Four teams are already Cookeville-bound … Another dozen will punch their tickets this weekend … Here’s a few to watch …
First-and-10: As a quarterback, you’ve had a pretty good night when your yards per completion and yards per attempt are the same number. You’ve had a great night when that number is 26.1. Pearl-Cohn’s Jimmy Ferrell went 15-for-15 for 391 yards and five touchdowns in the second-seeded Firebirds’ 79-36 Class 4A quarterfinal win over No. 4 seed White House.
It was the best performance of the year for the junior, but a continuation of his postseason play. Ferrell has completed 29 of 31 passes in three playoff games for 743 yards, nine TDs and no interceptions – giving him 2,289 yards, 32 TDs and five pickoffs with a 71.3 completion percentage the season and six straight games without a pick. “He’s been doing a good job; he’s come a long way,” said Tony Brunetti, whose 11-2 team travels to 12-1 Trezevant this weekend. “The biggest thing is he’s taking his time and being more patient.”
Ferrell’s progress makes RB KeShawn Vaughn (2,525 rushing yards, 44 TDs) even more dangerous. “You can’t just load up the box on us anymore,” Brunetti said. “In the past, you could do that. We’re a different team.”
Second-and-5: After a pair of defeat on the big stage to its crosstown rival, Oakland exacted some get-back with last week’s 20-9 6A quarterfinal win at Blackman. The second-seeded Patriots (12-1) had their 2013 season end with a 17-3 quarterfinal loss to Blackman, then opened this campaign with a 28-21 nationally televised loss to the Blaze.
Oakland held the hosts scoreless in the second half, and Blackman’s nine points were 33 less than its average coming into the contest. “We played up to our potential defensively, which we didn’t do the first time we played them,” coach Thomas McDaniel said. “The first time, we didn’t protect the football, and this time we did.”
With the win, the Patriots advance to a semifinal matchup with undefeated defending state champion Maryville (13-0) – and they’ll take on the Rebels without senior LB Kevin Prather, who was ejected early in the Blackman game after being whistled for two unsportsmanlike conduct infractions. “That’s not going to be an issue or an excuse,” McDaniel said. “We didn’t let it affect us (against Blackman). He made a mistake, and Dexter Hurd stepped up tremendously.”
Third-and-short: Maryville is among six 2013 titlists whose hopes of back-to-back crowns are still intact. The only Middle Tennesssee team still chasing a repeat, though, is Ensworth – which will play for its fifth straight Division II-AA championship after defeating Memphis University School 27-24 last week. Both Trousdale County (2A) and Henry County (5A) were eliminated in the quarterfinals, losing on the road – Trousdale falling 41-20 at Marion County, Henry County dropping a 48-16 decision at Ridgeway.
Fourth-and-inches: Next weekend could be a busy one for the McGraw family. With Ensworth – featuring Alabama commitment Rico McGraw – already headed to Cookeville for the Division II-AA title game, younger brother Mareio could also be playing in the BlueCross Bowl as Nashville Christian (12-0) travels to defending 1A champion Union City (12-0) in this week’s semifinal.
“He’s a pretty special player,” NCS coach Jeff Brothers said of Mareio, a junior who sat out his sophomore season after transferring from Ensworth. “He’s been under the radar a little.” Splitting time at tailback with classmates Blake Barfield and Daniel Bituli, Mareio has rushed for a team-leading 782 yards with nine TDs. Over the last three weeks, he has 431 rushing yards with five scores. “He’s our shutdown cornerback. We’ve been able to rest him on offense, but he’s shown the most explosiveness and speed, and he’s come on of late to be a home run-type guy for us.”