Jackets rally past Dalton in wild football opener

Senior wideout Cole Speer catches the first touchdown pass of the game for Calhoun in a 42-35 comeback win for the Jackets.

Two unbeaten football teams looking to remain that way will square off Friday night at Phil Reeve Stadium when Calhoun entertains Chattanooga McCallie in town.

Both teams marched up and down the field last Friday night in winning their openers last week with Calhoun outlasting Dalton, 42-35, while McCallie scored six touchdowns in the middle two quarters to roll past Chattanooga Christian, 46-7, just north of the Georgia border.

The Blue Tornado come into the game having already earned a ton of credibility in Tennessee.

Coming off an outstanding 10-3 season last year that included a 38-22 win over Calhoun in week two in Chattanooga, McCallie is presently the number-three ranked overall team in the state of Tennessee.

They are also ranked second in the statewide Tennessee Division II-AAA poll and they are the number one ranked team overall in Chatanooga.

And the Blue Tornado looked the part against Chattanooga Christian in their first game, throwing for nearly 400 yards with senior quarterback William Riddle hooking up with his receivers to make numerous big plays.

Using a moving pocket after a shotgun snap, Riddle was on target to a number of guys out of their four-set receiver offense as McCallie put 25 points on the board in the second quarter and then 21 more in the third for their easy victory, showing just how explosive they can be.

So it would seem the stage is set for another shootout like the one the Yellow Jackets experienced last Friday night because they are no slouch themselves offensively, evidenced by the nearly 440 yards of offense and six touchdowns they put on the board against Dalton.

On some series, they ran the football and others, they came out looking to throw, and on others, they mixed things up, but the bottom line seemed to be that senior quarterback Christopher Lewis and company were effective no matter which way they chose to transport the rock.

Running backs Gage Leonard and sophomore Caden Williams each went over the 100-yard mark in rushing yardage and Lewis himself had a 38-yard touchdown run, weaving his way through a lot of traffic for the first 15 yards or so before he got ahead of the pack at the 20 for the score.

In all, the Jackets ran for 298 yards as a team and passed for 139 more with their first touchdown against the Catamounts coming on a pass while the other five came on the ground.

Calhoun’s first touchdown came after the visitors took a 7-0 lead with a long drive that took about five minutes off the first quarter clock.

With Leonard rushing for 15 yards and Williams collecting 44 more on just two carries, the Jackets traveled 75 yards in seven plays with Lewis throwing a pass over the middle to senior wide receiver Cole Speer for the 26-yard score.

It completed a 75-yard drive that the Jackets needed to run just seven plays .

Their second scoring drive came on a quick five-play, 85-yard journey that culminated in Lewis’s touchdown run.

The big play was a pass to Williams that had a Dalton personal foul penalty tacked on at the end to put the home team outside the Dalton 40. Two plays later, Lewis would run for his touchdown.

The Jackets, who trailed the entire first half, would take control of things with a 21-point third quarter, but could never shake the Catamounts entirely.

They tied the game at 21 by scoring after they took the second-half kickoff.

Starting at their own 25 for the fourth time in the game because the Dalton kicker kept booming the ball through the back of the end zone, they got to midfield almost immediately when Louis completed a 24-yard reception to senior wide receiver Quin Smith on the first snap of the second half.

Three plays and one first down later, Williams broke through a big hole in his offensive line and then cut back to the middle of the field before eventually finding himself in the end zone due to a 37-yard scoring run.

Dalton had a rare 3-and-out on its first possession of the second half, giving Calhoun the football at their own 39.

And on first down, Leonard raced 49 yards and the Jackets were set up nicely at the Dalton 12. Two plays later, Leonard gave his team their first lead of the night with a 9-yard touchdown run that made it 28-21.

Dalton moved into Calhoun territory after the kickoff, but junior defensive back Dustin Kerns picked off a Catamount pass, giving them the ball at their own 46.

The Jackets then covered 54 yards in 10 plays with Lewis scooting in from one yard out to put the home team up, 35-21 as the Men in Black scored three touchdowns in 10 minutes against their rivals from Whitfield County.

Dalton scored the first touchdown of the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game and then recovered the ensuing dropped kickoff, giving them a chance to tie the game.

But on third down, Speer picked off a tipped pass and returned it 45 yards to put the home team at the visitors 24. Three running plays later, Leonard rushed for his second score of the game.

But while the fireworks were going off offensively, the defensive coaches could not have been happy as the rundown crew gave up over 300 yards in total offense and Dalton scored a touchdown in each of the four quarters.

Kickoff Friday night is set for 7:30 p.m. at Phil Reeve Stadium.

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