It was an electric 3A Quarterfinal matchup at Pearl-Cohn Friday night as the 10-2 Firebirds played host to the 9-3 Yellow Jackets of Fairview. Each team has a player nominated as a finalist for the 3A Mr. Football Award with Darius James representing Fairview and Jimmyrious Parker playing for Pearl-Cohn. Both are excellent football players but it would be Parker and the Firebirds that had the better night on this occasion.
Neither team could find offensive success in the early going as penalties and mistakes mounted for both squads. Pearl Cohn had several big plays called back for holding and Fairview quarterback Kameron Harris-Lusk had a tipped ball intercepted by Pearl-Cohn’s Jalan Granberry to end the first Fairview drive. It was a physical, chippy game throughout and the first big break came after a Yellow Jacket roughing the punter penalty extended a Pearl-Cohn drive to start the 2nd quarter. The best strategy to come out on top against Pearl-Cohn is to limit their offensive possessions and the special teams penalty seemed to deflate the defense. Jimmyrious Parker made them pay a few plays later when he made a sharp cut off tackle and used his incredible speed to outrace everyone to the end zone.
However, Fairview didn’t win a region title by surrendering easily and the Yellow Jackets would score the next 10 points of the ball game. Fairview head coach Chris Hughes took advantage of the aggressive Pearl-Cohn defense by hitting quick inside trap plays to FB David McNeil. McNeil had some nice runs before Darius James ended the drive with a four yard touchdown scamper. The Yellow Jackets immediately got the ball back after a Pearl-Cohn fumble and added a field goal to take the 10-7 lead halfway through the 2nd quarter.
Pearl-Cohn regained control of the momentum by responding to the Fairview ten point run with two scores of their own before the end of the half. Parker scored his second touchdown of the evening on a pretty reverse play to convert a 4th and goal from the 10 yard line. He picked up a great block from WR Jayden Harrison to seal the edge on the play. Firebird quarterback Xavier Shepherd scrambled out of the pocket and ran the ball into the end zone himself as time expired in the half on their next possession to put the halftime score at 20-10 in favor of Pearl-Cohn.
Fairview received the ball to start the 2nd half and marched down the field on their longest drive of the game. Quarterback Kameron Harris-Lusk rolled out of the pocket and sucked the defenders in to stop his rushing threat before lofting the ball into the end zone to a wide open Corbin Hughes. This score narrowed the Pearl-Cohn lead to 20-17 but it was the last score of the game for Fairview. Darius James couldn’t find any rhythm in the 2nd half due in large part to the Firebird defensive unit. David Anderson, Jonathan Mercer, and Chandon Page led the aggressive run stopping scheme utilized by Coach Tony Brunetti. A third quarter injury to Harris-Luck really forced the Yellow Jackets to be one dimensional with the running game without the threat of a down field passing attack.
The opening scoring drive of the half by Fairview would be answered by three straight Pearl-Cohn scoring drives to put the game out of reach. Xavier Shepherd added two more rushing scores from the quarterback position and David Anderson burst up the middle on a dive play for a 35 yard touchdown. The game was slowed with near constant penalties down the stretch but Pearl-Cohn advanced to the Semi-Finals of the 3A TSSAA playoffs by a final margin of 41-17.
Pearl-Cohn will now play host to Covington next week with a trip to Cookeville and an opportunity at the state title looming.