The football teams at McKenzie and Trinity Christian Academy will meet this week with a spot in the state semifinals on the line.
Both teams feel like they silenced a lot of detractors to get to this point as they both had to beat teams last week they’d lost to in the regular season.
Now the teams meet again in their rematch – the third in the playoffs for both teams.
McKenzie won the regular season game 44-24 after overcoming an early 17-0 deficit.
The most obvious reason for the change was when Mr. Football finalist and TCA quarterback Andrew Goldsmith came out of the game with what they feared at the time was a torn ACL.
Click here to read about Goldsmith’s honor of being a finalist for Mr. Football.
“Everybody thinks we lost only because Andrew had to come out, but we talked about it [Monday], and I think we could’ve held on and won if everybody had done their jobs the rest of the game,” said TCA defensive lineman and fullback Chris Tucker. “We’re a good team with a lot of speed and good players, and maybe some of us didn’t think we were as good as we potentially could be.
“But I think since then, some of us have begun to believe a little more in ourselves and think we’re capable of more than what a lot of people think.”
McKenzie running back Eric Robinson said the Rebels feel a lot of people have similar doubts about his team.
“Last week, a lot of people didn’t believe that we’d beat [Jackson Christian] because they’d beaten us so badly the first time we played them,” Robinson said. “Now this week we want to show people that beating TCA wasn’t a fluke.
“TCA is a good team, and I didn’t count them out last week when they were going to play Adamsville. But I feel like we’re equals, and it will be a good game this week.”
TCA finished the regular season with a record of 5-5. McKenzie finished a game better at 6-4. They were part of a three-way tie for second in the region, which McKenzie won because it had the most overall victories. That’s why this game is at McKenzie.
Since then, both teams got wins over teams they defeated in Week 9 – Scotts Hill for TCA and Riverside for McKenzie. Last week, they beat the other two teams from Region 6-2A that made the playoffs – Jackson Christian for McKenzie and region champ Adamsville for TCA.
The McKenzie game is the only one TCA has lost since head coach Blake Butler moved Goldsmith to the quarterback position – a record of 7-1 with Goldsmith under center at the start of the game.
But the big story from last week was how well the TCA defense played in knocking Adamsville off.
“I think that game and the game against Jackson Christian we won 42-0 are the two best games we’ve played defensively and the games that show us how good we can be if everybody does their jobs,” Tucker said. “We need to all do our jobs and play that well again, because McKenzie has a good offense.”
Robinson is an integral part of that offense as he’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons. He said the focus for McKenzie’s defense in stopping Goldsmith or any other TCA back is similar to what Tucker said for the Lions.
“Our focus has to be on this game and doing our job no matter what they do,” Robinson said. “He’s a good player that can make plays, and we’ve got to do our jobs to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751