Youthful Blaze overcomes 19-point run to upend defending Class 6A runner-up
MURFREESBORO – First-year Blackman head coach Chandler Tygard had seen this all before. His rather inexperienced, yet talented, Blaze football team had watched a 16-point lead completely disintegrate into a three-point deficit against the visiting Brentwood Bruins in Friday night’s season opener at ‘The Inferno.’
With time ticking away late in regulation, Blackman’s Jaylyn Pleasant muffed a kickoff return after Brentwood had closed the gap to 32-29, early in the fourth quarter. The ball landed in the waiting arms of Brentwood’s Adam Fontechia, and two plays later, Bruin senior Scott Collins added to a career night with his fourth touchdown score, which capped off a 19-point Brentwood run.
That run took only two minutes and 38 seconds of actual game clock, and suddenly, recent memories of 7-on-7 and preseason scrimmages began to haunt Tygard, as it appeared a possible season-opening upset of the 2020 Class 6A runner-up was about to slip away.
“We got worried because it had happened before,” noted Tygard, who replaced Kit Hartsfield as Blackman’s head football coach in January of this year. “We scrimmaged a very good Hoover, AL team in 7-on-7 work, and we played Ensworth earlier this preseason. We got up (in both games), but they came back and just kind of ran away. Tonight, something changed.”
Changed, indeed. With their backs against the wall, the Blaze defense came back to life after the Bruin explosion, and thwarted two Brentwood offensive drives in the fourth quarter – either of which could have put the game out of reach. On both drives, Blackman rose to the occasion and forced two Collins fumbles – the first of which landed right in the hands of junior Jermon Harrold, and the second was pounced upon by senior linebacker C.J. Steele.
Blackman’s offense was turned away after the initial turnover, but with field position at the Bruin 19-yard-line after the second miscue, Blaze second string quarterback Peyton Thomas galloped 14 yards for a first down, aided by a personal foul penalty which placed the ball at the three. From there, senior tight end Kayvon Henderson rode the hip of junior lineman Myles Gray into the end zone, and brought a frantic home crowd to its feet.
With one final chance in the final two minutes, Brentwood quarterback Davis White threw his first and only interception of the night, which sealed a wild 38-35 come-from-behind win in Tygard’s debut.
“Our guys stayed focused, went out and got the win,” Tygard stated. “I know the first game of the season isn’t always everything, but it was important to us. Now, we’ve seen we can come back against the defending Class 6A runner-up; why can’t we do it against anyone else?”
Despite the two late turnovers, the play of Collins and Thomas, plus a physical defensive effort on both sides, overshadowed what was expected to be a matchup of marquee Class 6A quarterbacks between White and Blackman’s Jack Risner, a senior transfer from Brentwood Academy. The tandem still had outstanding numbers – Risner with 247 passing yards and three touchdowns, while White threw for 122 and a score, while making numerous key plays with his legs.
It was Collins, however, who helped the Bruins claw their way back in the second half. The senior back accounted for scoring runs of 32, 74 and four yards, the latter of which kicked off the Brentwood rally. Collins, who finished the night with an exceptional 247 yards on just 25 carries, then motored in from 17 yards out against what appeared to be a fatigued Blaze defensive unit, which gave the Bruins all the momentum, plus a 35-32 lead. Collins however, maybe dealing with a bit of fatigue of his own, lost the ball twice thereafter, putting the only blemish on a career night.
“Offensively, the game really picked up in the second half. It was a dogfight,” Collins noted, who pointed out he did not expect such a workload. Injuries to a couple of Brentwood’s playmakers put more of the offensive spotlight on him. “Our defense got a stop and we picked up some momentum, but unfortunately, we couldn’t hang on. Moving forward, we just always have to look to get better, no matter the circumstances.”
The two defenses set the early tone of the game, as on the first play from scrimmage, Brentwood’s Holt Jackson smothered Risner in the end zone for a safety. The next three possessions brought a pair of three-and-outs plus Brentwood’s first of four turnovers on the night. That miscue led to the first Blaze points, as Thomas – after taking a pitch from Risner – found junior Justin Brown on a 60-yard touchdown pass. Brown found himself on the receiving end of three touchdown strikes, finishing with 131 yards on eight catches. The play that set up the score would be one of many of what some fans might terms, Tygard’s ‘bag of tricks.’
