Nashville Christian School has not been able to get over the semifinal hump for the past three seasons.
This year the Eagles didn’t get over the hump as much as they ran through it.
Senior Mareio McGraw took a handoff on Nashville Christian’s opening play of the game for a 59-yard touchdown, and senior Tennessee commitment Daniel Bituli scored four touchdowns en route to a 42-7 win over Peabody at Keeton Field.
The win advances Nashville Christian to the Class 1A title game Friday in Cookeville, where it will meet Greenback, which beat Columbia Academy 21-14.
Nashville Christian (13-1) fell in the semifinals the past two seasons to Union City and Huntingdon but managed to control defending Class 2A champion Peabody (11-3) by racking up 291 yards on the ground, led by McGraw’s 108 yards.
“We’re going to the state and we’re here to win this thing,” Bituli said. “The whole team was just disciplined today, and we played fierce with 100 percent effort on every play.”
After holding Peabody to a three-and-out on its opening series, McGraw’s 59-yard run opened up the scoring as Nashville Christian scored touchdowns on all five of its first half series.
“To have that opening touchdown solidified all the hard work and effort that we did throughout the week, and showed that if we trust our coaches and do what we’re supposed to do that good results will come,” senior tackle Robert Brantley said.
“They (Peabody) have a big, physical line and we just tried to fire off on every play to beat our man.”
Peabody senior Brandon Johnson quickly answered the Nashville Christian score with a 45-yard touchdown run that tied things up at 7, but Blake Barfield’s four-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles the lead again.
That’s when Bituli took over.
Bituli scored on a 45-yard touchdown run and later intercepted quarterback Kendrick Malone and returned it 41 yards for the score to give the Eagles a 28-7 lead.
Bituli later scored on a touchdown pass from Kyle Tidwell and scored on a 19-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“Daniel is an amazing player, but what is best about him is that he’s so unselfish — if someone else would have scored those four touchdowns he would have been just as happy,” Nashville Christian coach Jeff Brothers said.
“This is monumental, and it changes the game in so many ways for us just in terms of recognition and validates all the hard work that’s been done for many years even before I got here.”
Peabody was led by Johnson’s 103 yards on 13 carries.
“This senior class has won 33 ball games, and won a state championship and has a lot to be proud of, but tonight we just ran into a better ball team,” Peabody coach Shane Jacobs said.