COOKEVILLE — Davidson Academy really didn’t have a reason to worry despite being down 21-6 in the first half of its Division II-Class A BlueCross Bowl championship game against USJ.
All the Bears needed was a little nudge to wake up, and when they did, they dominated the rest of the contest for a 53-35 victory to win their third consecutive state title.
Griffin Swinea provided that nudge, rushing for 284 yards — one shy of his total from the 2019 title game — and four touchdowns to garner Most Valuable Player honors for the second consecutive year. His 8-yard scoring run with 6:36 left in the third quarter gave the Bears (13-0) their first lead of the game.
“It was really all the seniors getting together and being like ‘we’re not going out like this, we need to pick it up, we need to get our whole team together and we need to rally,'” Swinea said. “And we just turned it on in the second half.”
USJ (10-3) took it back 82 seconds later on an Andrew Smith-to-Tyke Tabor 61-yard scoring strike, but when Jared Vetetoe found Kelvi Rice on the ensuing possession for a 43-yard catch-and-run touchdown, the Bears assumed the lead for good. After falling behind 21-6 on Myles Mayo’s 6-yard TD run with 3:44 left in the first half, the Bears outscored the Bruins 47-8 over the next 22:21 to make the game a runaway.
Davidson Academy outgained USJ 445-313 in the contest, but it was the Bears’ defense who helped spark the rally, forcing four turnovers that resulted in 20 points for the defending champions.
“Those turnovers were extremely big on our end because if (USJ) scores on those possessions, we could find ourselves down 28-6 or even 35-6,” Davidson Academy head coach Jonathan Quinn said. “Our defense did a good job of bending but not breaking and giving the offense an opportunity to respond. We had a couple of tempo touchdowns right there before the half and it gave us some momentum going into halftime.”
Julius Orr found the end zone on a 28-yard pass from Vetetoe with six seconds left in the first half to cut USJ’s lead to 21-19 heading to the locker room.
Vetetoe absorbed five sacks from USJ’s defense in the game, but finished 14-of-19 passing for 182 yards and three touchdowns.
“Their legacy is one of greatness,” Quinn said. “It’s what I’ve talked about since the beginning of the year. They leave here with three losses. A 24-game winning streak and three gold balls, that’s phenomenal. They came and they did exactly what they set out to do when we started this thing seven years ago.”
The Bears depart Division II-Class A with those three consecutive titles, as they’ll join Division II-Class AA for the next two years in the new classification cycle.