At the halfway point of the season, it appears Pearl-Cohn has righted the ship.
The Firebirds (2-3) are on suddenly on fire and it’s come at a good time, with a second-half dish of tough foes awaiting at the table.
For the present, a 28-0 whitewash of previously unbeaten surprise East Literature has vaulted the ‘Birds back into the picture for a berth in the Class 3A playoffs. Pearl-Cohn will take this Friday off and have two weeks to prepare for big rival Maplewood Oct. 2.
Missing the playoffs last year, Pearl-Cohn’s key win gives the Firebirds a 1-0 record in the three-team race for a guaranteed playoff berth, ahead of the two other10-3A teams East Lit (1-1) and CPA (0-1).
If the Firebirds win their regular season finale vs, CPA, that would earn them a first-place berth and sure playoff ticket in the three-team scenario.
Asked about the playoffs, Pearl-Cohn Coach Tony Brunetti just threw his hands in the air — something many of his fellow Nashville coaching cohorts do when contemplating the same question.
“I have no idea,’’ Brunetti said, shaking his head. “We had a really good win against East Lit, but we have some really tough games coming up,’’ he said.
Pearl-Cohn’s D’Anthony Hall led with 215 yards rushing in 20 carries and three TDs in the Firebirds’ 324-yard total offensive show.
The final five games are against Maplewood, Stratford, Whites Creek, Lipscomb and CPA, with wins there difficult to come by. But Brunetti is upbeat.
“MBA’s execution and discipline made us look bad in the opener,’’ he said. “Then we beat Northeast and against (No. 1 ranked Kentucky team) Ft. Campbell, we were two mistakes away from making that a real game. Against BGA (a 23-7 loss), we simply couldn’t get their offense off the field. (Against East Lit), our defense stepped up.’’
Starts with Eichelberger: Biggest reason is the Firebird defense and specifically, cornerback Senquay Eichelberger, who made likely the biggest play of the season in the first quarter.
After East Lit took its opening drive to the Firebird four and appearing certain to go in and take the early lead, Eichelberger picked up a fumble which squirted through an array of hands, then raced 88 yards to the Eagle eight. It completely turned the game around as Pearl-Cohn scored two plays later.
“I was just hoping I could make a big play for the team,’’ said the vocal Eichelberger, a transfer from Mississippi, who constantly keeps his team up with supportive chatter throughout the game.
Late in the third quarter, Eichelberger made a leaping, hard hit on a fourth-quarter pass at the goal line, knocking the ball out of the receiver’s hands, preventing a certain TD and preserving the shutout.
“I had to get over there and make a play,’’ said the 6-1, 170-pound defender. “We started off a little slow this season, but we’re making progress.’’
Which is something he and the Firebirds are hoping to build on.
Coach of the Year?
At mid-season, if one is considering a candidate for coach of the year in Nashville, you might look to East Lit’s James (Bubba Spears), whose team was unbeaten before Friday. Some big challenges await down the road, but hardly anyone expected the Eagles to be 3-1 at this point.
Another mid-season candidate should be Anthony Law, who has guided Whites Creek to a 4-1 record, with all four wins by shutouts, including a 25-0 romp last Friday at high-powered Hunters Lane. The Cobras were 0-10 just two years ago and barely squeaked into the playoffs last year.
Whites Creek takes a week off before visiting Lipscomb in a key District 10-4A game.
Another coach would be Maplewood’s Ralph Thompson whose team is 3-2, with impressive road wins at Lipscomb and at CPA. Maplewood is aiming for a strong finish as, after a road game at Ooltewah, they finish with three of their last four games at home. Coach Dennis Goodwin’s DCA team is off to a solid 4-0 start and hosts CPA Friday.
MBA’s East shines
MBA junior QB Van East is coming into his own, hitting 7-of-8 passes and 145 yards in the Big Red’s 17-0 win over Baylor. He has stepped in for senior Luke Colbert who suffered a broken neck in the loss to Ensworth Sept. 4.
Clemons rusty in return
Glencliff QB Mitchell Clemons returned to action last Friday after missing the first three games for the Colts following his arrest after being charged with aggravated burglary and theft in July. Clemons, one of Nashville’s leading passers last year, hit 3-of-7 passes for 15 yards with two interceptions upon his return and rushed for 12 yards in a 46-0 loss at Overton.