You can throw that prediction sheet of the DII football race out the window.
Just when you thought things were going in an orderly fashion, there’s this upstart Battle Ground Academy upsetting the status quo.
The Wildcats have suddenly thrust themselves back into the middle of the Middle/East picture. This comes after what many fans felt was the biggest upset of the DII season with their 26-14 win over Montgomery Bell Academy last Friday.
BGA (3-4) upended the Big Red (4-3), spoiling homecoming and, following an impressive Lee Beeman sponsored halftime fireworks show, adding some fireworks of their own.
The Wildcats lampooned MBA with more and more (and more) of tailback Michael Moore who shredded the Big Red defense with a career best 284 yards rushing and one TD in a Troy Fleming type game, remindful of the ex-BGA star.
“I think that has to be my best game ever,’’ said the diminutive 5-8, 175-pound Moore who got stronger as the game went along, with an amazing 43 carries. At one point in the fourth quarter, he carried it seven straight times.
“Our linemen were smaller than their linemen, but much quicker,’’ he said, when asked how he got off the blocks so fast. “I’ve got lots of endurance, and I didn’t mind carrying the ball as much as the coaches wanted me to.’’
Proving that comparative scores mean nothing, BGA appeared to be a heavy underdog when one looked at the Wildcats’ big 34-14 loss at Baylor, followed by MBA’s 17-0 win over the same Red Raiders just two weeks later. BGA had come off one-sided losses to Ryan and Brentwood Academy.
And it looked like form would hold true early. On the very first play, standout MBA linebacker Brad Bars forced a fumble, then made the recovery himself at the BGA seven, and MBA scored two plays later and the rout was on. Uh, not so fast.
Very similar to the 342-yard rushing game Ensworth’s Orleans Darkwa had against the Big Red Sept. 4, Moore got his act in gear. And MBA had no first downs the first half.
In several games, BGA has faltered in the second half, something Coach Tim Johnson was very cognizant of. That changed against MBA.
“We’ve had trouble finishing games,’’ Johnson said. “I think (against MBA), we showed signs of maturity. We’ve got a lot of young players who are starting to grow up.’’
Trailing 20-7 at the half, MBA scored to start the third quarter, making it 20-14. Then, the Big Red killed themselves with two turnovers inside the BGA 20, one inside the one, the recoveries made by Kenny Bass and Blake Thomson.
“We tried to think of starting the second half as if it’s 0-0,’’ Moore said. “The coaches put a big emphasis on starting strong the third quarter.’’
One of the game’s big plays came when BGA split end Kenny Bass made a spectacular, leaping catch from quarterback C.J. Booker in the fourth quarter for a 33-yard gain, keeping a drive alive.
“I’ve got a big heart,’’ Bass said. “I just wanted to go up and make a play for my team, we want to finish strong.’’
The top five teams in the DII Middle/East race earn opening round home games in the first round of the playoffs. If the season ended today, MBA would be a host and wouldn’t fall into an early playoff trip to Memphis — yet.
However, it’s possible the loser of the MBA-Brentwood Academy game Oct. 23 might very likely find itself in a road scenario as a sixth-place finisher. The top two finishers — at this point being Ensworth and Father Ryan — get first round byes. Both are 3-0 in the region, and all but Baylor (2-1) have lost at least twice.
MBA and BA are tied for fourth at 2-2. BGA is right behind at 1-3 and needs to beat McCallie and JPII the next two weeks to inch toward a home playoff game.
In a big game Friday, MBA invades old rival Ryan, the first time the Big Red will have played on the new Irish field at Carell Complex.