be nice," McCallie's Ralph Potter said when asked what he looked to learn from his team, which returns six starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Jay St-Hilaire and defensive lineman Carson Gentle, a pair of all-state performers who are committed to Vanderbilt and Tennessee, respectively.

"They have a good team, and Coach (Grant) Reynolds is a really good coach," Potter added. "They look big and strong up front and have good athletes across the field. The games have gotten a lot more competitive over the past couple of years, so we expect a good test right away."

McCallie led 14-0 at halftime in last year's meeting before pulling away slightly in the second half en route to an eventual 21-point win.

From there, CCS reeled off eight straight wins and both teams eventually reached the semifinals of their respective playoffs. The Chargers, however, must replace 17 seniors and will have new starters in several key positions, including an entirely new offensive backfield of quarterback Gavin Berger, who transferred from Battle Ground Academy, and running back Darrell Brown. Dre Jackson, meanwhile, is a big-play threat at receiver who was not on the roster last year.

CCS also will be under the direction of its third head coach in four years as Reynolds takes over, although he has a history of building championship-caliber programs.

"From our standpoint, this is a chance to open the season by being competitive against a really good team in a big-time environment," Reynolds said. "Also, for any of our kids who aspire to play in college, this is an opportunity to play against other college prospects.

"With some of the guys we lost off last year's team, I'm sure there are people who have written us off this season, and I've spoken to our kids about earning respect as a new team and a new staff. This is a fresh start and nothing is given, so this is the first shot we have to go out and earn our own respect with how we compete."

Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected].

  photo  Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / McCallie football coach Ralph Potter led the Blue Tornado to three straight state titles from 2019 to 2021, but a narrow semifinal loss last year kept the program from returning to the BlueCross Bowl.



Games begin at 7:30 p.m. unless noted

Thursday, Aug. 17


Pepperell at Northwest Whitfield, 7 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 18


Bledsoe County at Sequatchie County, 8 p.m.

Bradley Central at McMinn County

Central at Ooltewah

Chattanooga Prep at Boyd Buchanan

Cleveland at Clinton

East Hamilton at Hixson

East Ridge at Marion County

Lookout Valley at Grace Academy

McCallie at Chattanooga Christian

McMinn Central at Signal Mountain

Notre Dame at Walker Valley

Oliver Springs at South Pittsburg, 8 p.m.

Polk County at Copper Basin

Rabun Gap (Ga.) at Baylor

Sale Creek at Midway

Soddy-Daisy at Rhea County

Tyner at Red Bank

White County at Silverdale Baptist

Whitwell at Huntland, 8 p.m.


Armuchee at Gordon Central

Calhoun at Blessed Trinity

Chattooga at LaFayette

Christian Heritage at North Cobb Christian

Coahulla Creek at Murray County

Coosa at Southeast Whitfield

Dade County at Athens Academy

Dalton at North Murray

Gordon Lee at Trion

Lakeview-F.O. at Gilmer

Ringgold at Heritage

Sonoraville at Pickens

Saturday, Aug. 19


Brainerd at Howard, 5 p.m.