BEST GAME: Brentwood Academy 56, MBA 55 (2OT), Dec. 3
These two teams saved the best for last in the DII-AA title game, as Brentwood Academy’s tandem of Jeremiah Oatsvall and Cam Johnson and MBA’s Ty Chandler were virtually unstoppable. Oatsvall passed for 280 yards and two TDs and ran for 159 yards and two more scores. Chandler lit it up for 258 rushing yards and three TDs and also scored on a BlueCross Bowl-record 99-yard kickoff return.
But in the end, it was Oatsvall’s 8-yard touchdown run in double-OT, followed by his 2-point conversion pass to Johnson that gave the Eagles the championship.
BIGGEST UPSET: Centennial 30, Ravenwood 13 (Sept. 11)
Ravenwood entered its Week 3 matchup with Williamson County rival Centennial having won its first three games, but the eventual Class 6A champion Raptors ran into a brick wall during their Sept. 11 trip. Tyrel Dodson was huge for the Cougars, rushing for 70 yards and two touchdowns and also returning an interception for a TD.
Ravenwood was held to a season-low 34 rushing yards in what turned out to be the Raptors’ only defeat in 2015 en route to a 6A state championship. Centennial lost just twice, both times to unbeaten Independence, ending its season in the 5A semifinals.
Williamson County football teams Ravenwood, Brentwood, Independence, Centennial and Franklin were all in 6A last season, competing in the same region. With a new alignment in 2015, the teams were split up — with Ravenwood and Franklin staying in 6A and competing in one region and Independence, Brentwood and Centennial all moving down to 5A and competing in a region together.
That opened the door for a lot more playoff opportunities — and success. All five teams won at least one playoff game.
Ravenwood, Independence and Centennial combined to go 41-3, with the three losses all coming to each other. Independence finished as the state’s only unbeaten team (15-0), handing Centennial (11-2) its only two losses. Ravenwood (14-1) lost only to Centennial en route to the 6A championship.
Franklin and Brentwood each reached the second round while Page reached the 4A playoffs, Fairview made it to the 3A playoffs and Battle Ground Academy earned a trip to the DII-A playoffs. Throw in DII-AA champ Brentwood Academy, Grace Christian and Summit and schools located in Williamson County combined to go 94-39 on the season, with nine of the 11 teams reaching the playoffs.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
While 2015 seemed to be the year of the quarterback, there were also players on the other side of the field making life miserable for them. Centennial’s Peyton Pisacane had two interceptions returned for touchdowns in a 5A quarterfinals win over Henry County (25-0). Brentwood’s Spencer Schwartz had two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and for good measure added a 90-yard kickoff return for a TD in a Sept. 11 win over Dickson County (27-21). Oakland’s JaCoby Stevens had a 60-yard interception return for a TD in a Sept. 18 win over rival Blackman (21-7).
YEAR OF THE OFFENSE
While there were some outstanding defensive performances throughout the season, offenses dominated much of the 2015 season, all the way through the BlueCross Bowl games.
The old adage “defense wins championship” didn’t apply to state champions Brentwood Academy (45.3 ppg), Nashville Christian (43.6), Independence (42.7) and Ravenwood (36.1 ppg). State runners-up MBA (36.5), CPA (34.5) and Pearl-Cohn (32) also flexed their muscles on offense throughout the season.
CLASSIC METRO CLASH: Hillsboro 41, Pearl-Cohn 28 (Aug. 22)
A pair of Metro programs with state championship aspirations kicked off their seasons with a Saturday night matchup at Vanderbilt Stadium. The game, which featured three lead changes and two ties, wasn’t near as lopsided as the final score indicated — the result of Burros junior Matthew Jackson’s 100-yard interception return of the final play of the game. Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 170-pounder, also pounced on a blocked punt in the end zone for a second-quarter Hillsboro score.
SIBLING STANDOUTS: Ke’Juan Vaughn, Mareio McGraw, Chris Rowland
A year after watching their older brothers steal the headlines, three players made the most of their turns in the spotlight. Ke’Juan Vaughn, younger brother of current Illinois running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, helped lead Pearl-Cohn back to the state championship game for the first time since 1997 with 18 touchdowns and more than 12,00 yards rushing. Chris Rowland and Mareio McGraw, younger brothers of former Ravenwood standout Seth Rowland and former Ensworth Tiger and current Georgia Bulldog Rico McGraw, made an impact at running back, wide receiver and return man. McGraw followed in his brother’s footsteps by winning a state title and bringing Nashville Christian its first state title in school history. Rowland accomplished something his older brother just narrowly missed, helping lead Ravenwood to a 6A state title over Maryville after falling to the Rebels by one point in last year’s state championship match.
Two-time state champion coach Maurice Fitzgerald took over a struggling Stratford team and helped the Spartans return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Under Fitzgerald’s leadership the Spartans finished the regular season 7-3, including a 6-0 shutout to begin the season against rival Maplewood. Not only did the Spartans make it back to the playoffs, they earned a postseason victory with a 33-14 opening-round win over Fairview before falling to eventual state runner-up CPA in the second round.
COMEBACKS COME AROUND
CPA trailed 12-3 at halftime in its Oct. 2 matchup with Stratford, but the Lions fought back to score 31-second half points while holding Stratford to just six to take a 34-18 win. The week before, the Lions found themselves on the wrong side of a comeback after watching a 14-0 halftime lead slip away against Ensworth, which scored 24 points in the second half behind Darius Morehead’s two touchdowns.
Less than two weeks after a targeting incident in a Texas high school football game in which two players hit an unsuspecting official, Glencliff senior Malcom Easley ran over former referee Kyle Gill in the Colts’ Sep. 18 loss at Gallatin. Video of the hit went viral and there was discussion about whether Easley should be reprimanded.
After some debate the TSSAA decided there would be no punishment for the player, who had already received punishment from the school, which was later dropped. Gill went public, calling the hit malicious in an interview with The Tennessean. After that story went public the TSSAA suspended Gill following the discovery that Gill had discrepancies in his application and had an arrest history.
The Tennessean’s Michael Murphy, Sam Brown and Cecil Joyce contributed to this report.