COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - After waiting 12 months to get a second state title shot at Ensworth, it took less than 12 minutes for Baylor’s thoughts of revenge to fade away.
The Red Raiders found themselves in an early hole from which they could never escape en route to a 48-10 drubbing in the Division II-AA state championship game.
It’s the second straight state title for Ensworth (12-1), both at the expense of Baylor (11-2). Though last year’s was far more competitive.
After the Red Raiders failed on a fake punt and threw an interception in their own zone on their first two possessions, the Tigers needed just three plays to score two touchdowns for a 14-0 lead.
“All year this team has found ways to win,” Baylor head coach Phil Massey said. “I still thought we’d still be able to get stops and the offense would get moving and we’d be able to build some momentum. But it seemed like the harder we scratched, the deeper we got in the hole.
“They’re explosive. We knew we’d have to play well on defense, get them into some second-and-long and third-and-long situations, but that just didn’t happen.”
Division II-AA Mr. Football Back of the Year Corn Elder collected Ensworth’s second score on a 38-yard touchdown run, but left the game later in the first quarter with an ankle injury and never returned.
It didn’t matter.
Running back Rico Watson filled the void, rushing for 221 yards and three touchdowns to claim Offensive MVP honors.The senior had just 84 yards rushing total for the season coming into the night.
“It doesn’t matter who they put behind that offensive line,” Massey said. “They’ve got athletes. When Corn went down, they didn’t miss a beat. All that does is give someone else a chance to shine.
“Did (Rico Watson) surprise me? No.”
Quarterback Andrew Bowers completed a 4-for-6 night passing for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled for a 26-yard score late in the second quarter that extended Ensworth’s lead to 27-10 at the half.
Baylor recovered a fumble on the Tigers’ first possession of the second half, but couldn’t turn it into points. After the Red Raiders punted, Watson broke loose for a 63-yard touchdown run that effectively put the game away.
Baylor quarterback Matthew Oellerich had a rough night, connecting on just 10 of 30 pass attempts for 98 yards with two interceptions.
“This one’s tough to swallow,” said senior offensive lineman Barrett Gouger, who played his final high school game before likely signing with Vanderbilt in February. “We did our best and left it all on the field, and I guess that’s all you can ask for.”
Ensworth needed a touchdown in the final seconds to beat Baylor 28-21 in last year’s BlueCross Bowl. However, Baylor had extracted a bit of revenge in a 42-14 regular season win that proved to be the Tigers’ lone loss of the year.
The Red Raiders, who were making their second straight state title game appearance after a 33-year drought, remain in search of the program’s second state title, and first since 1973.
Information from: WRCB-TV