BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTO BY ANDY COLLIGNON
The Brentwood Academy Eagles are about to embark on yet another November adventure to bring a state championship back to the trophy case.
Before that, though, they’ve got to top their Nashville archrivals in one of the most hotly-anticipated games of the county season.
Montgomery Bell Academy perennially has one of the best football teams around Middle Tennessee, and MBA’s perhaps BA’s biggest rival they’ll face in the regular season.
The game’s got plenty riding on it — the winner will essentially cement home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so the road to state will most likely be determined through Friday’s big game.
The Eagles are also going to have to do something they’ve not done in quite some time: rebound from a tough loss. The last-minute McCallie win two weeks ago gave BA its first “L” in two years, both a testament to the quality of this team and a reminder that even the greats can slip up in close situations.
Head coach Cody White says he’s trying to put the moment in perspective for his accomplished outfit.
“I think the big thing was just talking to them about the fact that they didn’t hand out a championship trophy at that game,” White said. “Two of the three years that we’ve won a state championship we’ve had a loss. So, that’s not the end-all, be-all.
“The thing that comes from it is that you’re not really determining your fate as far as playoff seeding goes anymore, so that’s a big deal. But I think the big thing is just talking to them about not letting the loss beat you twice.”
There’s no doubt the Eagles will be ready to embark on another two-year win streak right away, and what a better way to kick that off than with a big brouhaha with your big nemesis?
White says it’s still the status quo around their locker room with the game upcoming, though he recognizes the change in scenery.
“There’s a little something added to [the MBA game],” White said. “Our league’s pretty tough, so there are a lot of games that are important. I think the fact that our kids know each other, all that kind of stuff, adds a little bit to it. We really try to keep it as normal as we can.”
Both BA and MBA have similar strengths and few weaknesses. Playing a team with about all the same bells and whistles as you can be a challenge, particularly when there’s opposing familiarity thrown in.
White said he sees a lot in the rival that he sees in his team, and hints where he thinks the battle will be won and lost.
“Turnovers are going to be huge,” the coach said. “We cannot turn the ball over. And, I think it boils down to, and I know it’s going to sound cliche, the line of scrimmage on both sides, for us and them, are important. I think that controls who’s going to win. They’re both pretty good rushing football teams, and we pick and choose our moments to throw it.
“I think it boils down to those big guys up front.”
MBA’s offensive line in particular is one of the best in the state and includes guard and Tennessee commit Jackson Lampley.
“Our guys, they’ve played them before, they know what’s coming,” White said, citing McCallie as another tough offensive line the team has sharpened iron with. “It’s not like we haven’t played people who are good up front.
“I think we’re pretty well prepared for what we’re going to see, so hopefully we’ll do a good job handling that.”
Of course, there won’t be a whole lot of love lost with the Eagles and Big Red get at it Friday. It’s one of the state’s premiere rivalries on the gridiron, and White says he’s sees it plenty in his time leading BA.
“Of course, we see them every year, we’re about five miles apart,” White said. “A lot of our kids go to elementary or middle school together, so there’s a lot of familiarity. I think, like any rivalry, there’s a lot of respect, at least from our staff, towards what those guys do year in and year out. [MBA head coach Marty Euverard] and his guys are very consistent.
“I think the names change, and the faces change, and what they do and how successful they are doesn’t really change. So, I think for us, it’s more of a mutual respect. I don’t feel like it’s a bitter thing, necessarily, at least from our perspective, but it’s a challenge, and that adds a little extra emphasis to it, that we have found a way to run into each other three times in a row [in the state championship game].”
Though, no matter the outcome of the big BA/MBA smackdown, both teams will still have November ball to look forward to.
White says he leans on his coaching staff’s experience in guiding a younger flock of Eagles through the postseason.
“These regular season games are really important, for seeding and those kind of things, but, really, you’ve got to continue to improve, and if you don’t, there’s enough quality in this league that you’ll get beat pretty quickly in the playoffs.”
White says he wants his young team to buy into the philosophy of what’s helped other BA teams reach the top of the state mountain: one the coach describes as not really reading into the moment and focusing on the team in the mirror.
“So for us it’s more of a focus on ourselves, continuing to improve as a team.”
BA and MBA meet once more Friday night out at the Eagles’ place. Kickoff’s at 7:00 p.m.