Prior to the season, Maplewood High coach Arcentae Broome said he would try to replace an outstanding backfield duo lost to graduation “by committee.”
Halfway through the football regular season, it appears the new “committee” has attained blue ribbon status, especially evident in the host Panthers’ 26-20 win over East Nashville last Friday.
Seniors Cortez Adams and Javarious Battle both rushed for more than 100 yards and scored one touchdown each as the Panthers improved to 4-2 overall (with losses only to powers Brentwood Academy and Riverdale) and 3-0 in District 10-AA.
Last year, the 1-2 punch of Ladarius Vanlier and Stanley Hagan were a huge part of the success of a Panthers team that made it to the TSSAA Class 4A championship game before it lost to top-ranked Greeneville.
“We’ve got a little more balance this year,” Broome said. “Last year, you could count on one of those guys [Vanlier or Hagan] to go 30, 40, 80 yards for a touchdown, quick strikes. They were a real dynamic, big play guys.
“This year, we’re a little more versatile. Some of our younger guys wanted to play early on, but I told them you have to wait your turn until I know you can do the job with the game on the line.”
With his team leading just 18-13, Adams bolted for an 85-yard touchdown two plays after a kickoff, and Battle ran in for the two-point extra for a 26-13 lead. Battle also scored on a 60-yard run late in the first quarter.
Battle led all rushers with 165 yards in 13 carries, and Adams finished with 116 yards in just nine carries.
Three picks save the day: Adams had an outstanding game both on offense and defense.
With East driving for the tying score midway through the fourth quarter, he made a leaping interception at his own 39-yard line, which gave him a career-high three picks in one game.
Battle then raced around end with a huge 12-yard gain on third down. On fourth and an inch, quarterback Ladarrius Wimberly drove forward for a two-yard gain to the East 31 to seal the outcome.
“Last year, I took some mental notes from those guys [Vanlier and Hagan], watched what they were doing to be successful,” Adams, who scored the winning touchdown in a 12-6 win the week before at Lipscomb Academy, said. “As a senior, I know I have to step up, lead by example and make plays for our team.”
Meanwhile, Battle is making up for lost time.
“I got in trouble last year and missed the whole season,” he said. “But I’ve turned my life around, my grades are better, and I want to have a great senior year.
“I played behind Stanley and waited for my turn. I just want to come in, play hard and give my team a chance to win.”
Passing game shines, too: Not to be overlooked was the Panthers’ passing game, engineered by Wimberly, a junior who hit 11-of-16 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores went to Ladarius Malone, who caught five passes for 123 yards.
Malone had scoring receptions of 43 and 25 yards, many times using his 6-foot-5 frame to leap over smaller defenders for eye-opening catches.
“I just try to use my height to my advantage,” he said. “We have a very good running game, and that sets up our passing game.”
Senior defensive end Damario Lewis led the defensive line with two sacks and nine tackles, giving him more than 50 for the season.
East quarterback Isiah Upton scored one touchdowns and threw a 16-yard strike to Chris Scott for another. Also, Isaiah Olige returned two kickoffs for 105 yards – one to the Maplewood 16, the other to the 33.
The Eagles fell to 1-4 overall, 0-3 in district.
Maplewood hosts rival Pearl-Cohn on Friday then has a huge district showdown at undefeated Christ Presbyterian on the Oct. 4 Thursday Night Lights TV game.
• Battle Ground Academy rolled to the championship of the 34th annual Father Ryan Invitational volleyball tournament Saturday, finishing 6-1 in the two-day event.
Behind tourney MVP Sara Zumbach and Anisa Moore, both juniors, the Wildcats (22-4) thumped Memphis Briarcrest 25-19, 25-9 in the finals.
They finished 3-0 in winning their pool, while host Ryan won its pool but was upset in the quarterfinals. Kaitlyn Hyrnewich of BGA and Maggie Mullins of Ryan also were named to the all-tournament.
“We played hard and consistent through the entire tournament,” BGA coach Katie Sundstrom said. “We’ve had some injuries, and we went with a new lineup which played well, and we came out on top.”
BGA has a huge region matchup at first-place Harpeth Hall, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
• Ensworth sophomore Emma Sloan (girls) and Central Magnet’s Andre Hillsman (boys) won the silver division races Saturday at the 47th annual A.F. Bridges Cross Country Invitational at Percy Warner steeplechase course.
Sloan and Hillsman both won the silver division races one week earlier on the same Steeplechase course. Sloan won her race in 20:19.59.
Centennial High and Ensworth finished 1-2 in the girls team race. Centennial, in sixth place, was the highest Nashville finisher in the boys team race.