Ensworth withstood a furious passing attack to defeat visiting Memphis University School 35-28 Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
Senior quarterback Jordan Rodgers passed for 385 yards and three touchdowns for the Owls, but the ground game and big-play defense of the Tigers prevailed.
Corn Elder rushed for 230 yards and four touchdowns to pace the Tigers, but his fourth-quarter fumble gave MUS one last chance to tie late in the game. But senior linebacker Cody Pack put pressure on Rodgers on consecutive incomplete passes, and the Tigers got the ball back.
Senior quarterback Andrew Bowers then converted two third downs on running plays and ran out the clock.
“They didn’t surprise with their passing, but they were still able to move against us,” Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said.
Ensworth broke a 14-14 halftime tie when Elder ran 65 yards on the first play of the second half. Anthony Batey then made a leaping interception of a Rodgers pass and ran it to the Owls 5-yard line. Elder took it in from there, and Ensworth never looked back.
MUS twice drove into Tiger territory in the closing minutes, but a fumble and an intentional grounding call killed the drives.
MUS started the game with a 65-yard drive. Rodgers completed six passes, including a 16-yard touchdown to Devin Perry.
Ensworth answered with a quick score as Elder had consecutive runs of 27 and 33 yards, the latter for a touchdown.
The Owls again drove down the field but missed a long field goal. Ensworth gave the ball back on the next play as Elder fumbled.
On third down, Rodgers scrambled to the 12, setting up a fourth and 5. But holding was called and Bowers took the penalty. Rodgers found Devin Perry in the corner of the end zone on the next play and the Owls led 14-7 late in the first quarter.
The Tigers responded with an 87-yard, seven-play drive to tie the score early in the second.