Is Maplewood’s secondary the best in Nashville high school football?
If the Panthers aren’t at the top of the class, they are certainly close. And because of it, Maplewood is 4-1 closing in quickly on another Class 4A playoff berth.
Limiting a top-notch passing team like Christ Presbyterian Academy to three points in a 29-3 win last Friday makes a case pretty strong. Allowing just 37 points in five games with two shutouts (one other opponent didn’t score a touchdown) bolsters an already solid offense.
Heading up the unit are defensive backs and brothers Dewain Smith and Randall Smith, who make passing very difficult for foes.
Senior Dewain Smith (6-2, 187) may be Nashville’s best defensive back. On Friday, he had one interception, three pass breakups, a safety blitz for a key fourth-quarter sack – and he also caught a 33-yard pass on offense for good measure.
“We watched film over and over the whole week,” Dewain Smith who returned an interception for a 62-yard touchdown in an opening-game shutout win at Hillsboro. “We went into the game very prepared. They (CPA) have an excellent quarterback (Nolan Genovese), and we just read our keys. We have matured a lot as a team.”
“As a unit, we take great pride in what we do,” Randall Smith, a speedy 5-6, 140-pound junior, said.
Asked who was the better player, Dewain smiled and said, “We’ve both had our moments.”
The Smiths grew up playing football and both were standout players for their Salvation Army Bobcats junior team in grade school.
Add defensive backs Stefone Parris, DeMichael Gooch and Ronald Nelson to the mix and the Panthers boast a quintet of players who consistently disrupt opponents’ airwaves.
On a night when Genovese went over the 1,000 yard passing (he was 19-of-32 for 164 yards, giving him almost 1,100) he faced a lot of pressure most of the time.
Recipe for winning
If Arcentae Broome drew up a blueprint for success going into a game, the Maplewood coach could not have envisioned a better one than what unfolded.
Besides the secondary play, the coach also saw defensive end Jason Stone return an interception for another touchdown. And huge 245-pound defensive tackle Jontez Vaughn had a fourth-down stop, followed by a key sack in the third quarter.
“I saw the pass coming, and I just stepped into the lane,” Stone, who is the younger brother of ex-Panther Mr. Football and current UT Vol James Stone, said. “We had a great week of practice, and it showed with the way we played.”
Meanwhile, running backs Stanley Hagan and LeDarius Vanlier, who had been held in check the first half, which ended 3-3, erupted for three second-half touchdowns.
Hagan, who rushed for 177 yards, bolted for a 40-yard touchdown, then a 34-yard score the next play after the Panthers got the ball back.
Vanlier, who had been bottled up almost completely the first three quarters, had one of his trademark TDs in the fourth quarter. Starting left, he was engulfed by CPA tacklers, but somehow slithered through the pile and escaped for a 54-yard touchdown. He finished with 120 yards, almost half of it on that play.
“I looked up at the scoreboard the third quarter and saw we had 22 points, then I was almost in disbelief when I saw they had just three,” Broome said. “I knew we were going to have a good defense. But collectively and as a unit, this is developing into one of the best defenses I’ve ever coached.”
Even the kicking game, an area Maplewood has had issues with in years past, is in good hands. Junior Wagner Serrano booted a 37-yard field goal, was 2-2 on extra points (another was blocked) and had a punt downed inside the five.
CPA Coach Jay Mathews said, “Maplewood certainly has an excellent defense.”
And it caused some gambling on play calling when the Lions went for it on fourth-and-2 from their own 34 in the third quarter.
“Whether we forced them to drive for a 40, 60, or 80-yard touchdown, I felt we needed to keep the football away from them,’’ he said. “For me, it was worth the gamble.
• Scoring machine: With its 56-21 romp at Pope JPII, Brentwood Academy has scored 250 points in five games, exactly 50 points per game. Most of the points have come in the Eagles’ first half, and all 56 came before intermission Friday vs. the Knights.
• Streak buster: For the second straight year, Pearl-Cohn halted East Lit’s unbeaten streak to start the season. The Firebirds shut out East 28-0 last year and allowed only a late punt return to the Eagles in their 21-7 win last Friday. East Lit fell to 3-1.
• Volleyball: Siegel High of Murfreesboro beat Ensworth 25-23, 25-12 to win the annual Ryan Invitational Volleyball tournament Saturday night. Ensworth was led by Rajean Rouse and McKinnon Morrissey, who both made all-tournament, along with Nikki Gittens and setter Rachel Smith. In the semifinals, Siegel, coached by former Ryan star Ann Mullins, beat the host Irish, and Ensworth defeated Memphis ECS.
• Cross Country: Led by Paul Stuart (who finished third), Brentwood High won the gold division of the annual Junior Ward Cross Country meet at Iroquois Steeplechase course Saturday. In the girls gold division, Ravenwood High took third. Lipscomb’s Barbara Ball won the individual title in the girls silver division, and Harpeth Hall won the girls team title. And Hume-Fogg’s Christian Guerrero was second in the boys silver division.
• Golf: Hard to believe, but the tournaments have arrived. Around Nashville, the District 9-A/AA tournament gets the jump with that event set Monday at Harpeth Hills where CPA and Goodpasture are expected to battle it out. Bear Trace Course is the site Monday for the DII Middle/East Region, with Ensworth as host.