Coach Ricky Bowers shakes his head when asked about his Ensworth football team’s early-season game at Chattanooga Baylor.
“We were completely outplayed in that game,” he said, referring to a 42-14 Baylor blowout on Sept. 16. “What bothered me most was that Baylor beat us to loose balls, they seemed to get to the ball faster than we did. They were clearly the best team that night.”
Ensworth (11-1) and Baylor (11-1) meet again Thursday, this time for the TSSAA Division II-AA state championship. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Cookeville.
Bowers would much prefer is a repeat of last year’s championship game when the Tigers scored on a fourth-down pass play in the closing seconds and won 28-21 as opposed to another effort like this season’s.
“It came down to a big play right at the end [for the 2010 title], and we were fortunate enough to make it,” Bowers said. “I’m anticipating another great game.”
In this season’s first meeting, Baylor forced three turnovers, one a fumble Landry Taylor returned for a 45-yard touchdown.
Ensworth’s Corn Elder, who was named a 2011 Mr. Football winner on Monday, had maybe his worst game. He rushed for just 81 yards in 19 carries and did not score.
“Playing Ensworth once is hard enough,” Baylor sixth-year coach Phil Massey said. “But playing them twice is doubly tough.
“The key for us is containing Elder. He is an electrifying runner with amazing speed. The kicking game is key — we’ll need to kick away from Elder, because he’s so elusive in the open field. It comes down to execution and eliminating mistakes and turnovers.”
Baylor’s victory in September also was the 100th of Massey’s career.
“This is the fourth time we’ve played each other in two years, so there will be no secrets, they know us, we know them.”
Elder was anxious to make amends.
“We’ll have to play hard and definitely execute better this time,” the junior, who topped 2,000 yards rushing for the season, said. “They have a great defense and offense. We just need to eliminate mistakes.’’
Ensworth and Brentwood Academy are the only teams to beat Baylor over the past two seasons. BA won 10-7 in October on a D’Montre Wade touchdown in the final minute. Baylor had a 50-yard, game-tying field goal attempt after that.
Ensworth does not want to be beaten twice by Baylor this season.
“We made too many mistakes, too many turnovers that first game,” Ensworth receiver Cory Batey, a Vanderbilt commitment, said. “But we got more focused after that and we’re playing much better as a team.”
BlueCross Bowl Schedule
(at Tennessee Tech, Cookeville)
DII-A: University School of Jackson vs. St. George’s, 3:30 p.m.
DII-AA: Baylor vs. Ensworth, DII-AA, 7 p.m.
Class A: Wayne County vs. South Pittsburg, noon
Class 3A: Christian Academy of Knoxville vs. Milan, 3:30 p.m.
Class 5A: Powell vs. Henry County, 7 p.m.
Class 2A: Friendship Christian vs. Dresden, noon
Class 4A: Greeneville vs. Maplewood, 3:30 p.m.
Class 6A: Maryville vs. Whitehaven, 7 p.m.