Brooks: Doubt Pearl-Cohn at your own risk

Brooks: Doubt Pearl-Cohn at your own risk

Nobody who wears a Pearl-Cohn uniform or t-shirt needs motivation. The Firebird faithful have plenty of it and that’s never been more evident than the past eight days.  

Over that span, Pearl-Cohn has taken down two state runner-up teams from the 2022 season, winning on the road at both MBA and CPA with a strong defense and balanced offense that has its eyes set on turning last year’s losses into this year’s wins.  

They’re certainly off on the right foot there.  

Last year, the Firebirds suffered a pair of non-region losses before ripping off 12 consecutive wins to reach the BlueCross Bowl against Anderson County. The Firebirds scored twice in the first 1:13 and led 24-20 at the half before falling 34-30 in the title game.  

The Firebirds don’t have to be reminded of that result. They remember it.  

“We’re trying to get back to that gold ball,” senior D’Arious Reed said. “We didn’t take (losing in the 2022 championship game) very well.”  

It was Reed’s touchdown reception with 8:03 left on Friday that helped put the Firebirds out front for good in their 15-11 victory at CPA, but a play that actually gave CPA points might have been more meaningful.  

Tarleton’s maturity key for Firebirds

On the first snap of the third quarter, an off-target snap sent senior quarterback Keshawn Tarleton scrambling for the loose ball in his own end zone. Tarleton corralled it and went looking for a passing option but found none, instead sending the ball out of bounds. With no receiver nearby, it was ruled intentional grounding in the end zone and CPA took a 5-0 lead at that point.  

It was also a play that could have ended much worse on the scoreboard for the Firebirds, and head coach Tony Brunetti knew it.  

“Just manage the game and don’t be a superstar,” Brunetti said. “(If) you’re scrambling and can’t go (downfield), if you’ve got somebody in the area, throw it out of bounds.”  

That decision – although it did cost Pearl-Cohn two points at the time – ended up being the right one as the final margin was just four points. It also marked a maturity Tarleton showed not just from last season, but from this preseason as well.  

“I think he made those mistakes in the preseason,” Brunetti said. “Take what they give you, don’t force things … last week, he started to do the little things right.”  

And Pearl-Cohn didn’t let that play get them down, either.  

“Everybody just keeping their head up,” Tarleton said. “Everybody’s trusting each other.”  

“They’ve got the tools”

Even though the Firebirds avenged one of their losses from last season, Brunetti stopped short of calling it a “revenge tour.”  

“I don’t know that it’s revenge,” Brunetti said. “I know that they’ve got the tools to go back and win state … There’s enough seniors leadership-wise that if you do the right things inside and outside of school, you’ll have the chance to win a state title.”  

The Firebirds have extra incentive to win their region, too – the Region 5-4A winner would have home-field advantage through the semifinals, which would be a good thing to have on their new turf surface that they’ll debut on Sept. 8 against PURE Academy.

CPA head coach Ingle Martin can attest to what the Firebirds are capable of, especially after Friday’s encounter.  

“Coach Brunetti’s one of the best coaches in Nashville, in the state, really,” Martin said. “I’ve known him a long time and I’ve got nothing but respect for him.  

“Obviously, they’ve got a really good ball team and they made more plays – their kids played great tonight. Played hard, defense was tough. Bottom line is they’re one of the better teams around for a reason. They have a chance to go a long way, for sure.”


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