MBA’s unlikely journey to championship game

Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 8:16pm

Perhaps no one on the MBA football epitomizes the spirit and determination of the ’09 MBA football team more than quarterback Aaron Simonis.

Left at the salvage store to start the season, Simonis, a sophomore, has worked his way to the top of the line for the Big Red. And the 5-11 sophomore is one key reason the Big Red (9-4) is headed back to the DII-AA state championship game Dec. 3 in Cookeville.

MBA will meet defending champ MUS (12-0), which crushed the Big Red 35-7 in last year’s semifinals in Memphis.

Simonis started the season third on the depth chart at QB. But after a season-ending broken neck injury to Luke Colbert in early September, junior Van East replaced Colbert.

But in late October, Coach Daniel McGugin opted for Simonis, and big results followed.

In all three of their playoff wins, MBA has avenged earlier double-digit losses, the latest being an incredible 42-41 double overtime at Brentwood Academy.

Simonis completed 10-of-14 passes for 109 yards and one TD, that coming to Holden Mobley on a crucial third-and-goal from the 7 in he second OT. Without the TD, MBA likely would have had to opt for a field goal.

Simonis reflected on his upward journey after the game.

“Back in August in preseason, I suffered a concussion,’’ Simonis said. “At that point, I thought my season was essentially over. I didn’t dream the chain of events that followed would actually happen.

“Everyone around me has performed so well. The line’s blocked great, the receivers are catching the ball great and our running backs have been great,’’ he said.

As for his big TD catch, Mobley said, “it was great call by the coaches, and Aaron threw a perfect ball’ They (BA) weren’t expecting it. At the end of the game, I thought they got tired, and we finished strong.’’

And no one these days seems to be able to lasso MBA tailback Fitz Lassing. The Big Red TB scored three TDs and threw halfback passes for two more scores, accounting for five of the six MBA TDs.

For the second straight game, Andrew Fletcher was the margin of difference, booting what proved to be the decisive extra point. He had missed on two long field goal attempts, one, a 39-yarder with one second left.

After Weldon Garlington caught his second TD pass from QB Cody Nelson, BA called a time out, perhaps thinking of going for two and ending it. But Nathan Renfro’s extra missed and, for the second straight game, jubilant MBA players and fans rushed the field.

“I turned around and saw the ball go barely to the left of the upright, and it finally hit me that we had won the game,’’ said defensive end Brad Bars who teamed with Joe Riegle for great defensive games.

As one press box observer said, in reference to the high-powered offenses going into overtime, “we may be here all night.’’

McGugin, whose team in the finals for the second time in his three years at MBA, said, “It was great win over a great team. As for MUS, they beat us last year, and they are a great team. Our guys will be focused and ready.’’

Whites Creek, Brentwood in semis

Avenging a 5-0 loss in Week 10, Whites Creek (9-4) is off to the Class A semis, thanks to a 12-3 win over Maplewood in the quarterfinals.

“Our emphasis was to limit the big plays, because they (Maplewood) are a big-play team,’’ said Cobra Coach Anthony Law. “Clifford Jetton (131 yards in 25 carries, both TDs) was outstanding. He does so much for us, running the ball, playing defense, returning punts.’’

Whites Creek travels to Greeneville (10-3), a team which shocked powerful Red Bank, on Friday. “Looking at them n film, they really spread you out, really stretch a defense,’’ Law said. “They have beautiful facilities, a great place to play football.’’

Brentwood stopped a two-point, game-winning try inches short of the goal line, saving a 21-20 win over Franklin in 6A. The Bruins hope history repeats from 2002. That was the last time they beat Franklin in the playoffs, and they went on to win the title.

Smithson-Craighead wins MS title

Smithson-Craighead Academy upended perennial power J.T. Moore 26-6 last week to win the Metro Middle School football championship at Hunters Lane. The coach at the relatively new school, located on Brick Church Pike, is Maurice Fitzgerald who won two state titles at Pearl-Cohn. Moore had won six titles in the previous seven years.

Preds honor Hillsboro team

The defending Class AAA state basketball tournament champion Hillsboro girls’ team was honored last Tuesday by the Nashville Predators at Sommet Center. The team came onto the ice after the first intermission and was saluted by the crowd.

Lots of FRA firsts

Franklin Road Academy’s football team had lots of firsts this season, including its first playoff appearance since ’04, its first seven-win season since 2000 and first home playoff win since ’97 before the Panthers lost in the quarters last week. FRA also has its first Mr. Football finalist in Doug Page. The Mr. Football luncheon is Monday, Nov. 30 at Embassy Suites Hotel in Murfreesboro.