More than tradition riding on MBA-BA contest

Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 12:11am

Montgomery Bell Academy football coach Daniel McGugin remembers vividly the first time he played against Brentwood Academy. It was significant in that it was the first time MBA had ever played BA in football and it was McGugin’s last football game as a player.

“It was in November 1995, my senior year, and it was the last football game I ever played,’’ he said. “It was in the semis of the Class 5A playoffs. It was cold and windy and they beat us (35-10).’’

McGugin played linebacker and twin brother Bill (who is an MBA assistant) played quarterback that year. Both went on to play tennis together in college.

The first two times the two powerhouses met each other (’95 and ’96) MBA lost to BA, but since, the Big Red has gone on to fashion an overall 13-6 record against the Eagles, one of the few teams to hold that distinction.

MBA’s first ever win over BA was hugely significant. In mid-season 1997, the Big Red edged BA 13-7. That marked the first time the Eagles had ever lost a district/region football game since the TSSAA district format began in 1977.

After 20 years, BA was the last team in the state never to have lost a regular season league game until MBA and Max Fuller handed them that first loss.

McGugin is 3-0 against BA since he became coach in ’07, one of the wins coming in the DII state finals that year.

“It’s always a game between schools with a lot of tradition, it’s always competitive and the fact a lot of the players know each other makes the rivalry even bigger,’’ he said.

The teams meet at MBA Friday at 7:05 p.m. with much on the line again. MBA (5-3, 2-2) and BA (4-3, 2-2) are jockeying for a No. 2 seed in the DII Middle/East playoff bracket.

That’s key because the No. 2 team gets a bye, plus an opening-round home playoff game. Ensworth (7-0) needs only to beat Baylor Friday to clinch the No. 1 seed in the region and a first-round playoff bye.

“They (BA) have the fastest and biggest line we’ll go against this year,’’ McGugin said, assessing the game. Those guys are all big and can run. They have three truly outstanding receivers (Weldon Garlington, Joshua Pleasant and Jay Luna). They also have some great running backs in Victor Caro and Joshua Tate, along with a very capable senior quarterback (Cody Nelson), who has been the starter ever since I got here.’’

McGugin added, “I’m amazed they’ve lost three games.’’

The Big Red counters with Fitz Lassing, one of Nashville’s leading rushers, and Tyler Franks and a stout defense, anchored by defensive end Brad Bars.

Prep notes

• It will be “Ladies Night Out’’ at Christ Presbyterian Academy Thursday. The Lions host both the district soccer and sectional volleyball championships that night.

At 6 p.m., CPA (15-2) meets Lipscomb for the District 10-A/AA soccer championship, followed at 7 by Harpeth vs. CPA (31-5) in the AA volleyball sectional in the Lion Gym.

“It’s unprecedented, the first time we’ve been in the championship games in both sports,’’ said athletic director Mike Ellson.

• Ravenwood (47-2) won the Region 6-AAA volleyball title with a finals victory over defending state champ Centennial Tuesday. Both teams are favored to reach state.

A noticeable absentee in the state tournament will be powerhouse Brentwood, which lost to Independence in the district tournament. Until this season, the Bruins had been to state every year since 1988 with the exception of 2003 when they had to forfeit in the district tournament due to an ineligible player.

• FRA’s Tyler Smith has committed to play golf at Mississippi State and will sign with the Bulldogs Nov. 13. Smith was region medalist the past two seasons and qualified for state all four years and finished seventh this season.