What goes around comes back around — or so it seems here.
In a rematch of their Oct. 28 game, Pearl-Cohn (7-5) returns to the same Lions Den where the Firebirds lost a tough 14-10 decision to Christ Presbyterian Academy (11-1) in the regular season finale. No need to exchange films.
Friday, however, a lot more is at stake. Instead of fighting for playoff positioning as in Week 10, the winner of this game gets a ticket to next week’s Class 3A semifinals.
It would be hard to beat the excitement of the first, which was a tale of two halves — 10-0 Pearl-Cohn in the first, 14-0 CPA after intermission.
CPA had slightly more total offense (323 yards to 250) and more first downs (14 to 10). But what kept the Firebirds from winning was a stunning CPA defensive play, which happened in late in the game.
Pearl-Cohn led 10-7 and had the ball at the Lions’ 18. Kicking specialist Ryan Deising lined up for a 35-yard field goal attempt with three minutes left. He already had kicked one from 40 yards out in the first quarter.
This time linebacker Hunter Thurley blocked the kick, defensive back Chase Smith scooped up the ball and raced 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 2:49 to play.
“At this point, we’re happy to be playing anyone in the quarterfinals of the playoffs,” Pearl-Cohn coach Tony Brunetti said. “But this time, we don’t need to turn the ball over.
“We had two long drives where we got to the 10 and 15-yard-line and we turned it over both times. Then the crusher was the late-game blocked kick.”
The loss knocked the Firebirds all the way down to a No. 8 seed in their quadrant. Since then, they have gone on the road and knocked out a No. 1 seed (Smith County) then traveled to Harpeth, where they won 27-13 last week.
CPA, a No. 3 seed, trimmed Cheatham County 17-7 in the first round, then needed a final-play field goal by freshman J.R. Osborn to beat host Goodpasture 24-22.
Both teams have lots of tradition.
In addition to numerous playoff appearances, each has a pair of state championship trophies. Pearl-Cohn won back-to-back titles in 1996 and 1997 under Maurice Fitzgerald, and CPA won in 2000 and 2002 under David Pack.
Brunetti and Martin are three wins away from guiding their respective schools to a third crown.
One of the keys will be how well CPA’s 1,000-yard passer, quarterback Albert Mitchell, fares against Pearl-Cohn’s secondary led by defensive back DeMario Donnell, who has five interceptions. The Firebirds intercepted Mitchell three times in the first game and have made three more picks in the playoffs.
“There are no secrets,” first-year CPA coach Ingle Martin said. “We know them well, and they know us well.
“The first game was really exciting. To win again, we’ll have to play extremely well and avoid turnovers and mistakes. And special teams are going to be huge.”
For Pearl-Cohn, it’s about subtracting one big special teams play from the first game to move forward.
“We’re playing hard, and we’re playing physical,” Brunetti said. “This team doesn’t have a lot stars. We just have a bunch of kids who stick together, and if we do that, we win.”
Brentwood High at Mt. Juliet
Beech at Hendersonville
White House at Maplewood
Pearl-Cohn at Christ Presbyterian Academy
Division II semifinals
Ensworth at Memphis University School