Talk about your bad omens.
If the West Broward (Florida) High Bobcats didn't believe their bus suffering a tire blowout on their trip from Fort Lauderdale to Chattanooga on Thursday was an ominous sign prior to Friday night's football game at McCallie, they certainly did by the close of the first quarter.
In one of the biggest blowout victories the three-time defending state champs have produced in years, the Blue Tornado led 35-6 at the close of those opening 12 minutes and 62-13 at halftime before winning 62-27 after head coach Ralph Potter emptied his bench from the start of a mercy rule-shortened second half (clock runs continuously).
"That's a really good football team over there," said Bobcats coach Brian McCartney as he pointed toward the Blues' postgame huddle. "That's a very well-coached team, one of the best we've seen. And No. 2 (junior quarterback Jay St. Hillaire) is the real deal. He's one of those guys that as good as he looks on film, he's even better in person."
Indeed, as good as the entire McCallie squad looked throughout a first half that included a blocked punt for a score, a recovered fumble for another score and an interception return for a touchdown, St. Hillaire stood out the most in tossing four touchdowns and throwing for 191 yards in but two quarters of work.
"Jay was great tonight," said junior tight end and linebacker Carson Gentle. "He's getting better every week. I think the coaches are ready to give him the keys to the offense."
Yet good as St. Hillaire was in just his fourth start with the Blue Tornado, the whole team appeared to be getting better a week after a last-minute home loss to Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy snapped its 18-game winning streak dating back to October of 2020.
"The kids really worked hard this week," said Potter afterward. "They're just trying to get better and I think we did tonight. Our run defense was really good (Bobcats rushed for minus-8 yards on the night) and we probably just need to put the offense in Jay's hands going forward."
It certainly looked that way against West Broward, whose expected 12-hour bus ride from Florida to Tennessee became a 17-hour nightmare following the tire blowout some 123 miles into Georgia.
Not only did St. Hillaire begin the points parade with a 15-yard scoring strike to Etienne Delisle less than two minutes into the game, he also connected with Olivier Camberlain on a 16-yard score, hit Mathieu Herbert on a 27-yard score and Andrei Delinois on a 21-yard touchdown. Then there was running back Tario Price, who scored twice on runs of 38 yards and one yard and finished with 132 yards on the ground in two quarters of work. Elliott Arnold kicked the Blue Tornado's first seven extra points.
But it wasn't just the offense that was overpowering. Delinois also returned an interception 45 yards for a score, Isaac Pepin recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown and Choosen Lokombe recovered a Bobcats fumble in the end zone for a score.
The lone bright spot for West Broward was 6-5 sophomore wideout Josh Moore, who caught touchdowns of 50 and 80 yards, finishing with 205 receiving yards on the night. He's already being recruited by Georgia Tech.
"After last week, we just wanted to get back on the field," said Carson Gentle, the early Tennessee commit. "This was pretty awesome. This should boost our confidence a little."
Or a lot heading into next week's first true road game at Knoxville Catholic.