These Firebirds are on fire – and they are headed to the state football playoffs.
With loads of firepower on both sides of the ball, Pearl-Cohn (7-3) is riding high into the Class 3A playoffs. The Firebirds are the type team one doesn’t relish playing right off – a unit with a versatile offense and a strong defense.
They start the journey Friday night when they host Grundy County (6-4). Once there, they hope to return to the glory days of their two state championship teams of the late 1990s.
Pearl-Cohn capped off four-game win streak and an unbeaten mark against 3A opponents with a 17-14 victory Friday over host Christ Presbyterian Academy.
Pearl-Cohn’s only losses are to strong DII teams (Montgomery Bell Academy and Battle Ground Academy) and to No. 2 ranked 4A powerhouse Maplewood. The Firebirds haven’t lost since that 27-6 defeat to Maplewood on Oct. 1.
Running back DeAnthony Hall set the tone against CPA when he bolted 38 yards on his first rush and wound up with164 yards in just 16 carries. He also had a touchdown nullified by a penalty.
Michael Murray added 54 yards and one touchdown on 12 attempts.
But it is defense, long a Firebird trademark, which has been a consistent force, especially late in the season.
Defensive backs Richard Taylor and Jestin Williams, along with cornerback Demario Donnell all intercepted passes, and defensive Reggie Clay had two sacks and a forced fumble. For Donnell, it was his Nashville-best eighth pick of the season.
Count Taylor among those who feel Pearl-Cohn is not a team one wants to face right off the bat in the playoffs.
“I don’t think we’re someone that anyone would want to face right off but face at any point in the playoffs,” Taylor, a senior, who returned his interception 22 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, said. “This is my last year, and I’m going to do everything I can to make us successful.
“We’re getting stronger as the season has gone along, and the coaches and everyone on the team is close like family.”
Coach Tony Brunetti was satisfied with the victory but far from a happy camper.
“This game was a lot like our season has gone – we’ve had some really high points and some really low ones,” he said.
He said he was disappointed that after his team built a 17-0 lead (and fumbled at the CPA 1-yard line the first half) it had to hang on at the finish.
“We are making far too many mistakes, fumbles and penalties (110 yards vs. CPA), and we have to fix that to be a really good team,” he said.
CPA tries to rebound
CPA (5-5) not only aims to rebound from two straight season-ending losses, but also hopes for the return of quarterback Nolan Genovese, who went out with a shoulder injury late in the third quarter and did not return.
The Lions visit Goodpasture Friday night in their Class 3A playoff opener, a rematch of their 28-27 loss in early September when the host Cougars blocked an extra point late.
“He got his shoulder hit pretty hard at the goal line, I don’t know the extent of it,” coach Jay Mathews said after the game. “We’re 5-5 and we’ve played one of the toughest schedules in the state. I hope that proves to be a plus for us in the playoffs.”
Sophomore backup Albert Mitchell came in for Genovese and bolted in from the 1 on the next play, then almost led the Lions back from defeat. He threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Nolan Kemp, then a two-point conversion to senior Tyler Dreher with 2:57 left.
Trailing by three with 47 seconds to go, CPA got the ball back at its own 1 after a punt. Mitchell hit three straight passes but the Lions only got as far as the 38 before time ran out.
For Genovese, his 39 yards passing yards left him at 1,954 yards, still short of the 2,000 mark. But of more concern is his availability Friday.
Mitchell is ready if needed.
“I really feel for Nolan, and we’re hoping he will be back,” Mitchell said. “But I’m ready if needed, and I’m confident I can help the team.”
Mitchell finished 7-of-14 for 73 yards and one touchdown.
• Soccer: CPA heads back to state: Christ Presbyterian Academy earned its fourth straight trip to the state soccer tournament Saturday with a 7-0 home romp over Spring Hill in Class A/AA Sectionals.
Victoria Anderson and Alyssa Curtis sparked the Lions (17-4-3) with three goals each. Curtis was named district MVP earlier in the week.
Page edged David Lipscomb 2-1 in overtime on Kate McGuigan’s goal. Both CPA and Page will advance to the state quarterfinals Wednesday at Chattanooga Christian.
In Class AAA, Franklin and Ravenwood returned to state. Franklin (17-4-2) blanked Station Camp 4-0 and Ravenwood (14-4-6) shut out Henry County 2-0.
Both play in the quarterfinals Wednesday at Baylor.
In DII-AA sectionals, Cailin Harris had a goal and an assist to lead Pope JPII back to state with a 4-1 win over Briarcrest. BGA will join the Knights in the Final Four after a 4-3 victory over St. Benedict.
All four Nashville teams – FRA, St. Cecilia, USN and DCA – lost their DII-A sectional matches Saturday.
• Volleyball: Coach of the Year: If there was a coach of the year award for Nashville high school volleyball, it would go to Ensworth’s Eva Lea who started the program seven years ago and guided the Tigers to their first state championship in that sport Friday in DII-AA.
After going two-and-out at the 2009 state tourney, Ensworth returned this fall and won it all, capped by a five-game win over St. Benedict at MTSU. Three times, including the final match, Ensworth fought back from 0-2 down and won.
The Tigers finished 36-8.
“I felt after our match with Independence in summer camp, we had a chance to be something special,” Lea said.
Returning heavy front-line hitters ReJean Rouse (state tourney MVP) and Nikki Gittens, her team must be considered one of the favorites for next season.
“Thank goodness, I have my assistant coaches to calm me down during matches,” Lea added, laughing.
Brentwood High at Smyrna
Franklin at Oakland
Overton at Blackman
McGavock at Mt. Juliet
Marshall County at Maplewood
Page at Chatt. Red Bank
Macon County at Lipscomb
CPA at Goodpasture
Grundy County at Pearl-Cohn
East Lit at Smith County
Columbia Academy at NCS
Father Ryan at MBA
Pope JPII at Brentwood Acad.
St. Benedict at BGA
Jackson Christian at DCA
Harding Academy at FRA
Ezell-Harding at SBEC
(Davidson Academy, bye)