By Todd Lamberth:
The 2017 TSSAA state football championships wrap up on Saturday with the now three Division II title games.
All six teams come into Saturday’s Blue Cross Bowl games with two weeks worth of rest and preparation, which could set up some strong championship matchups.
Here’s a quick preview of Saturday’s slate of games at Tennessee Tech:
II-A: Friendship Christian Commanders (12-0) vs. Donelson Christian Academy Wildcats (9-3), 11 a.m.
After back-to-back state titles in 2011-2012, the Commanders make a championship appearance in their first year since moving to Division II play. On the other side, veteran coach Dennis Goodwin brings his Wildcats into the state finals looking for their first championship since 2004.
Friendship has been dominant all season with only two games being decided by less than 14 points. They’ve been powered by their run game with two running backs surpassing the 1,000-yard mark this season. Senior JaJuan “Speedy” Foutch leads the rushing attack with 1,377 yards this season, averaging over 11 yards per carry, while scoring 23 touchdowns. He’s joined in the ground game by sophomore Justin Seagraves with 1,073 yards and 14 more scores.
Senior linebacker Taylor Carman leads a Commander defense that has allowed less than 12 points per game this season. Carman leads the teams with 150 tackles this season.
Carman and the rest of the defensive unit will be tasked with stopping an offense that can do it through the air or on the ground. In two playoff games, the Wildcats have put up 79 points.
DCA took down then undefeated Davidson Academy 27-21 in the semi-finals thanks to 228 yards rushing and two touchdowns from senior Houston Troup.
The Wildcats come in riding a five-game win streak and have won six of their last seven since losing a week five matchup to Friendship Christian, 47-27.
DCA will look to keep up their recent form in the rematch, as they have outscored teams 181-66 during their winning streak.
II-AA: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-1) vs. Lausanne Lynx (12-0), 3 p.m.
Lausanne enters the Division II-AA state title game looking for their second title in as many years, while the Fighting Irish are going for their first ever championship.
After losing the opening game of the season to Baylor, the Fighting Irish have reeled off 11 straight wins in dominant fashion. Only one team has been able to get within a score of the Irish as Grace Christian out of Knoxville has lost by a combined 11 points in two games.
Notre Dame averages over 41 points per game with their run-heavy offense, an offense that scored 42 points on 462 rushing yards against a CPA defense that came in allowing just 18 points per game.
The Irish have allowed just 17 points per game this season, but may face their toughest test this season in Lausanne’s ground attack.
Lynx running back Eric Gray comes in with an impressive 2,870 yards rushing this season with 40 touchdown carries. The junior averages nearly 10 yards a carry while going for 239 yards a game on average.
Gray isn’t the only threat in the Lynx offense, however. Devin Boddie, Jr. has proved to be a do-it-all player on the offense, contributing in both the air and ground attack. The junior has thrown for 384 yards, rushed for 725 yards and added 192 yards receiving with 17 total touchdowns.
Defensively, Lausanne comes in after slowing down a BGA offense that had scored a combined 102 points in their first two playoff games. The Lynx allowed just 21 points in the semi-final matchup, with just seven coming in the second half.
With both teams using such run focused offenses and showing the propensity to score points, Division II-AA could come down to whichever team gets the final possession.
II-AAA: Brentwood Academy Eagles (11-0) vs. Montgomery Bell Academy Big Red (10-2), 7 p.m.
These two schools know a thing or two about each other, having played each other in the previous two state title games and seven times total in state championships. After the Big Red won the first five times the two played for the championship, Brentwood Academy has claimed the last two state titles.
While MBA leads the all-time series 17-13, the Eagles have won four of the past five meetings, including a 29-0 win earlier this season.
The two teams have had very different paths to the championship game this year. While MBA has won both of their games 14-7, Brentwood Academy has outscored their two opponents 71-13 on their path to the finals.
A pair of Vanderbilt commitments lead the Eagle offense in quarterback Gavin Shoenwald and wide receiver Cameron Johnson. Shoenwald has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards this season and 17 scores, while Johnson has caught 43 passes for 693 yards and eight touchdowns. Shoenwald, however, comes in after dislocating his left shoulder in their semi-final game, but is expected to play.
The Eagles balance their offense with junior Mario Pleasant, who rushed for 93 yards and a score in the semi-final game.
Brentwood Academy is equally as stout defensively. Led by senior linebacker, and Washington commit, Jackson Sirmon, the Eagles have allowed less than 10 points per game in their 11 games this season.
On the other side, MBA entered the season tasked with replacing the production of star running back Ty Chandler. They’ve done it with multiple players as four members of the Big Red have at least 40 carries this season.
Senior Michael McGuire leads the ground attack with 173 carries this season for 888 yards, finding the end zone nine times.
Experienced, senior quarterback Ty Allen leads the offense this season, proving he can hurt teams with his arm and his legs. Allen has thrown for 1,349 and 15 touchdowns this year while adding 627 yards and eight more scores on the ground.
The Big Red have forced 22 turnovers this year and will look to force a couple more to help set up their offense against the stiff Eagle defense.
Recent years have proved you can throw records out when these two rivals face with the state championship on the line. Brentwood Academy’s two championship wins over the last two seasons have come by a combined five points.