A pair of senior standouts from Williamson County made pretty solid cases for themselves during last weekend’s BlueCross Bowl action at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
Neither Independence quarterback Andrew Bunch or Ravenwood running back/receiver Chris Rowland had accrued the most impressive lists of college scholarship offers.
That could change in the months leading up to national signing day (Feb. 3).
The big-armed Bunch, who missed 4½ games with an early-season elbow injury, torched defenses for 3,395 yards (308.6 per game) and 41 touchdowns with just four interceptions in 11 games, adding another 516 yards (46.9 per game) and 10 touchdowns on 73 rushes.
Despite a spectacular senior season, combined with a junior campaign that included 2,802 yards and 24 more touchdown passes, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior has received just one Division I Football Bowl Subdivision offer (Eastern Michigan).
“He deserves more than what he has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more offers come after this game,” said Independence senior and Bunch’s leading receiver Nate Johnson (1,710 yards, 26 touchdowns).
Bunch is also hoping his 386-yard, six-touchdown effort in Saturday’s 49-14 Class 5A championship win over Sevier County caught the eye of college recruiters.
“There were a lot of people coming to see (Sevier County’s Deuce Wallace) because he’s a Vanderbilt commitment and a great quarterback,” said Bunch, who has also received scholarship offers from FCS programs Austin Peay, Charleston Southern and Jacksonville State. “It was just an opportunity for me to show I can play just as well as guys like that and I can make a difference on the field.”
Rowland, whose Raptors knocked off East Tennessee powerhouse and 15-time state champion Maryville in the Class 6A final, also made his case for a college opportunity.
The explosive-but-undersized running back/wide receiver made his presence felt all over the field against Maryville, racking up 46 yards rushing and 116 yards receiving, including an impressive 63-yard score on a screen pass, and the 5-foot-7, 170-pounder even threw a momentum-swinging, second-quarter touchdown pass in the 26-17 victory.
“I never thought I’d end up throwing a touchdown pass in this game,” said Rowland, who has received Division II offers from Kentucky Wesleyan and Fairmont State. “We put in trick plays all the time, but when he called it I was like ‘Oh snap, it’s my chance to make a play again.’ ”
Rowland wrapped up his senior season with 2,497 all-purpose yards and 27 total touchdowns for the 14-1 Raptors.
College connection: Quarterback Zack Weatherly and the CPA offense didn’t enjoy the BlueCross Bowl performance they had envisioned, and a lot of that was due to Class 3A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year Jon Decker.
Despite finishing the afternoon 4-of-4 passing for 67 yards, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Weatherly — a Class 3A Mr. Football Back of the Year finalist — spent most of the game either on his back or running for his life.
In addition to providing consistent pressure on Weatherly, finishing the game with four sacks, Decker and the rest of Alcoa’s front seven also stuffed the Lions’ strong ground game.
Weatherly, a Chattanooga commitment, won’t have to worry about facing Decker in the future as the 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior also pledged to play football at Chattanooga last month.
“I talked to him after the game and told him I looked forward to playing with him,” Weatherly said of Decker, who registered six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in Friday’s 20-0 triumph. “He texted me the night before the game and told me good luck. He’s a class act for sure.”
Way to go: Last Thursday’s Division II-AA championship between Montgomery Bell Academy and Brentwood Academy featured outstanding offensive performances from Ty Chandler and Jeremiah Oatsvall.
They accounted for a combined 753 yards and nine touchdowns in the thrilling double-overtime contest, but the unsung hero was Brentwood Academy kicker Isaac Way, who connected on 4-of-4 field goal attempts in his squad’s thrilling 56-55 triumph.
Ironically, the 5-foot-8, 152-pounder’s clutch championship performance came at the expense of his brother’s school.
Ethan Way, a freshman at Montgomery Bell Academy, is a standout special teamer for the Big Red freshman team — he reeled off a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Brentwood Academy freshman team earlier this season — and has also dressed for MBA’s varsity team.
Isaac Way, a three-year starter in football as well as a three-year captain on the Eagles’ soccer team, connected on 16-of-18 field-goal attempts in 2015, converted 65-of-67 extra-point tries and booted 58 touchbacks.
Family tradition: Brentwood Academy’s narrow BlueCross Bowl win over MBA was special for each and every Eagles player.
After all, the double-overtime win ended a nine-year championship drought for the program. The win had to hold even more significance for a few BA players, though.
The fathers of senior Luke Brown, junior Charlie Waldrop and sophomore Carter Holmes, along with freshmen Wes Miller, Will Taylor and Will Collins, all won state championships at Brentwood Academy.
Hoffman Brown (Class of ’85) won two state titles before going on to play at Mississippi State, while Al Waldrop (’81), Joe Taylor (’85), Bubba Miller (’91) and Scott Holmes (’91) also won championships with the Eagles.
Will’s father, Jay Collins (’84), won three state titles at Brentwood Academy.
Out of place: One of the 16 teams vying for a Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association state football championship last weekend isn’t even actually located inside the state’s borders.
Northpoint Christian, formerly known as Southern Baptist Educational Center, is actually located in Southaven, Miss., a suburb of Memphis just a few miles south of the state line.
SBEC, a TSSAA member from 1977-87 was originally located in Memphis, but the campus and church relocated to Southaven in 1988.
As a result, SBEC began competing in the Mississippi Private School Association before successfully petitioning the TSSAA Board of Control, eventually rejoining the state high school organization in 1999.
SBEC, which changed its named to Northpoint Christian prior to the 2013-14 school year, won TSSAA state championships in baseball (2009) and football (2003), but the Trojans were scorched by St. George’s 50-20 in Thursday’s Division II-A title game.