Montgomery Bell Academy coach Marty Euverard sees no real connection between his past and current teams, as each is different.
So when his group plays for the Division II-AAA state title next week he isn’t putting strain on it to win the school’s first football title since 2015.
“It’s a game we’re fortunate to be in and want to win. But there’s no pressure to win,” said Euverard, who leads a program that won its first of 10 titles in 1955.
MBA senior quarterback and Ole Miss commitment Marcel Reed echoed his coach.
“I’ve always grown up watching MBA football and I went to watch a couple of state championships before (playing varsity). It’s a great opportunity to be in this game again, we’ve been twice and it hasn’t gone our way … But like coach Euverard said, there’s no pressure,” said Reed, who has thrown for 1,935 yards and 22 touchdowns in addition to 877 yards rushing and 15 TDs.
Nashville teams will invade the Division II state championships next week, holding five of the six spots available. In Division II-A, Nashville Christian (10-2) will face Friendship Christian (12-0). Christ Presbyterian Academy (8-5) and Lipscomb Academy (12-0) will play each other for the DII-AA championship. MBA (12-0) will play Baylor (10-2).
Lipscomb Academy is the only defending champion in that group. MBA has fallen short in its last five state championship games (2021, 2019, 2017, 2016 and 2015). Nashville Christian (2015 championship) and Friendship Christian (2017 champions) are also trying to break relatively short title droughts.
All of those programs enjoy good tradition. That doesn’t mean they aren’t hungry to fill their trophy cases.
“When you get there, you get a taste of it and it’s so much fun. It’s a great experience for the kids and the whole school community. We got one in 2015 and didn’t get back in (the finals) until last year. So all that time you sort of wonder when and if it will happen again,” said Nashville Christian coach Jeff Brothers, who guided the school to its first football title in 2015, in his sixth season as coach. The Eagles’ defense that year was led by former Tennessee linebacker Daniel Bituli.
NCS senior receiver Donovan Smith walked off the field following last year’s DII-A finals, a 31-7 loss to DCA, feeling more motivation than reflection.
“Very quickly,” Smith said, “we kind of shifted on to what it looks like next year and what it will take to get back to that spot. What do we need to do differently?”
Friendship Christian coach John McNeal has won three football state championships for the Commanders, in addition to two titles for the baseball team as its head coach.
Coming up short always hurts, he said.
“Last year, coach Brothers and (DCA coach Paul Wade) are good friends of mine, and to be honest with you, I don’t think I watched (the finals),” McNeal said. “There are times I watch it and times I don’t. It’s kind of bittersweet. I was excited for both of them but disappointed we weren’t playing.
“People say well, once you get there you’ll be satisfied. Coach Brothers will tell you this, that’s not true. It kind of gives you more of a thirst to get back, or your season is not a success.”
CPA coach Ingle Martin has won three titles for the Lions who aren’t far removed from their 2020 state championship. In the short time since Lipscomb Academy has asserted dominance over DII-AA winning last year’s title and going unbeaten against teams in its classification.
Martin, like Euverard, doesn’t hold each team responsible for accomplishing what others in the program have in the past. This year’s CPA team was 3-4 entering the month of November but has since won five of its last six games. He’s keeping that in context.
“The ‘itch’ for us is just getting the most out of every team we’ve got,” Martin said. “We’ve had years they might not be a state championship team but we’ve gotten the most out of their team. It’s all a matter of perspective.”
Division II football state championships
Dec. 1 (all times EST)
Finley Stadium (Chattanooga)
Friendship Christian vs. Nashville Christian, 3 p.m.
CPA vs. Lipscomb Academy, 11 a.m.
MBA vs. Baylor, 7 p.m.