The odds might seem bleak when a team trying to avenge an earlier 28-point defeat loses its Mr. Football back to injury in the first quarter.
That was the dilemma that faced Ensworth in the state TSSAA Division II-AA state final Thursday against Chattanooga Baylor at Tennessee Tech.
No problem. Just plug in a tailback named Rico Watson.
The senior rushed for a career-high 221 yards and three touchdowns and was named the game's offensive MVP in the Tigers’ 48-10 victory. It was the second straight title for Ensworth (12-1), which also defeated Baylor in the 2010 title game.
The result was, however, a 66-point turnaround from Baylor’s 42-14 midseason victory at Chattanooga. Ensworth won eight in a row after that one, its only loss of the season.
Watson came in for 2,000-yard rusher Corn Elder and had touchdown runs of 45, 63 and one yard.
"Rico Watson is an unbelievable kid, who is so dependable and responsible,” coach Ricky Bowers said. "He suffered an injury early on which caused him to miss six games. He's been a three-year starter, he's always prepared well, waited patiently for his turn and when he got in, he made the most of it.”
Elder, who earlier in the week was named the D-II AA Mr. Football back, had 44 yards on two carries, including a 45-yard touchdown run that started the rout. Then an ankle sprain sidelined him for the rest of the game.
Cory Batey added to the lead when he made a leaping grab of an Andrew Bowers pass and rolled into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown. That gave Ensworth a 20-7 first-quarter lead.
Bowers made it 27-10 at the half with a 26-yard run. The junior quarterback ran around right end, then cut left and was sprung free by an excellent block from Keshonn Carter at the 10, then a devastating block by junior Justin Lloyd, who took out two Baylor defenders at the 5.
The Tigers line shredded the Red Raiders defense for 485 yards of total offense (390 rushing) and 21 first downs.
The defense provided the exclamation point on when it stopped Baylor on four straight running plays from the 1.
Linebacker Anthony Batey had 12 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery and was named the game's defensive MVP. Cory Batey had an interception and fumble recovery. Taylor Graham also had an interception.
"To hold a team like that to 10 points is amazing,” Bowers said. "Our defensive coordinator Jonas Rodriguez had a great scheme, as did our offensive coordinator Paul Wade.”
When it was over Tigers players kissed their second gold trophy, many leapt into the stands high-fived Tiger fans and students.
“Our senior leadership stayed the course and helped us back on the right track, helping us be as good as we could be,” Bowers said. “After that first game, we played lights out football.”