The storylines are many as Ensworth meets Chattanooga Baylor for the DII-AA state football championship Thursday night.
In just its sixth year of varsity play, Ensworth is hoping to add a state title in football to those the school has already won in girls and boys basketball and, a little more than a month ago, in volleyball. Many thought a football crown would come first.
The BlueCross Bowl final in Cookeville is a rematch of a Week 9 game in which Ensworth (9-2) collected a dizzying, high-scoring 41-29 victory in Chattanooga.
“For certain, we’re going to have score some points,” coach Ricky Bowers said after looking at the 70-point avalanche in the earlier game in which neither team really slowed down the other. “We’re going to have to execute and not turn the ball over.”
Ensworth will certainly be glad to repeat its offensive stats from the first game.
Mr. Football finalist Corn Elder rushed for 260 yards, had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown, scored four touchdowns and had another called back. Quarterback Drew Parker hit 15-of-20 passes for 253 yards and two more touchdowns.
“That was a very tough game,” Elder said. “Baylor has a great team, with great players, we’ll have to play an outstanding game to beat them.”
To win, the Tigers are going to have to at least slow down Mr. Football winner, quarterback Jacob Huesman, an outstanding passer and runner for Baylor (10-1).
As a side note, the season’s first meeting marked the first time Ensworth had to play without all-star tackle Antonio Richardson who transferred out that very day to Pearl-Cohn.
“We’ve gone through a lot of adversity this season, not only with Antonio leaving but with injuries,” Elder said. “And we’ve come out of it stronger as a team.”
“It is so hard to beat a great team twice,” Parker said. “We were able to beat Brentwood Academy a second time which was a great game, and we’ll have to beat a great Baylor team again if we want to win it all.”
The win over Baylor marked the third time Ensworth had beaten a No. 1 ranked team this season. If the Tigers win Thursday, they will be the true No. 1.
“There are two keys to the game,” Baylor coach Phil Massey said. “One, our defense certainly has to improve over the first game, and second we have to take care of the ball, we had five turnovers earlier.”
Another sidelight is the touching story of Massey’s wife Sandy who was diagnosed earlier in the year with leukemia.
“It’s been tough, she’s been to the hospital over 100 times for treatment,” Massey said, “but she’s still been out there to support us at home games. We have had so much encouragement and support from other coaches and players.
“It has been so satisfying to see people rally around us and for our football team to improve steadily throughout the season and watch the strong leadership of our seniors.”
• Goodpasture takes aim at first title since 1999: Peaking in the playoffs, Goodpasture takes aim at the school’s fourth state football championship when the Cougars (13-1) try to unseat Alcoa (14-0) in the Class 3A final Friday at 3:30 in the BlueCross Bowl finals.
The powerful Tornados have won six straight state championships, three of them against Goodpasture (2005-06-07).
“They are so fundamentally sound, they are strong in every area,” 19th-year coach David Martin said of Alcoa. “Our focus has been on execution, keeping our mistakes to a minimum. We cannot afford to make turnovers.’
“We’ve had great senior leadership, and we need for that to continue in this game. This team has been overachievers and is very resilient.”
Suffering only a one-point mid-season loss to Lipscomb, Goodpasture is averaging 36.9 points a game and allowing just 21.6.
The Cougars have the rarity of two 1,000-yard rushers – Carter Tompkins (1,129, 16 touchdowns) and Mitchell Martin (1,018, seven touchdowns). Quarterback Keenan Reynolds has passed for 1,733 yards and rushed for 248 more for a total of 1,981 yards total offense. John Thomas Lynn leads the receivers with 38 catches for 586 yards and five touchdowns.
“It’s no surprise to me that Goodpasture is in the finals again,’’ Alcoa Coach Gary Rankin, who has matched his four state championships at Murfreesboro Riverdale High with four at Alcoa, said. “They have an outstanding team, and it should be a great game. We haven’t talked at all about the streak of state championships, we’re just trying to improve each day.”
Rankin’s team boasts a 35-31 Week 2 win over Class 6A finalist Maryville.
Alcoa became one of the few teams in Mr. Football history to have three finalists for the award – Derek Evans and Darrell Warren were two of the three finalists for lineman award, and Vanderbilt Hambrick was a back finalist.
Warren won the lineman award.
Hambrick has rushed for over 1,000 yards and had a 212-yard, three-touchdown performance in the win over Maryville. He was featured shortly after in Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd.
• ‘Battle of the Best’ at TSU: Some of the top high school basketball talent in the South will be on hand at the “Battle of the Best’’ blockbuster tripleheader at Tennessee State’s Gentry Center on Friday.
At 5 p.m., Central Park Christian (Ala.) meets Arlington Country Day (Ala.), which features 7-foot-1 post player Pape Morsall of Country Day. At 6:30, Marshall County of Lewisburg, which features Vanderbilt signee Kedren Johnson will take on Lee High of Huntsville, Ala.
In the feature game at 8 p.m., Sporting News and Rivals.com No. 1 nationally ranked and defending Class AAA state champion Memphis Melrose will meet Maxpreps.com No. 1 ranked Oak Hill Academy (Va.). Melrose boasts 6-6 all-state Adonis Thomas, a Memphis signee.
To purchase tickets, go to www.battleofthebest.net.
(at Tennessee Tech, Cookeville)
3:30 p.m. – Knox Webb vs. St. George’s, DII-A
7 p.m.—Ensworth vs. Baylor, DII-AA
Noon –South Pittsburg vs. Jo Byrns, Class 1A
3:30 p.m.—Goodpasture vs. Alcoa, Class 3A
7 p.m. – Columbia vs. Hendersonville, 5A
Noon—Signal Mountain vs. Trinity Christian, 2A
3:30 p.m.—Greeneville vs. Trezevant, 4A
7 p.m.—Maryville vs. Smyrna, 6A