Just before Christmas, we would like to list a few platitudes for Nashville high school players who excelled on the football field this season to unwrap.
In no particular order or position, we offer these goodies up for consumption:
• Best quarterback: Nolan Genovese, Christ Presbyterian Academy. The senior star had 1,964 yards of passing and would have easily hit the 2,000 mark if he hadn’t suffered a shoulder injury in Week 10.
Also, Ensworth’s Drew Parker, BGA’s C.J. Beathard, McGavock’s Kody McKinley, Goodpasture’s Keenan Reynolds, Brentwood Academy’s Matthew Hamby, DCA’s Kyle Kennedy, Brentwood’s Clay Webber and NCS’ Matt Ogle had excellent seasons.
• Best running back: There were many in Nashville, but guys like Justin Williams of Davidson Academy (a Mr. Football finalist), Maplewood’s Stanley Hagan and Lipscomb’s William Officer, who were all well over the 1,000 mark, should be at the top of the list. Williams recovered nicely from an ACL injury last year, which ended his junior season. Officer, who finished with more than 1,200 yards, racked up more than 4,000 for his career, placing him in the top five in school history.
Mr. Football finalist Corn Elder (Ensworth), Tez Humphrey (Overton), Jake Walstedt (FRA), Tyler Franks (MBA), Nick Weiss (NCS) and Blake Mitchell (Ezell-Harding) were all at or near the 1,000 mark.
• Best 1-2 running combo: The Goodpasture duo of Carter Tompkins and Mitchell Martin had the highest combined total of any tandem in Nashville of more than 2,300 yards, each with more than 1,000.
The duo of Hagan and LaDarius Vanlier (Maplewood) might have matched that had Vanlier not been injured during the season.
Also, Humphrey and Hume award winner Drew Montgomery at Overton were a top pair.
• Best receiver: Sam Cranford of CPA and Thomas Knoblach of NCS rate highest on the list. Cranford had almost 1,000 receiving yards, as he teamed with Genovese to form the top passing combo in Nashville. Knoblach was one of the state leaders for the second straight year with more than 700 yards.
The versatile Knoblach also kicked extra points and kicked off, and had three interceptions, helping lead the Eagles soar to their first playoff berth in 10 years.
The BGA receiving tandem of Jordan Smith and Josh Smith, along with Weldon Garlington of Brentwood Academy also rated highly.
• Best lineman: Ensworth’s Keenan Carter, and Brentwood Academy’s Woody Baron were both Mr. Football finalists and atop a list of many in this underappreciated category.
• Best defensive back: Dewain Smith, Maplewood: The senior star not only had five interceptions, but had numerous pass breakups and also played wide receiver in some offensive packages. His brother Randall, also had four interceptions for the Panthers, giving them the best 1-2 DB punch in Nashville.
Pearl-Cohn’s Demario Donnell led Nashville with eight interceptions.
• Best kicker: John Arnold, Father Ryan. The Irish star followed admirably in footsteps of last year’s Mr. Football winner Nick Pollard, booting with an area best 95.2 percent of extra point attempts, plus making lengthy field goals of 42 and 48 yards,
Also noteworthy: Daniel Bruce (Lipscomb), Gilmore Connors (BGA), Connor Pierce (Franklin) and Matt England (Brentwood)
• Best all-around player: Corn Elder, Ensworth. The sophomore standout, a Mr. Football finalist, was all over the field for the DII-AA state champs. He rushed for almost 1,800 yards and 25 touchdowns, many of them from well over 50 yards. He also played defensive back where he intercepted five passes, one of them in the end zone preserving a 21-14 mid-season win at Brentwood Academy.
• Coach of the Year: Ricky Bowers, Ensworth. The coach guided Tigers to their first state football championship, and they were the only Nashville team to win a crown.
Ensworth (12-2) beat three teams ranked No. 1 in the state at the time of the game.
Close runners-up: Jeff Brothers guided NCS to its first playoff appearance in 10 years and a second-round playoff berth. Maplewood’s Arcentae Broome’s Panthers rolled to the 4A playoff semifinals and fashioned an 11-game winning streak.
• Disappointing team of the year: Hunters Lane, which was picked for first or near the top of Region 6-5A but finished 1-9 and in last place. The season was further tarnished when several Warrior players were kicked off the team and some out of school for marijuana use after a midseason game.
FRA overtime thrillers
Fans at Friday’s twin bill at Franklin Road Academy got more than their money’s worth as the host Panthers beat Lipscomb in overtime in both the girls and boys games.
FRA’s girls (8-1) rallied in the second half, then scored nine points in overtime to beat Lipscomb 47-41. Guard Derica Wyatt scored 13 as the Panthers handed Lipscomb its first loss (7-1).
Sophomore post player Kessler Bell scored 14 points and senior guard Connor Maitland added nine as FRA (6-2) won the boys game 52-50 in overtime. Lipscomb missed a last-second shot. Maitland (five) and Bell (four) scored nine of the 10 Panther points in overtime.
“Our guys played extremely hard, and I’m very proud of all of them,’’ coach John Pierce said. “Both teams kept giving the other team chances to win.”
The Father Ryan boys basketball team is team flying a bit under the radar, particularly competing in tough DII-AA with the likes of MBA and Ensworth. Still, the Irish are off to a 6-2 start after an easy 59-34 win over Glencliff on Friday.
Rugged 6-foot-5, 235-pound Jake Clifton, who tallied a team-high 14 points against Glencliff, is Ryan’s latest strong big man. He follows 6-foot-9 Brendan Connolly, now at Princeton.
“He (Connolly) worked me over pretty hard when I was a sophomore, he kind of showed me what it was like,” Clifton, Ryan’s leading scorer, said. “We have seven seniors, and we’ve been playing together quite awhile, and if we keep playing hard, good things are going to happen for us.”
“Our team composition is a little different, but we have a lot of leadership which I think will help us in the long run,” coach Doug Bontrager said.
The Irish will be favored for its seventh win Tuesday vs. Stratford, then will look forward to their annual Ryan Christmas Tournament Dec. 28-30. Ryan’s tourney opener is against Shelbyville, 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 28.
• Pope JPII coach Jeff Rutledge, a former MBA coach and Vanderbilt assistant, will be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He won three SEC titles as Alabama’s quarterback, then a Super Bowl with the New York Giants.
• One of the bright spots for the West in its 26-9 loss to the East in the annual All-Star Classic last week in Jefferson City was Brentwood Academy receiver Josh Pleasant. He was named Offensive MVP of the West after seven receptions for 88 yards.
• Former USN and Glencliff basketball coach William Beliford has returned to BGA where he is the Middle School boys coach while teaching at Antioch High.