From Staff Reports
Three former local prep standouts were among those selected to the Stump on Sports Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic’s 10-year Anniversary Team, with Dalton’s Jalen Fields and Northwest Whitfield’s Caleb Callahan and Rhett Headden making the cut of the best to play in the game over the years.
The 10th edition of the Classic, which pits recent graduates from high school programs in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia against each other for border bragging rights, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Spears Stadium on the campus of McCallie School in Chattanooga.
Twenty schools — 11 from Georgia and nine from Tennessee — are represented in the 22-player all-star anniversary lineup, with Tennessee’s Red Bank High School leading the way with five selections.
Callahan, a 2005 Northwest graduate who was The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Football Player of the Year his senior season, earned MVP honors when he played in the 2006 Classic, leading the Peach State to a 29-7 victory at East Ridge (Tenn.) High School. It is one of just three victories for Georgia in the series, along with a 14-13 win in 2007 and a 31-21 win in 2011.
Headden, a middle linebacker whose senior season was 2006, earned Georgia Player of the Game honors after making seven tackles in the 2007 Classic. Like Callahan, he was selected The Daily Citizen’s top player in his final go-round. Fields, a defensive end who was a Catamounts senior in 2009, was the Georgia Player of the Game in 2010, when his contributions included three tackles for a loss.
In a release detailing the anniversary squad, event organizers lauded former Red Bank star Tim Benford as having the best offensive performance in Classic history when he helped Georgia to a 41-0 win in 2008. Benford went on to play at Tennessee Tech and is now with the Dallas Cowboys.
“We knew he was good, but I’m not sure any of us in the media realized just how good T-Ford really was,” said Stump Martin, the event’s founder and organizer, in the release. “It was as if Tennessee coach Tim Daniels had the power to boost up Benford’s X-Box status to 100 in each talent category.”
Benford caught touchdown passes of 27 and 23 yards and took time to prove his athleticism by throwing a record-setting 78-yard touchdown pass to Brainerd’s Eric Penn.
Daniels told the Chattanoogan.com following the game: “Tim has been making big plays all his career and I’ll admit that we practiced the play on the pass he threw for a touchdown. But on the other plays, we were rotating receivers on every play and he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Martin said there have been some exciting performances in the history of the Classic. He said top offensive performances from Callahan, Ridgeland running back Paul Walton (2011), Grace Academy quarterback Josh Blake (2009), Boyd-Buchanan quarterback Nic Hughes (2009), South Pittsburg quarterback Terrell Robinson (2010), and Chattanooga Central running back Michael Davenport (2004) all received consideration.
Former Coosa quarterback Blue Cooper, who went on to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, lined up as a defensive back during the 2005 Classic and excelled in the Peach State victory. He intercepted two passes, returning one 45 yards for a touchdown, and was selected the anniversary team’s best defensive player.
“He played like a youth league player that evening,” Martin said. “It was as if he was having the time of his life.”
Martin cited other defensive performances to remember.
“We have had some great defensive linemen in this series,” he said. “Rome defensive end Tyman Hudson (2007), Cartersville defensive end Darius Benham (2006), Red Bank defensive lineman Eric Marsh (2004), Dalton defensive end Jalen Fields (2010), and Heritage defensive end Justin Adekoya (2012) were all imposing threats to the opposing offenses. In addition, the 14-tackle performance by East Ridge linebacker Dan Turner (2004) may never be matched.”
Other offensive members of the team are Red Bank lineman Taylor Chambers (2007), Brainerd wide receiver Orlandus Harris (2008), Dade County linemen Randy Holt and Nick Lawson (both 2010), Ooltewah kicker John Long (2010), Ridgeland tight end Nigel Nicholas (2007), South Pittsburg athlete Terrell Robinson (2010) and Tyner lineman Greg Smith (2004).
Other defensive members of the team are athlete Dominique McDuffie (2008), Marion County defensive back Joe Muir (2009), Boyd-Buchanan punter Weston Perry (2006), Gordon Central defensive back Dorian Porch (2005), Chattooga linebacker Justin Rogers (2004) and Ringgold linebacker Matt Talkington (2009).