NASHVILLE Pope John Paul II fought off a fourth-quarter rally from defending Class A state champions Nashville Christian to preserve a 17-14 victory at Keeton Field.
It was the second straight triumph for PJP II against Nashville Christian as the Knights handed the Eagles their only loss of the 2015 campaign.
Five things that shaped Friday’s contest:
to make it off the ground
A Nicholas Zanger field goal with a little more than seven minutes remaining gave Pope John Paul II (4-2) a 17-7 lead, and all the Knights needed to do was what they did all night – play defense.
That proved to be a problem, however, as Nashville Christian junior running back Lelan Wilhoite ripped off a 69-yard touchdown run down the left sideline with 4:40 left to go in the contest.
A three-and-out from the PJP II offense gave Nashville Christian (4-2) another shot at the victory, but this time the Knights defense held as a Bryce Pemberton pass to Slater Howard just missed its mark.
“It’s no fun to take the field there, but you have to play the hero, and that’s what we were able to do,” PJP II senior defensive tackle Cody Moyer said.
Don’t take offense
Both PJP II and Nashville Christian had problems moving the ball. The Eagles combined for only 179 total yards of offense with two of those plays coming via a 46-yard touchdown run by Xavier Myers, and Wilhoite’s 69-yard scamper.
The Knights were not much better, amassing 196 yards of total offense. Senior quarterback Ben Brooks had 134 yards through the air, but PJP II only mustered 64 rushing yards on 33 carries.
After the game, PJP II coach Justin Geisinger was not surprised.
“Coach (Jeff) Brothers does a great job with scheming, and is a great coach. They are state champions for a reason. They have great players, and a great staff in hand.”
Tough night behind center
It was a rough night for both signal callers at Brooks and Pemberton had their share of woes.
Brooks was sacked seven times by the Nashville Christian defense – which followed up the Eagles’ eight-sack performance of Brooks in last year’s contest.
Pemberton was only sacked twice, but had plenty of trouble finding receivers. Pemberton connected on only 2-of-8 passing for three yards on the evening.
Home field advantage
The loss for Nashville Christian was the first time the Eagles have lost at home since 2013 in the Class A semifinals, when Union City claimed a 42-34 en route to the state title that year.
Nashville Christian has only lost four games combined since the defeat to Union City in the 2013 matchup. Another loss to Union City in the 2014 in the following year’s semifinal contest, followed by a 30-13 loss to PJP II last year at the Jim Carell Athletic Complex. The Eagles dropped a 22-21decision to White House Heritage in week two of this season.
Brothers was the first coach at PJP II in its inaugural 2002 campaign, and coached the Knights through the 2009 season. After a prep career at Brentwood Academy, and lettering for four years at Vanderbilt, Brothers returned to Brentwood Academy as an assistant coach before joining David Pack at Christ Presbyterian Academy prior to taking on the PJP II job.
Brothers hired Geisinger as an assistant coach shortly after Geisinger’s National Football League career concluded.