COOKEVILLE – Nashville Christian School’s seniors carried the frustration of three consecutive seasons of losing in the Class 1A semifinals.
They took their frustrations out on Greenback in Friday’s Class 1A BlueCross Bowl title game at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
Five seniors combined to score all six Nashville Christian touchdowns, launching the Eagles to a 42-14 win and the school’s first team state title. NCS opened in 1971 and began playing high school athletics in 1975. The school’s softball team was runner-up in 1984, marking the best team finish before Friday.
“That’s not unusual,” sixth-year Eagles coach Jeff Brothers said. “Our seniors have been our leaders all year long.”
Nashville Christian scored 35 unanswered points to begin the game, and Tennessee commitment Daniel Bituli got the senior-laden Eagles started with a 41-yard touchdown run less than five minutes into the game.
Fellow senior Marieo McGraw followed next with a 19-yard score less than five minutes after that.
Senior quarterback Kyle Tidwell was the next senior to score, adding a rushing score from 13 yards out before connecting with senior Jaylon Jackson on a 51-yard pass to take a four-score lead just over three minutes later.
“We knew this was the year we just had to get it done,” Tidwell said.
He finished 5-of-10 passing with 128 yards and a touchdown through the air, adding a touchdown and 62 yards on 12 rushing attempts.
“Their quarterback made a lot of plays,” Greenback coach Brent Kilpatrick said. “He’s hard to tackle.”
McGraw added one more Eagles touchdown on a 66-yard rushing score before Greenback got on the board with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Hunter Willis to Tucker Brown to narrow the gap to 35-7 at halftime.
“I just saw a gap and tried to hit it hard at full speed,” McGraw said. “I just broke loose.”
McGraw finished with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 12 rushes, also making one catch for 26 yards, to garner BlueCross Bowl MVP honors.
Blake Barfield was the final senior to join the scoring party, doing so in the second half on a 30-yard rushing touchdown before Greenback added a late score with just 1:22 remaining.
It wasn’t just the seniors that came to play on Friday though. Sophomore Jesse Watson was named the defensive MVP after coming up with six tackles and two interceptions.
He said helping the seniors leave on a high note helped motivate him.
“It’s definitely a good feeling for me because these guys work so hard,” Watson said. “I look up to every single one of them.”
For those seniors, Friday was the culmination of three years of hard work coming to fruition.
“It’s a special, special group of young men and they’re very talented football players on top of that,” Brothers said. “When you put all that together something special is going to happen.”
Reach Sam Brown at 615-259-8232 and on Twitter @SamBrownTN.