Ingle Martin has been steadfast in his approach to his first season as football coach at Christ Presbyterian Academy.
Essentially, it’s basic stuff:
• Don’t look past the task at hand and don’t ever, ever look past the next game.
• Do the basic stuff correctly, don’t beat yourself.
• Protect the Den.
Those are all concepts one would hear from virtually any coach, anywhere. But the Lions players have followed instructions to the letter – all except for the fourth quarter on Oct. 7 when they lost 21-20 at Maplewood, their one defeat.
CPA already completed one goal. The Lions (12-1) finished a perfect 7-0 at their home field (The Den) capped by Friday’s 21-7 Class 3A quarterfinal playoff victory over Pearl-Cohn.
Rest assured, the Lions are not looking past their next game. Looming is a semifinal matchup on the road with a formidable Milan team on Thanksgiving weekend.
Milan (12-1) has won four state titles, two as recently as 1998 and 1999, and was in the championship game in 2008 and 2009. The Bulldogs lost to Goodpasture in the semifinals last year.
CPA also has two titles, 2000 and 2002.
“The seniors stepped it up and that’s something we’re really proud of, finishing 7-0 at home before the best fans in the state,” Martin said. “We will approach the Milan game like any other, regular practice Monday and Tuesday, then morning practices Wednesday, then Thursday when we’ll let them head home to enjoy Thanksgiving with family.”
Milan is led by standout running back/linebacker Arkel Coleman, who scored three touchdowns and made an interception that set up Milan’s final score in a 38-20 romp Friday over Fairview. Quarterback Caleb Powell and split end Matt Denton comprise a dangerous passing combo.
Milan has lost only to Huntingdon.
Thurley, Elliott make big defensive plays
In terms of the basics, the Lions had no turnovers against Pearl-Cohn. In so doing, they let the Firebirds self-destruct on their own.
“The last time we played them, the turnover battle was 5-3, but we won 3-0 this time,” Martin said. “That was huge.”
Quarterback Albert Mitchell, who threw three interceptions in the earlier game, was an excellent manager this time and rallied CPA from a 7-0 halftime deficit. He scored one touchdown and threw an eight-yard to Sam Cranford for another and a 14-7 lead.
Pearl-Cohn’s secondary quartet of DeMario Donnell, Deadrick Wilson, Andre McDonald and Darrius Darwin-Box is among the best in Nashville. The group had three interceptions in the first meeting but none Friday. Donnell finished the season with five.
“I managed the game plan much better, and our offense made the plays, and I settled in better,” Mitchell said. “The upperclassmen came up big, and our defense made stands in the second half.”
Senior linebacker Hunter Thurley set up the go-ahead score with an interception deep in Firebirds territory.
Pearl-Cohn also lost two fumbles. Even worse were two high snaps to the punter on fourth down in the second half, with the second of which led directly to the clinching touchdown – junior defensive end James Elliott recovered it for a touchdown – barely.
“After I saw [teammate] Robert Brown knock the ball away, I ran as hard as I could and got it to just before it went out of the end zone – by a foot,” the 6-foot-33, 238-pound Elliott said. “I’m so excited, getting to the semis is a great accomplishment for our team, but we need to keep going.”
CPA is in the semifinals for the first time since it last championship (2002).
• Maplewood defense shines: Maplewood (9-3) became the first team this season to hold White House scoreless and allowed just 167 yards of total offense in its 31-0 Class 4A quarterfinal win.
The Blue Devils had been averaging over 30 points a game (with a low of 12) and had scored 71 points in two playoff games.
It was the Panthers’ fourth shutout. And they did it without star tailback LaDarius Vanlier who was injured early and held out, although he is expected to play next week in the semifinals against Covington.
• Repeat a prelude to a repeat?: Defending state champ Ensworth will take on Baylor Dec. 1 in Cookeville in a rematch of their epic championship game of last year.
The Tigers earned their spot in the championship game with 28-0 semifinal victory over Memphis University School.
It was their second 28-point win of the season over the Owls. In Week 0, Ensworth won 42-14 in Memphis.
• BGA dedicates Smith court: Battle Ground Academy will dedicate Gary Smith basketball court Monday night to honor the former boys coach whose 37-year career at BGA ended last year. The ceremony will be held at halftime of the boys game against Franklin Road Academy (8 p.m).
Barry Booker, a member of the 1985 state tournament team, will be among those who take part in the ceremony.
• Hume Award: The annual William Hume Award will be presented after an 11:30 a.m. luncheon Dec. 3 at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel.
It goes to a Metro Nashville football player who is exemplary in football ability, academics and service to the community.
• Stratford, East Lit openings: After the recent resignations of Jason Smith at Stratford and Jim Wilson at East Lit, applications for the head football coach at the both schools are being taken at the Metro School Board athletic office.
Applicants should submit a letter of interest and a resume to Roosevelt Sanders, athletic director, Metro Nashville schools, 2601 Bransford Ave., Nashville, TN 37204 or call the Metro office, 259-8783, on or before Dec. 1.
• East-West all-star game Dec. 10: The Toyota East-West Tennessee Classic all-star football game will be held at Carson-Newman in Jefferson City, noon (CST) on Saturday, Dec. 10.
Several Nashville area players are competing in the fifth annual contest.