“We’ve changed the entire culture here,” said Tygard, while noting the 14 new coaches he brought to the Blackman staff. “When people see what we do in practice, they feel it’s all flash and no substance. They don’t see all the hard work that goes into what we are doing. Tonight, I think they saw that there is substance to it. It gives validation to the way we coach.”
The Bruin offense continued to struggle against an aggressive Blaze defense, as White drove his team down inside the Blackman 15, before being picked off by Cole Reed. Neither offense did much until the latter moments of the first half, when Risner led a 10-play, 76-yard drive, capped off by a 27-yard scoring pass to Brown, with 4:40 left in the half.
White led Brentwood right back on a five-play, 65-yard drive, as Collins tallied his first scoring run, that took just 1:44 off the clock. The scoring did not stop there, as Risner found Brown for his third touchdown in the half’s final minute, giving the Blaze an18-9 lead at the intermission.
The second half looked like a video game at times, with both offenses striking quickly. Collins raced 74 yards for the first score of the second half, but Risner answered with an eight-yard touchdown pass to James Haynes to make it 26-16, with 9:09 to go in the third. After Risner completed three passes on the Blaze’s next drive, Thomas plowed in from a yard out to open the lead to 32-16, which capped off 14 unanswered points for Blackman.
After forcing a Brentwood punt on the ensuing possession, Risner and company had a chance to put the game out of reach, but receiver Triston Traub had a wide open pass slip through his fingers, with no one between him and the end zone. Brentwood recaptured the momentum, which they held until the final heartbreaking moments of the final quarter. White found Jackson Lowe on a 24-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, while Collins added a 17-yard scoring run to cap off Brentwood’s scoring.
“If you compare our defense in the second half to the first half, we did a much better job getting stops,” said Clint Finch, a long-time assistant and now first-year head coach of the Bruins. “You can’t keep giving the ball back. We had to keep putting our defense back out there (late in the game), and it bit us in the end.”
“(Tonight) was a great team win for us,” Risner said after the game. “It shows our team isn’t about one person; it’s about everyone. Everyone wins.”
Brentwood (0-1) will look to bounce back in their home opener next Friday against Father Ryan (1-0). Blackman (1-0) hopes to build on the momentum of their season-opening win as they travel to Gallatin (0-1)
BLACKMAN 38, BRENTWOOD 35
|Brentwood (0-1), Blackman (1-0)||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||Final|
BW – Safety – Holt Jackson tackled Jack Risner in end zone, 11:52.
BM – Justin Brown 60 pass from Peyton Thomas, 2:49. Run failed.
BM – Brown 27 pass from Jack Risner, 4:40. Pass failed.
BW – Scott Collins 32 run, 2:56. Aidan Parker kick.
BM – Brown 22 pass from Risner, 50.6. Kick failed.
BW – Collins 74 run, 10:28. Parker kick.
BM – James Haynes 61 pass from Risner, 9:09. Anthony Hernandez pass from Risner.
BM – Thomas 1 run, 6:18. Kick blocked.
BW – Collins 4 run, 1:48. Pass failed.
BW – Jackson Lowe 24 pass from Davis White, 11:56. Parker kick.
BW – Collins 17 run, 11:07. Kick failed.
BW – Kayvon Henderson 3 run, 3:48. Kick blocked.
Brentwood: Scott Collins 25-247, Jackson Lowe 3-9, Davis White 7-6, Briggs Beck 1-(-1).
Blackman: Peyton Thomas 4-25, Du’mikah Dowdy 1-14, Aaron Green 2-13, Jaylyn Pleasant 4-12, Kayvon Henderson 5-11, Jack Risner 4-(-18).
Brentwood: White 15-26-1 122, Daniel Cochran 0-1-0 1.
Blackman: Risner 17-29-0 246, Thomas 6-6-0 121.
Brentwood: Aaron Walton 5-59, Matthew Manning 4-34, Jackson Lowe 1-24, Collins 3-5, Jake Brock 2-0.
Blackman: Brown 8-148, Pleasant 5-78, Haynes 1-61, Dowdy 4-41, Ben Marshall 4-25, Kentrell Marshall 1-14.