A loss in the TSSAA Class 3A semifinals was tough enough last year.
Friday’s setback against the same foe in the same round was even more of a bitter pill for Christ Presbyterian Academy’s team to swallow this time.
The Lions’ 16-8 loss to nemesis Milan had many of the same characteristics as last year’s 16-14 defeat. Most notable were some late mistakes and an injury to a key player.
The Lions committed four turnovers (one fumble and three interceptions), all in the second half. Late in the game, the Lions drove to Milan 1 on a pass from Albert Mitchell to J.R. Osborn, but a holding penalty and sack moved the ball back to the 35.
Last year, it was late safety that did in CPA.
An ankle injury to leading rusher Chase Smith in the second quarter was similar to 2011 when Mitchell broke his foot in three places, forcing him out of the game at Milan.
Wide receiver/linebacker Robert Brown played his heart out in Smith’s absence but, like his teammates, left with his heart broken.
Brown caught nine passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, all in the second half. His one-yard touchdown catch from Mitchell was followed by Osborn’s leaping catch for a two-point conversion. Brown added a sack on defense, giving him a team high eight and a half for the season.
“Looking at film, I thought we had the better team,” a distraught Brown said at midfield after the game. “Last year, I thought we had the better team, as well. But you have to give [Milan] credit, they made the plays, and we didn’t.
“We didn’t play our best, and that’s the most disappointing thing. No. 29 [Milan tailback Arkel Coleman, who rushed for 231 yards and a touchdown) is a great player. But when Chase got the injury, it seemed a lot like last year. Chase has been great all year, and it’s hard to lose someone like him. Max [Pressley] came in and did a good job.
“I just thought for sure this was our year.”
GRADUATION LOSSES: CPA went 13-1 this season led by Mitchell, Smith and Brown, three significant impact players among 23 seniors Coach Ingle Martin will have a hard time replacing.
“Next year’s upperclassmen will be standing on the shoulders of giants,” Martin said in describing his current seniors. “Those guys led the way.”
Martin has fashioned 25-3 record in his first two years as CPA coach — two losses to Milan and a one-point region setback last year at Maplewood. His teams were a perfect 14-0 in their motto to “Defend the Den,” their home field, until Friday.
“The seniors laid the foundation, and I feel sad and I hurt for them to see the quest for their biggest goal come up a little short,” he said. “That was a really tough loss. What I liked this season was that our team worked so hard, they got better each week.”
As for the game, Martin didn’t make excuses.
“Milan came in and made the big plays,” he said. “They have a terrific team.”
Milan plays Christian Academy of Knoxville in the 3A finals, 3 p.m. Friday at Cookeville in a rematch of last year’s final, which CAK won.
• With Nashville Christian School’s 35-7 loss at Huntingdon in 1A, Nashville was left with Ensworth as the lone representative in this week’s state championship games.
The Tigers (12-0) play Memphis University School (10-2) 7 p.m. Thursday in Division II-AA. Ensworth is ranked No. 12 in the USA Today Super 25 prep rankings.
• Hillsboro High swept both the girls and boys championships at the annual LeRoy Wright Memorial basketball tournament Saturday night at Cane Ridge High.
In the girls final, Hillsboro (4-1), which only has lost to powerful Riverdale, trounced host Cane Ridge 67-45, led by Nicole Bowers’ 20 points.
In the boys final, Hillsboro stayed unbeaten at 5-0 with a 61-44 romp over Centennial as senior Jamontae Davis scored 22.