By SAM McGAW
Winning championships has almost become second nature for the seniors on Brentwood Academy’s football team.
Since they began their freshmen year in 2014, BA has won 12 state championships in five different boys sports.
On Saturday, they’ll look to add another trophy to the case when they attempt to secure a three-peat against Montgomery Bell Academy (10-2) in the Division II-AAA title game at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville at 7 p.m.
“As a group, they’re winners,” BA head coach Cody White said about his senior class. “They’ve won in almost every sport they’re in throughout the years. They understand what it takes, and the stage isn’t too big for them.”
This is the third consecutive season BA (11-0) and MBA will have squared off in the state championship. BA defeated MBA 42-38 in last year’s Division II-AA title game. In the 2015 championship, the Eagles took down the Big Red 56-55 in double overtime.
BA rolled to a 29-0 victory against MBA in their most-recent meeting on Oct. 20.
“We’ve had to play at least one team twice almost each and every year,” White said. “(Preparing for the same opponent) has gotten easier, because we’ve gotten more comfortable with how you do it. The biggest thing is keeping your kids from getting bored with prepping for the same opponent. As a coach and staff, you have to worry about the what-ifs and what they can change.”
BA has won 16 straight games. This year, it’s won by an average margin of 28 points.
Led by quarterback Gavin Schoenwald and his bevy of weapons, the Eagles average 37.6 points and 353.1 total yards per game.
Schoenwald, a Vanderbilt commit, has recorded 1,494 passing yards, 359 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns (6 run) and three interceptions this season.
His top targets in the receiving corps are Camron Johnson, Mike Archie and Daniel Taylor.
Johnson, who’s also a Vanderbilt commit, was a DII-AAA Mr. Football finalist this year. He’s caught 43 passes for 693 yards and eight touchdowns. Archie has 30 catches for 342 yards and eight touchdowns, while Taylor has 27 receptions for 310 yards and two scores.
Running back Tomario Pleasant leads the backfield with 1,308 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 186 carries.
MBA has allowed an average of 15.67 points per game.
“Even though we’re a spread offense, we have to run the ball to be successful,” White said. “The times we struggle with that, we struggle with the entire offense. When we’re able to run the ball, it opens things up for our talented receivers.”
Linebacker Jackson Sirmon spearheads a BA defense that’s allowing 9.6 points per game.
Sirmon, a Washington commit, has 97 total tackles (12 for loss), 1.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Defensive end Michael Hunt and outside linebacker Luke Knox are also key playmakers in the front-seven.
Hunt has 56 tackles (16.5 for loss), 11.5 sacks and a forced fumble, while Knox has amassed 60 tackles (15.5 for loss), 8.5 sacks, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
At cornerback, Taylor has a team-high three interceptions and five pass breakups, while Kenyon Garlington has two interceptions, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
Johnson also has an interception at safety.
While BA shut down MBA in their previous meeting, White knows his defense can expect to see some changes from the Big Red.
“They’re really creative with formations and personnel groupings,” he stated. “It’s kind of a nightmare to prepare for. You have to try to find some fundamental pegs your kids can hang their hands on. We check a lot defensively on the field, so our kids make the decisions a lot based on how we implement the game plan on defense. For them to make the right checks, they need to see it, they need to react, and they need to communicate.”
A win will give BA its first undefeated season since it went 15-0 in back-to-back seasons in 1995 and 1996.