It seemed reasonable to wonder Friday night whether is there going to be a rematch between two Nashville football heavyweights.
If so, Ensworth is the team to beat following its decisive 20-0 victory over Brentwood Academy in Round One on Friday at Ensworth Stadium. The game was broadcast nationally on ESPNU.
Round Two, if it happens, will be Nov. 29 and will be vastly more important.
“That would be great because we would be playing for the state championship,” Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said. “I’m sure both teams will make adjustments, based on what happened [Friday].
“We’re getting better every week. We made some mistakes, so we can definitely improve in some areas. Our defense was absolutely outstanding, amazing, shutting out a team like that.”
Corn Elder and Co. grounded the Eagles, clinched first place in the DII-AA Middle/East standings and earned a bye in the playoffs, which open Nov. 2.
BA clinches a bye with a road win Friday over McCallie, which would place the Eagles in the opposite bracket. Ensworth can nail down the school’s first perfect season if it beats Father Ryan next week, then gets the needed postseason victories needed to win a third straight state championship.
Ensworth (9-0) more than lived up to its No. 18 ranking in the USA Today Super 25 Prep Poll. It might move up in this week’s poll on the strength of its victory before an overflow crowd of about 5,000.
BA (7-2) had won seven straight. Its only other defeat was in its opener, when it played Trinity, (Ky.), No. 11, according to USA Today.
“What’s exciting is that when you’re seven years old and playing football in your back yard, you never dream you’re going to be playing on a Friday night on ESPN some day, and that’s something both teams can always take with each other,” Bowers said.
• ELDER STATESMAN: Elder made his case for a second straight Division II Mr. Football award. He rushed for 296 yards on 40 carries and scored two first-half touchdowns, which gave Ensworth a 14-0 halftime lead. He slipped in the open field on a fourth-down try from the 2 late in the third quarter, or he would have had another score.
For the season, Elder has 1,906 rushing yards with 28 touchdowns.
“Our offensive line did an incredible job, opening holes for me,” he said. “And our defense was just great.”
BA had just six yards rushing on 17 plays and 207 yards total offense. It was the Eagles’ first shutout loss since it fell 26-0 to Prattville, (Ala.) in 2008.
The Eagles hurt themselves with mistakes.
They had a 33-yard field goal blocked in the first quarter. Quarterback Max Staver threw two interceptions and the Eagles lost a fumble.
After Jalen Ramsey returned an interception 30 yards to the Ensworth 15, the Eagles were penalized for delay of game penalty. On the next play, Ensworth senior Justin Boyd intercepted Staver. Later, BA lost 20 yards on a play from the Ensworth 4.
On their final possession, Cody Pack stopped D’Montre Wade on a fourth-and-one from the 16.
“Ensworth is a very good team, and unless you are sound in all three phases of the game, you won’t be successful against them,” BA coach Cody White said. “I thought our defense played very well, but we made some mistakes offensively.
“If [a rematch] were to happen, great, because it would be in the championship game.”
CONTROVERSIAL ENDING: With six seconds to play, Ensworth had the ball at the BA 2.
Each team took a timeout. Then a penalty moved the ball back to the 7.
Rather than take a knee, Ensworth passed on the final play and senior Lane Baker caught a pass for the final score. There was no PAT attempt.
Some BA fans were less than pleased about what transpired.
“I’m OK with that,” White said. “It is our job to stop them no matter how much time is left, and we didn’t on that play.”
Said Bowers: “We had our second unit in, and we had a senior who had never scored a touchdown in his career before, and I’m happy for him.”
For a school which was started just eight years ago, Ensworth looks poised for a third straight state championship.
As the game ended, the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling, tonight’s going to be a good night” blared out over the press box. Bowers’ team hopes there will an even better one in Cookeville late next month.
• State volleyball: Two-time defending Class AAA state champ Ravenwood and Brentwood High both qualified for the state tournament, which opens Wednesday in Murfreesboro.
The Bruins (56-4) play Bartlett, and Ravenwood (40-9) meets Bearden in their openers at Siegel High. In AA, Goodpasture (41-3) qualified and will meet Red Bank at Blackman High.
In Division II-AA, regular season region champ Harpeth Hall and Battle Ground Academy both won sectional matches Saturday to qualify. Harpeth Hall eliminated two-time defending state champ Ensworth in three games. BGA went on the road and upended St. Benedict in three games as Anisa Moore had 16 kills, Kaitlyn Hrynewich had seven kills and Morgan McShain had 26 assists.
In Division II-A, St. Cecilia and Davidson Academy both qualified.
• Region soccer: Brentwood High beat Franklin to win the District 11-AAA title last week. Both will compete Tuesday in the Region 6-AAA semifinals. Finals are Thursday.
Christ Presbyterian Academy will host the Region 11-A/AA tourney, starting Tuesday.
• Mitchell hits 1,000: Albert Mitchell became the latest Nashville quarterback to hit the 1,000-yard passing mark. The Christ Presbyterian Academy senior completed 6-of-11 for 57 yards, giving him 1,008 for the season in a win Friday over Lipscomb Academy.
The Lions go for a 10-0 regular season with a trip to Pearl-Cohn on Friday.
• Site changed: The East-West All-Star Classic football game will move to Tennessee Tech, following this season.
The game, which had been played at Carson-Newman in Jefferson City for the past five years, will be played at Tech’s Tucker Stadium Dec. 8, following the finals of the BlueCross Bowl state playoffs the week before, also at Tech.
Bill Marbet, executive director of the Tennessee Athletic Coaches Association (TACA), announced the move last Thursday. He said the newly founded Cookeville-Putnam County Sports Council was key in persuading TACA to move the game to Cookeville.