Ensworth may be a better team for its loss to Brentwood Academy three weeks ago, but the Tigers may not be good enough to reverse that outcome in Friday’s Division II-AA semifinal.
The three-time defending DII-AA champions are dealing with a couple of fairly significant injuries, creating further questions on top of a shaky performance in a 36-10 loss on Nov. 1 that snapped a 29-game winning streak.
Sophomore Coleman Goodwin started at quarterback in last week’s win over Christian Brothers, with P.J. Settles sidelined by a knee injury. Darius Morehead and Donovan Sheffield teamed for 342 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the 40-11 victory as D’Andre Ferby continues to battle a pulled calf muscle that slowed him against Brentwood Academy.
“We hope we’re a better team from that experience,” Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said of the loss, in which his team committed six turnovers — a pair of fumbles and four Settles interceptions. “You cruise along and you hit a big bump in the road, and you have to reassess. We had to do some self-evaluation. I think we did that and I think we’re better.
“The turnovers — that has something to do with who you play. We’d gotten away with some of the same mistakes against other people earlier without turning the ball over. We didn’t that night.”
Ferby had been the workhorse for Ensworth (9-1), rushing for 1,046 yards and 18 touchdowns. But he had a 14-carry, 53-yard effort against the Eagles (8-3). With the ground game stalled, Settles had a season-high 24 passing attempts and completed just eight while suffering four of his seven pickoffs on the year.
“They outdid us,” Ferby said. “They were more prepared. They wanted it more than we did. It hurt, but we knew we were going to see them again. It’ll be nice to get out there and get us a victory and get us back to the state championship (game). We’ve been here before. I think we’re ready.”
Bowers didn’t rule Ferby or Settles out of the rematch but was encouraged by Ensworth’s performance last week.
“In a perfect world, you’d have more experience in all the positions,” he said. “But we’re looking at the bright side. We have a week of experience with these guys that we think was very helpful. Last week, we got a full game in against good competition in a do-or-die situation. We have guys that have been preparing and are prepared.”
For Brentwood Academy’s part, second-year coach Cody White isn’t concerned with his team’s approach.
“I don’t know how you could feel overconfident. They’re pretty danged good,” White said. “They’re still the state champions until somebody beats them. We’ve got all the respect in the world for what they’re going to bring.
“That (first game) is in the past. All we do is look at how we could have played better — we left some points off the board — and I’m sure they’re doing the same thing. It’s a whole new deal when you get in the playoffs. It’s a lot of fun, and we’re telling the kids to enjoy it. That’s why you come to this school, to play in these type games.”
Ensworth’s health hasn’t been a big concern to White this week.
“This time of year, everybody’s beaten up,” he said. “We expect to see all of them anyway. I wouldn’t tell you we don’t worry about personnel, but it’s probably way secondary to scheme.”