For months, the date has been circled on these teams’ calendars.
So when Brentwood Academy and Ensworth kick off Friday night at Ensworth, an expected overflow crowd is expected to watch what many are calling the “The Game of the Year” in Nashville.
The powerhouses will play on a national stage. ESPNU will bring its cameras to West Nashville to televise the game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. It will be the first time two Middle Tennessee teams meet on national television.
Brentwood Academy (7-1) has won seven straight since an opening loss at Trinity (Ky.), the No. 11 ranked team in this week’s USA Today Super 25 prep rankings.
Ensworth (8-0) hasn’t been remotely tested since an opening night 35-28 win over Memphis University School. The Tigers did struggle in the first half of games earlier this month against BGA and MBA but eventually scored blowout victories.
The game means little (except for seeding) in regard to the TSSAA Division II playoffs, which open next month. The winner clinches a bye in the first round. The loser also earns a bye with a win next week. Ensworth and BA are ranked Nos. 1-2, respectively, in this week’s Division II poll.
It still will set the tone should the teams meet again.
Ensworth, which has won the past two state championships, jumped four spots from last week up to No. 18 in this week’s USA Today rankings. The Tigers got on the national map in late August when they played at the Bluegrass Showcase in Louisville and crushed Lexington Catholic 62-14 in a game seen on ESPNU.
“I think that game gave our team a lot of exposure, not just for us but for all the teams in Nashville,” coach Ricky Bowers said. “It gave people a chance to see what type of football that is played here, and I think we all kind of profited from that.”
BA likely is the best team Ensworth has seen this season.
“They have good team speed, a very talented group,” Bowers said. “They have a quarterback [Max Staver] who is a senior leader and excellent passer, also some good running backs. They have good experience throughout the lineup and are well-coached.”
First-year BA coach Cody White will get his first taste of the rivalry, which began in 2007 when Ensworth began varsity play. The Tigers have won the last four (two in the postseason) and lead the all-time series 4-2.
“[Ensworth] has a very physical offensive and defensive line,” White said. “And obviously, [running back] Corn Elder has an ability to score from anywhere on the field, but he’s certainly not the only good player they have. Their quarterback [Andrew Bowers] can make a lot of good plays.”
Two years ago at BA, Elder picked off a possible game-tying touchdown pass in the end zone and ran it out to midfield as time expired, preserving a 21-14 Tigers victory. Last year, he rushed for four touchdowns in a 37-17 triumph.
As usual, ball control and turnovers will be critical.
“We’ve got to keep the clock in our favor and keep their offense off the field as much as possible,” White said. “And we’ll have to have the ability to run the football.”
Look for some offensive fireworks.
• Ensworth averages 44 points a game. The Tigers have not scored fewer than 35 points and have topped 40 five times.
• Brentwood Academy averages 40 points a game. If you throw out the 52-23 loss in the opener, that number jumps to 42. Since then, BA, like Ensworth, has topped 40 points five times.
Common opponents and scores don’t reveal much.
Against Baylor, Ensworth won 42-17 and BA won 34-16. Against Battle Ground Academy, Ensworth won 35-7 and BA won 41-7. Against Pope John Paul II, Ensworth won 49-0 and BA won 62-0. Against Montgomery Bell Academy, Ensworth won 35-7 and BA won 24-6.
Fasten your seat belts.
• Another showdown: Another top game Friday sends Lipscomb Academy (4-4) to Christ Presbyterian Academy (8-0). CPA, ranked No. 3 in this week’s Class 3A poll, already has clinched a playoff berth, while Lipscomb can clinch a 4A spot with a win Friday or next week at home against Stratford.
• Goodpasture, McGavock close: Despite all its troubles with players getting suspended or kicked off the team, Goodpasture (3-5) is still the 32nd (the final team in) in the TSSAA 3A playoff standings. The Cougars can clinch with wins Friday against McGavock and next week against Greenbrier. Like Goodpasture, McGavock (4-4) is the 32nd team in the 6A playoffs and can clinch with wins its final two games.
• Portland lows, highs: In just over 24 hours last week, Portland High’s football team went from the lowest depths to the highest heights.
On Thursday, police arrested assistant coach George Coley for an alleged assault on a player after practice and Coley was fired.
Then on Friday night, the Panthers beat Gallatin 16-13 for the first time since 1965 and clinched their first Class 5A playoff berth. Head coach Traye Aric was named Titans state coach of the week on Monday.
Battle Ground Academy at Father Ryan
Baylor at Pope John Paul II
Brentwood Academy at Ensworth
Brentwood High at Blackman
Centennial at Shelbyville
Columbia at Antioch
Davidson Academy at Donelson Christian Academy
East Nashville at Overton
Goodpasture at McGavock
Hillsboro at Stratford
Hillwood at Cane Ridge
Independence at Siegel
Knox Webb at Franklin Road Academy
Lipscomb Academy at Christ Presbyterian Academy
Maplewood at Boyd-Buchanan
McCallie at Montgomery Bell Academy
Nashville Christian School at Houston County
Ravenwood at Smyrna
Sycamore at Ezell-Harding