By SAM McGAW
Complacency isn’t an option for the Brentwood Academy Eagles.
After capturing back-to-back Division II-AA state titles, the Eagles will settle for nothing less than a three-peat in 2017.
“We have a lot of returning starters and guys that have played a lot,” BA head coach Cody White said. “We have a big senior class, which is helpful. They’ve done well and I think everything is coming together well. I feel pretty good about where we are at this point.”
BA returns several starters on both sides of the ball. It will transition to Division II-AAA, where it’ll compete against Father Ryan, Pope John Paul II, Baylor, McCallie, Montgomery Bell Academy and Ensworth.
“For us as coaches, we have to do a good job of getting our guys to peak at the right time,” White said.
“I think a lot of that is the kids need to understand is everyone else is improving, as well. Over the course of the year, you can’t get dull; you have to continue to improve. I think our guys have done that. I think we’ve played as good as we could’ve played at the end of the year in the last two years.”
Gavin Schoenwald finally gets his time to shine.
The senior Vanderbilt commit steps in as the starting quarterback following the departure of Jeremiah Oatsvall (Austin Peay). Oatsvall was a three-time all-state selection and the back-to-back Division II-AA Blue Cross Bowl Offensive MVP.
“I’ve had a different mindset entering this season,” Schoenwald said after the Nolensville 7-on-7 tournament in July. “I’ve watched a lot more film. I just want to be prepared. I know the playbook in and out, because I’ve played just about everywhere. I can tell you what all 11 guys do on each play, and that’s what I need to as a quarterback.”
One of Schoenwald’s top weapons in the spread attack is fellow Vanderbilt commit Camron Johnson at wide receiver. The senior racked up 47 receptions for 796 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Mike Archie and Daniel Taylor are also returning starters at receiver.
Junior Tomario Pleasant spearheads the backfield at running back. He rushed for 776 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016.
Schoenwald was the team’s second-leading pass catcher last season with 324 receiving yards and four touchdowns at tight end. This year, the Eagles will look for Jackson Sirmon and Luke Knox to step up at the position.
Jordan McCoy, Will Collins and Thomas Gore are returning starters on the offensive line.
BA returns a lot of experience to a defense that allowed 19.83 points per game last season.
Senior Airin Spell will anchor the unit at nose tackle. McCoy, Gore and senior Michael Hunt will also make an impact in the trenches.
Sirmon, a Washington commit, is a returning starter at inside linebacker. He amassed 61 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks a year ago.
Knox will join him at inside linebacker, while junior Jack Victory will play outside linebacker.
“Luke Knox, if he can stay healthy, is going to be the surprise of the year, as far as this league goes,” White stated. “He’s really, really talented. He’s going to be a really good tight end, but he’s really come along to be a good defensive player.”
Taylor and Kenyon Garlington will man the corner spots, while Tahir Anoor, Preston Sagan and Johnson are expected to see a bulk of the reps at safety.
Johnson returned two interceptions, two fumbles and a blocked punt for touchdowns last season. He finished with 24 tackles, five interceptions, three fumble recoveries and one blocked punt.
Sam McGaw is the sports editor for Brentwood Home Page, Franklin Home Page, Nolensville Home Page and Spring Hill Home Page. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGaw_ .