NASHVILLE — Jonathan Quinn has a long memory.
Twenty-two games after Davidson Academy’s last losing effort, he reminded his team that it was Nashville Christian that hung that last “L” on them. Since that loss, the Bears have won a gold ball, and are one win away from another — which would be their third consecutive title — after Friday’s 33-14 win over the visiting Eagles in the Division II-A semifinals.
Though the Bears had already seen Jeff Brothers’ team once this year, a 35-0 rout on Sept. 4, this game had an entirely different feel. In the last meeting, the Eagles were without starting quarterback Matthew McClary, and were weeks into a shortened preseason. The Eagles that showed up Friday were not the same team. Quinn knew the Eagles would be ready and play with a “sense of urgency.” He later would say he expected, “a physical game … and they lived up to expectation.”
The first quarter was mostly a sloppy affair, the result of numerous penalties on both sides as well as the physical play of both defenses. However, with slightly more than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, freshman defensive back Knox Roberts corralled a tipped pass, his first of two interceptions on the night, setting the Bears up in Eagle territory. The very next play, Julius “Juju” Orr made an over-the-shoulder catch just inside the boundary to put the Bears up 7-0.
The game settled back into the defensive struggle, with neither team able to break away. Late in the half, Nashville Christian seemingly avoided a late score by stopping the Bears on fourth-and-goal inside the five, but a short punt and a couple of quick passes that stopped the clock allowed the Bears to put seven more points on the board when Jared Vetetoe found a wide-open Griffin Swinea in the flat with 29 seconds left for a 13-yard score, boosting Davidson Academy’s lead to 14-0 at the break.
Nashville Christian did not go down without a fight. Coming out after halftime, the Eagles came out running with Martease Edwards carrying the bulk of the load. With 3:46 left in the third quarter, Edwards cut the lead in half on a one-yard plunge. That was as close as the Eagles would get.
Entering the fourth quarter holding onto a one-score lead, Vetetoe and the Bears struck again on another deep pass, this one a 73-yard strike to A. J. Quinn, who outjumped two defenders and galloped into the end zone for a 20-7 lead. A couple of minutes later, the Bears added another on Swinea’s 11-yard run, and later tallied their final score when Isaiah Muirhead recovered a blocked Eagle punt in the end zone.
The Eagles mounted one more scoring drive as Matt McClary scrambled in from 17 yards out with 1:32 left.
The Bears will face USJ in the Division II-A BlueCross Bowl championship game at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium in Cookeville.