STORY BY CORY WOODROOF | PHOTOS BY ANDY COLLIGNON
You really couldn’t have written it any better for the Brentwood Academy Eagles.
In a season that saw a surprise two-game skid put the aspirations of a potential four-peat in the same championship game, the typical contender found itself once more at the right time and capped off another special run in style.
For the Eagles, the game began and ended with victory.
Jack Victory, that is.
The senior receiver and linebacker set it off and closed the door for the team as they blasted Memphis University School 28-6 to claim the 2018 D-II AAA state title at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium Friday night.
Victory’s sack/fumble on MUS’ first drive set the Eagles up in prime scoring position (standout senior RB Tomario Pleasant knocked it in for the team’s first touchdown), and his last-minute pick gave the Eagles a chance to run out the remaining time on the clock to add a fourth-straight state hat to the hat rack.
Victory: a fitting name to spark and settle a fitting honor for a fitting team.
“I’m so proud to be a part of it,” Victory said of being an Eagle. “I’m so proud to be a part of this class.”
So, what goes through Victory’s head during the sack that set it off?
“Anytime there’s a blitz called my way, I’m excited,” Victory said. “I was coming from the weak side. So I knew, if I got through, I have a chance to probably get the quarterback from behind. When I saw that ball…I see people in the NFL get that strip-sack all the time, so I just went for that ball and it came right out.”
And how about the pick that sealed it?
“All of a sudden, you know, the ball’s coming to me,” he said. “It seems like it’s floating in the air for like a minute-and-a-half…it comes to me, and I’m like, ‘Score! Please score! But I ran out of gas. But that’s just a story ending.”
A story ending is right. Few teams in the state’s history have been able to end each high school year with a state hat, trophy and ring.
“He’s a special kid,” White said of Victory, mentioning his role in three of the state football runs and one of the school’s baseball championships. “He’s a spectacular student. He’s as quality a kid as you can have. Couldn’t be prouder of him.”
The Eagles have become the first team in Tennessee to win four straight title games since Ensworth’s run nearly a decade ago.
After Pleasant’s first score, MUS drove right down the field and nearly tied it on a Kendall Hunter run, but the extra point was no good. That was the last time the Eagles let the Owls fly back by the goal post, as they held the opponent scoreless for the rest of the night.
MUS tried to grab a lead sometime later in the first quarter after they nabbed a muffed BA kickoff attempt, but then, Amir Annoor recovered a fumble on the Eagles 6 to prevent any points.
From then on, the Eagles’ good fortunes skyrocketed, as the team converted two fourth downs to extend drives in the first.
White said that respect for the opponent made the team want to be as advantageous early as they could, which inspired some bold play calls.
“Well, for one, I think they were, arguably, more talented than us,” he said. “We were concerned about [that]. When we had opportunities to take advantage of them, we needed to start fast. A lot of times, when you have a loss–and we’ve been there before–when you get somebody that punches you in the mouth, you don’t know really how to respond.
“We were fortunate our kids did a great job executing.”
In the second quarter, wideout Preston Sagan hauled in a 65-yard beauty from quarterback Wade Williams to get the Eagles out in front 14-6.
Two-way lineman Nathan Clifton said he feels that Sagan’s big catch (on a play with a holding call, no less) was the moment the team really began to fire on all cylinders.
“The energy flipped,” he said. “We just flipped a switch, and after that, we kept rolling and rolling, and plays stacked on top of each other. Look at the outcome.”
Then, Pleasant got his second touchdown of the game on a 44-yard jolt to get ahead 21-6 with about five to go to half.
Once Sagan recovered the onside kick attempt, you could really tell where this was headed. The Eagles advanced on back to put running back Jordan James in position to grab his own touchdown from Williams to get their final 28-6 victory.
The good times keep rolling for BA as a fourth state title gets nearer. Jordan James hauls in the Williams pass for points. 28-6 now, 3:51 to half. pic.twitter.com/jMKdMCVEDm
— WillCo Sports (@WillCoSports) December 1, 2018
The second half was more of a war of attrition. Not much happened other than the inevitable Victory pick right at the end that kicked off the celebrating a minute or two early.
Pleasant would finish the night with 189 on the ground and two touchdowns, which earned him the game’s MVP plaque.
“It’s surreal right now,” Pleasant said of what it’s like to be in such a spot having won four-straight. “When I wake up tomorrow morning, it’ll probably sink in, but right now, it’s just unreal.”
The running back has offers from big schools like Mississippi State and Virginia, with more likely down the lane. He’s Power 5-bound, most likely, once he graduates. What legacy does he hope to lead with the team?
He said he wants to be remembered as someone who played hard and never gave up.
“I try to go hard every day in practice, to make the other guys look up to me, and set the standard,” he said.
Williams threw for 104 yards and the two scores to Sagan and James.
“Every single year, it gets better and better and better and better,” Clifton said about winning state.
He’s one of the few athletes who can say he’s been on two teams that have completed four-peats. He was on the Darius Garland-led BA basketball team that got the sweep in March.
Pretty lucky, right?
“I don’t believe in luck,” Clifton said with a smile. “I believe in skill, and our team definitely had it today.”
For White, the string of wins speaks to the place they’ll return.
“It says a lot about the culture of our school,” he said. “Quite honestly, this thing was built a long time ago…we’re blessed to have that as a legacy, and these kids, obviously, have added to it. There’ll be some other guys who come forward that’ll add to it further.”
Let’s pull a play from the BA book on how we’ll end here, just like we started.
“It’s almost surreal,” Victory said in considering the history his team has made. “I almost can’t process it right now, but I know, looking back at it, I’m going to be so thankful to be a part of such great success.”