It was a play which will go into the golden lore of MBA football history as well as into the vault of infamy for Ensworth.
Leading 24-10 and starting its opening drive of the third quarter of the DII state quarterfinal playoff game with MBA Friday, host Ensworth faced a fourth-and-one from its own 29. The Tigers went for it.
But Mr. Football finalist Orleans Darkwa, who had rushed for eight yards the previous play and had 240 for the game, was stonewalled at the line and MBA took over.
In retrospect, it was a play which totally turned the game around as MBA scored 17 points on the its Big final three drives. It paved the way for a stunning 27-24 Big Red upset win over the top-ranked Tigers (9-1) and avenged a 50-21 Labor Day weekend loss.
A host of MBA defenders, led by Brad Bars and Joe Riegle, swarmed Darkwa at the line for no gain. It took the Big Red 11 plays to score, including two fourth down conversions, the second on a five-yard TD strike from soph QB Aaron Simonis to Holden Mobley for the TD, making it 24-17.
“We wanted them to go for it,’’ said Bars after the game. “It was like a slap in the face to us, and it was big challenge to our DLine.
“We’ve been getting steadily better,’’ Bars said. “We went up to JPII in the mud and the rain and won, we didn’t care what the conditions were. We paid BGA back for ruining our homecoming, then we showed what we could do against Ensworth.’’
Ensworth fumbled on its next possession, and workhorse tailback Fitz Lassing scored six plays later, tying it 24-24 after MBA had trailed 24-7.
The Tigers rolled downfield before facing a fourth-and-one from the three. Disdaining a go-ahead field goal attempt, tantamount to an extra point, and not even running Darkwa, Ensworth tried a quarterback rollout which MBA stuffed for a two-yard loss.
From the five with 9:15 left, MBA then started an 8½ minute drive which ended when Andrew Fletcher booted the biggest field goal of his career, a 43-yarder with 45 seconds left. Bryan Oslin sealed it with an interception at the MBA six.
“It’s right up there with the biggest one I’ve ever kicked,’’ said Fletcher, a Mr. Football finalist whose last-second FG won the McCallie game. “The snap was a little low, but our holder Jack Beckner did a great job of getting it down.’’
“It’s like we say before every game and every practice – the fourth quarter is our quarter,’’ said Lassing who rushed for 92 yards and threw a TD pass. “We came over here with nothing to lose, and I’m so proud of the OLine and all our whole team.’’
It was the same haunting final score as BA’s semifinal win over the Tigers in last year’s semis on the same field.
Coach Daniel McGugin had difficulty talking after he took a hit in the jaw by jubilant defensive coach Jonas Rodriguez in the post-game excitement.
“This win was Divine Intervention, just a trust in God, and I’m so thankful I am coaching at a place like MBA,’’ said McGugin whose team has a semifinal date with rival Brentwood Academy Friday. “Our coaches had a great plan, it was an unbelievable win, and our guys never gave up.’’
MBA (8-4) has avenged two of its regular season losses in big-time fashion in the playoffs. In a 45-10 first-round win over BGA, the Big Red had a 47-point turnaround from a homecoming loss. Against Ensworth, MBA had a 32-point turnaround from earlier. They get a third chance for payback Friday at Brentwood Academy (8-3) after a 26-7 loss to the Eagles in Week 9.
It guarantees the Nashville area will have a team in the DII-AA finals for the third straight year. Father Ryan (8-3), an impressive 45-35 winner over Briarcrest, has a huge task Friday as the Irish travel to defending state champ MUS (11-0).
Rematches: Besides the MBA-BA clash, there are two other area DI quarterfinal rematches in the Nashville area Friday. Brentwood hosts Franklin in 6A, and Whites Creek goes to Maplewood in 4A. BHS beat Franklin 21-20, and Maplewood edged the Cobras 5-0, both in Week 10.
MBA college updates: Updating some of the recent MBA football players and their college highlights: Big Red 2008 Mr. Football winners, tackle Preston Bailey and fullback Ben Bartholomew, signed with Tennessee. Bartholomew is running third on the depth chart at fullback but played some against South Carolina. Since, Bailey has transferred to MTSU where he will be eligible to play next season.
Tackle Wesley Johnson, who signed with Vanderbilt, is likely going to be red-shirted this season, unless an emergency occurs. It appears he is being groomed to play center.
Linebacker Alfonza Knight is in his second year as starting linebacker for the University of the South (Sewanee) and is one of the leading tacklers in the SCAC Conference.
QB Spencer Wise is a probable red-shirt at Samford (Ala.). RB E. J. Vinsang is playing on special teams and SS Nathan Wade is playing sparingly for Furman. WR Charlie Byrge is a red-shirt walk-on at Vanderbilt, and NG Scott Bubis has walked on at Ole Miss. WR Hooper Paty is a DH for Ole Miss in baseball.
Tollison to MTSU: Some of the area signees from last week included Cody Tollison, a left-handed pitcher from Ensworth High to play baseball at MTSU. Tollison is also the quarterback for the Tiger football team.
Other signings: Standout BGA first baseman Chris Marconcini to Duke for baseball; Ford Wilson, a star pitcher/outfielder of Independence for baseball at Memphis; LaKeisha Crouch of Hillsboro for basketball at Xavier and Ellen Mullins of Ryan for volleyball at Tennessee.
And Eleanor Phillips of Hillsboro has signed with San Diego for swimming, only the second player from the school to ever sign for that sport. Parker Camp of Brentwood has signed with Virginia.