NASHVILLE – Peabody conquered its fair share of obstacles this postseason.
The Golden Tide defeated two teams in Union City and Dresden who they fell to in the regular season and picked up all three postseason wins on the road in the process.
The rough road, however, hit a road block in Peabody’s semifinal matchup against Nashville Christian as senior linebacker/running back Daniel Batuli scored four touchdowns and the Eagles ended the Golden Tide’s season 42-7 at Keeton Field.
Batuli, a Tennessee commitment, had two rushing touchdowns, a receiving touchdown, and an interception return for a score.
“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.
“It’s heartbreaking for the kids and it’s heartbreaking for the coaches. We felt like we had a team that could get back to Cookeville like we did last year, and it ended one week too short with us running into a really good football team tonight.”
Peabody (11-3) is in its first year of playing Class A football having won the 2A championship a year ago.
After finishing third Region 7 behind Union City and Dresden the Eagles quickly avenged those losses in the second and third rounds, respectively.
However, defeating Nashville Christian (13-1), which was playing in its fourth-straight Class A semifinal, proved to be a formidable challenge.
Peabody was forced to punt on its opening series, and Nashville Christian running back C’Dmareio McGraw quickly capitalized as the senior took the Eagles’ offensive play for a 59-yard touchdown run.
The Golden Tide quickly answered with senior running back Brandon Johnson’s 45-yard touchdown run that tied things up at 7 early in the first quarter.
Peabody was limited to only 135 yards rushing for the rest of the contest, and quarterback Kendrick Malone was sacked four times and constantly harassed by the Nashville Christian defense.
After the Johnson touchdown, Nashville Christian running back Blake Barfield answered with a four-yard touchdown run on a quick drive that gave the Eagles the lead once more.
Following another Peabody punt, Bituli capped off a 73-yard scoring drive with a 45-yard touchdown run that put the Eagles up 21-7.
Bituli later picked off Malone for a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown while picking up a five-yard touchdown reception from Kyle Tidwell, and scored again in the third quarter with a 19-yard touchdown run.
“We had to get some pressure on number 7 (Malone), and we were able to get them out of their flow on offense,” Bituli said.
“They’re (Peabody) a really good team, and if you let them do things to you, they can score a lot of points.”
Johnson led the Golden Tide with 103 yards on 13 carries while Malone had 113 yards through the air and another 20 yards rushing.
“We knew coming in that he’s the real deal, and it was evident early on that we would have a hard time playing physical with them up front,” Jacobs said.
“We blew an opportunity on our second possession to tie it up, and from there we put ourselves in a position where we had to make big plays to keep up with them, and it didn’t happen.”