The Big Red are rolling into tonight’s matchup at 7-0, an achievement that they have reached two times in the past three seasons. It hasn’t been an easy road to the undefeated record though, as MBA has been battered and bruised all season long. Questions regarding the situation at running back and how an experienced quarterback would be used surrounded the program at the season’s start, but have answered in the opening months of high school football.
The journey began before school started with Wooddale High School from Memphis, Tennessee. The talented linebackers of the Cardinals were unable to shut down the Big Red offense as MBA cruised to a 44-0 victory. But the tides turned quickly as MBA found itself trailing 12-0 the following week to Pearl Cohn. A second quarter scoring frenzy brought the Big Red back to lead at the half, and Michael McGuire’s four touchdowns on the night prevailed MBA to a 45-26 victory. The Big Red received a tough blow though as senior running back, Tay Munoz, was injured on the opening kickoff of the game, later to be informed that he had torn his ACL and his season was over.
The third week brought about more challenges as MBA found itself trailing once again, this time 10-0 to regional opponent, McCallie. But the Big Red bounced back, led by a strong night from the offensive line, who opened holes for the running backs and protected quarterback Ty Allen. The defensive unit, led by an experienced group of secondary players in safeties Gordon Pollock and Nick German as well as cornerback Fenner Pollock, shut down the powerful Blue Tornado offense and MBA came away with a 35-23 win.
A road trip to Memphis to take on the Owls of Memphis University School awaited the MBA in week four. In what was the first long bus ride for many of the team’s key players, the Big Red started slow. MBA faced adversity with losses to injuries as right tackle, Wesley Hall, was replaced by sophomore, Ned Freeland, who got hurt himself. After shifting around the offensive line, MBA had Michael McGuire go down with an injury to his elbow as well as star defensive player Jackson Hannah exit the game due to a deep cut that needed stitches. Despite all these challenges, MBA, trailing at the end of the first three quarters, drove ninety-eight yards to die the game at twenty one and force overtime. In the overtime, Ty Allen connected with Clint Blackwell on a twelve yard stick route for the score to give MBA its first lead of the night at 28-21. Nick German and the defense prevented the Owls from scoring, and the Big Red traveled home as victors.
In a traditional rivalry game, MBA topped Father Ryan on the road, 28-21. After leading 14-0, the Irish battled back to knot the game at 14, and once again at 21. A Ty Allen quarterback keeper with just under two minutes left on the clock changed that, as he took it fifty-four yards for the go ahead score. Harrison Graves and Clay Garstin led the defense and shut down the Irish offense on the ensuing drive, giving MBA a second region win.Blowout wins on the road over the Knights of Pope John Paul II and Spartans of White Station, 42-7 and 49-14 respectively, have given MBA time to get healthy, time for younger players to get some reps, and time for MBA to get ready for the season’s final stretch. Wesley Hall has returned to the offensive line after missing two games as well as senior captain Jackson McFadden to the talented receiving core. Michael McGuire looks to return in the late weeks of the season as the Big Red push towards the playoffs. While the postseason awaits, MBA is focused on overcoming the adversity that they have faced thus far, and the challenges of rivalry games against Ensworth and Brentwood Academy as well as yet another road trip, this time to Chattanooga to take on Baylor.
“I think that the adversity we have faced so far just has shown us that everyone has to be ready for their number to be called,” said senior captain, Jackson McFadden. “Also, it has created more depth on our team with all the injuries so far, because the backups are getting valuable reps while the starters are hurt.”
Examples of these backups who have stepped up to the challenge of their missing starters are junior running backs Brendan Harris and Sam Dugan. Both have seen their playing time increase with McGuire and Munoz out of the lineup, and their production will be key for the Big Red to make a deep playoff run come November and December.
McFadden said, “I believe that if we play to our full potential, we will be very happy come December 2nd when we are holding that gold ball at the fifty yard line in Cookeville.”