For Ensworth, the road to the finals goes through Memphis. There the Tigers must beat a good team twice to reach their goal.
Top-ranked Ensworth (10-1) opened the season Aug. 19 with a 28-14 win over Memphis University School. Three months later, the Tigers will travel 200 miles down I-40 West Friday to play the Owls (8-3) again. There is a bit more riding on this one.
The winner of the Division II-AA playoff semifinal gets a ticket to the championship, Dec. 1 at Cookeville. The loser buys a one-way ticket home.
It’s perilous journey, something Coach Ricky Bowers knows all too well.
“They are a totally different team from the first time we played them,” Bowers said just after his team rambled past Father Ryan 42-17 in a quarterfinal matchup last Friday at Ensworth. “They’ve changed their offense quite a bit and some personnel.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, going on the road to play a really good team, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Ensworth racked up 466 yards of offense in its win over Ryan. Mr. Football finalist Corn Elder ran for 221 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries and quarterback Andrew Bowers completed seven of 10 passes and threw for one touchdown.
Similarly, MUS crushed McCallie 38-21 in its quarterfinal as quarterback Toby Baker went 12-for-15 for 228 yards and Fernando Van Hook rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
For much of the game, Ryan (5-7) put up a gallant fight with a stellar passing attack engineered by quarterback Matt Williams, who hit 26-of-44 for 310 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Jamonte Graham caught 11 passes for 76 yards and a score.
In Ensworth’s 29-7 regular season win over the Irish two weeks ago, defensive back Ryan Bossung’s 82-yard interception return was Father Ryan’s only score. This time he caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Williams in the second quarter, which gave the Irish a 10-0 lead.
Bossung failed to intercept a pass, however, which meant he ended the season with 13 – tied for the record.
Graham did get one, his fourth. Those were the only two interceptions thrown all season by Bowers.
“I’ve coached teams that fell behind 10-0 before, and didn’t come back,” Ricky Bowers said. “It’s a testament to this team’s maturity and confidence to stay the course when things go bad.”
Batey’s versatility critical
Ensworth’s tandout wide receiver Cory Batey scored on offense and defense – a 58-yard fumble return, which broke open a close game, and a 58-yard touchdown reception for the Tigers’ final score.
Batey was most proud of a block he threw when it was 10-0 and the Tigers had the ball inside the Irish 10. Elder started left on a sweep, but was hemmed in. He cut back right, found room, thanks to Batey, and scored from eight yards out.
“Corn cuts back a lot of times, so when he comes back my way, I’m ready to throw a block for him,” Batey, a Vanderbilt commitment, said. “That got him free and it was a big score for us.
“We had two weeks off, and we were ready to play [Friday]. We know one loss will keep us from getting to the pinnacle of where we want to be.”
Batey’s fumble return came with 1:44 left in the first half and capped a three-touchdown blitz in just 3:31 that gave Ensworth a 21-10 halftime lead.
“Cory has stayed the course, sometimes when things were difficult,” Bowers said. “He can go much of the game without catching a pass, then he’ll catch a really big one.”
• In what probably was Friday’s most exciting game, Christ Presbyterian Academy edged Goodpasture 24-22 in Class 3A game on J.R. Osborn’s field goal on the game’s final play. CPA (11-1) beat the Cougars 35-14 in August but barely survived this time.
The Lions will host Pearl-Cohn in the quarterfinals this Friday. It is a rematch of their regular season district contest on Oct. 28, which CPA won 14-10 after trailing 10-0 at halftime.
Pearl-Cohn (7-5) went on the road and won for the second straight week, this time 27-13 over Harpeth.
• Ensworth is the lone remaining Nashville team in the DII playoffs.
Christian Brothers held off Brentwood Academy 37-34, despite 27 points in the fourth quarter by the Eagles.
CBHS, coached by former BA Coach Tom Moore, will visit Baylor in the other semifinal.
Montgomery Bell Academy lost 20-10 at Baylor and finisheed 6-6.
Donelson Christian Academy (8-3) went one-and-done in the D-IIA playoffs for the fourth straight year with a 27-22 loss to St. George’s.
• Jordan returns: Former Hillsboro High star receiver Corey Jordan returned to Nashville Saturday for UT-Martin. Jordan, a sophomore, who played on the Burros’ 2008 state title team, caught three passes for 23 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown reception with 2:58 left, but UT-Martin lost 35-30 to Tennessee State at LP Field.
• Basketball begins: The high school basketball season opens around Nashville this week.
A few of the top games Tuesday will be Goodpasture against Franklin Road Academy, last year’s runner-up in DII-A, and Hillsboro at Whites Creek. David Lipscomb will open at rival Goodpasture on Thursday.
The annual LeRoy Wright Invitational tournament is next week, Nov. 22-26.
• All-American announcement: Brentwood Academy offensive/defensive lineman Graham Shuler has been selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Jan. 7 at the San Antonio Alamo Stadium.
The All-American Bowl tour committee will visit BA to make the formal invitation at a press conference 2 p.m. Tuesday.
• Area signings: Nashville college signings last week, when the early signing period opened, included:
Basketball: Craig Bradshaw, CPA (Belmont), David Howard, MBA (Evansville) and Jack Montague, Brentwood High (Yale).
Baseball: Brett Ravenor, FRA (Harding) and Austin Sustrunk, Franklin (Lipscomb).
Golf: Payton Deming, CPA (UT-Martin), Dylan Healey, Brentwood Academy (Arizona), Andrea Cropper, FRA (Memphis), Sarah Harris, DCA (Kentucky).
Soccer: Kelsey Brouwer, Centennial (MTSU), Sydney Eddy, BGA (Mississippi), Cara Ledman, BGA (Kentucky), Kinsey Sessions, BGA (Samford).
Softball: Whitney Christian, Brentwood High (Union).