Buckle your seat belts and chin straps. This encore should be a lot of fun.
In a game more befitting of a championship game than merely one in the quarterfinals of the DII-AA state football playoffs, Montgomery Bell Academy heads down Highway 100 to play rival Ensworth on Friday.
Just after a tense, defensive 7-3 first-round victory over Father Ryan last Friday at home, MBA (9-2) started gearing up for another matchup with the Ensworth (7-2) – the fourth in two years between the rivals.
MBA beat Ensworth 21-14 back on Labor Day weekend, which marked the last Tigers’ loss. After an 0-2 start, Ensworth won seven straight and landed the top seed, for which the Tigers were rewarded with a first-round bye.
“It’s huge, there will be a lot of buildup to it, just like there was last year,” workhorse senior running back Tyler Franks, who shoved his season rushing total over the 1,000 mark, said.
With a hard-fought total of 81 yards in 30 carries against the tough Irish defense, he has a total of 1,034 for the season.
“It (the game) means so much to our fans and our school. It’s a huge game, both teams will be playing their hearts out,” Franks added.
Saving itself from an upset, MBA sprung a Halloween trick on Ryan a week late but none too soon. Taking a pitch from Jhamall Wright, quarterback Dylan Hall fired a perfect strike to Austin Blackwell, who had broken free behind the secondary.
The play gave MBA a 7-3 lead late in the third quarter after which the Big Red held off a late Irish drive.
“We practice that play each week, but the last time we used it was against McCallie (Sept. 24 in a 43-33 win),’’ Hall said. “Austin made a great catch, and the line blocked well. And our defense played great.”
Asked about the re-match with Ensworth, Hall said, “It’s a big step for us. Ensworth has a great team, but our coaches will have us well prepared.”
“We had a perfectly executed play when we really needed it,” coach Daniel McGugin said. About Ensworth, he said. “I just want to digest this one first.”
Last year, Ensworth blasted MBA 50-21 in September, but the Big Red avenged that with a stunning 27-24 payback at Ensworth in the playoff quarterfinals.
Irish end ‘close but not quite’ season
Ryan (4-7), which always seems to have a great kicker (last year, Nick Pollard, now at UT-C, won Mr. Football), got its points Friday courtesy of the latest star at that position.
Junior John Arnold nailed a 48-yard field goal late in the first quarter, which gave the Irish a 3-0 lead that stood until the Blackwell heroics.
After it went in front, MBA held off a furious final Irish drive, which eventually reached the MBA 44. After a sack, quarterback Christian Nicholi fired a fourth-down pass to senior Patrick Pickney, who made a leaping grab at the 25. After he hit the ground, the ball came out, and officials ruled it incomplete with 30 seconds left.
The Irish, who almost avenged a 27-13 loss at MBA three weeks ago, have lost close games to strong playoff teams Overton (7-3), Ensworth (30-22) and Baylor (38-28).
Many of the Irish players openly wept after the game.
“Definitely this was a tough way for us to end our season,” coach Bruce Lussier, who has taken four of his last five teams to the DII playoffs, said. “It’s been an up and down season in many ways. Our kids fought their hearts out.
“Games and a season like this build character, and if this is God’s way, then I hope our players are better for it down the road.”
• East Literature, making its first playoff appearance, led for all but for the last 20 seconds of its game with powerhouse Smith County before falling 29-27 on Adam Johnson’s field goal.
Dominique Grimes returned two kickoffs for touchdowns for the Eagles (6-5). He took back the opening one 81 yards, then returned another in the second quarter 75 yards and a 20-7 lead. Quarterback Antonio McKissack hit 4-of-6 passing, and two of his completions went for touchdowns – 48 yards to Sean McKissack and 63 yards to Ronald Stayton-Williams.
• CPA sorely missed quarterback Nolan Genovese, who sustained a season ending shoulder injury in the regular season finale.
In a 20-6 loss at Goodpasture, backup Albert Mitchell threw one touchdown pass but suffered four interceptions. Genovese ended with 1,954 yards passing, missing the last five quarters of the season.
• McGavock’s season started and ended with losses to Mt. Juliet, which scored a total of 83 points in the two encounters.
McGavock was eliminated 56-28, despite 372 yards passing and two touchdowns by Kody McKinley, which – other than the outcome – was distinctly different than the opener, a 27-0 McGavock defeat.
• For the sixth time this season, Maplewood’s defense held its foe without a touchdown as it opened the playoffs with a 35-2 victory over Marshall County.
Maplewood (10-1) has racked up four shutouts and allowed just a field goal in a mid-season win over CPA.
Tailback Stanley Hagan rushed for 335 yards and four touchdowns, giving him 1,602 yards and 15 scores for the season.
Cross Country: In the state meet Saturday at Percy Warner Park Course, Montgomery Bell Academy repeated as D II-AA champions and set a state record with a perfect score of 15.
Senior Michael Peters led the Big Red sweep, winning in 16:05.98. Daniel Peters (his brother), Ryan Hill, Stephen Bedard and Andrew Powell finished 2-5, respectively.
In A/AA, M.L. King won its third straight boys title, scoring 74 points and led by Sam Klockenkemper and David Gilmore, 1-2. David Lipscomb sophomore Barbara Lee Ball, who finished second, led Lipscomb to the A/AA girls title.
In DII-A, St. Cecilia finished second, seven points behind winning Knox Webb. The Scarabs’ Emily Peters won easily in 19:34.60.
Soccer: For the second straight year, Houston High (21-1-2) beat Franklin in the Class AAA state final, this time 6-1 Saturday in Chattanooga.
Franklin (19-5-2) got its only goal from junior Chesney White, who gave her team an early 1-0 lead. It was her third goal in two games.
Middle School football championship: Perennial powerhouse J.T Moore and Donelson will meet for the Nashville Metro Middle School championship on Thursday at 5:15 p.m. at Hillsboro High.
In the semifinals last Thursday, Moore scored a TD in the final minute to beat Marshall 22-16 at Hillsboro. Donelson rolled past Goodlettsville 22-6.