The CPA football team had to do some soul searching after its 42-7 loss at Ensworth last September.
The young Lions were outscored 117-26 in four straight losses to open the 2019 season. After inserting several sophomores on defense – including defensive linemen Bo Chance, George Collier and Colin Stewart – CPA turned its season around and won seven of nine contests to advance to the Division II-AA state title game.
That defense, which is now junior-laden, has been even better in 2020. CPA limited Ensworth to 223 yards of offense in a 28-6 home victory on Friday night. The Tigers didn’t score until Levi Moore hit Andre Turrentine for a 26-yard touchdown on the final play of the game.
CPA (3-0) has held its opponents to 9.7 points per contest through the first three weeks. Chance (interception) and Cade Reynolds (forced fumble) caused turnovers that led to scores against Ensworth.
“I feel like we’ve got the best defense in the state,” said CPA quarterback Cade Law, who rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another score. “They worked their butts off all offseason to get stronger and faster. They know their assignments like the back of their hands. They play well and hit hard.”
CPA’s front seven also features junior linebacker Langston Patterson, who has offers from Duke, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and others. Between Patterson, Reynolds, the experienced line and defensive backs Brewer Myers, Shelby Whiteside and Reid Williford, defensive coordinator Ryan Taylor has plenty of pieces to use in the 3-4 scheme.
“Coach Taylor has done a great job scheming and getting our kids in positions to make plays,” CPA coach Ingle Martin said. “Our kids are playing hard, and that’s the stuff we love. We’re very thankful to have this group playing for us.”
Chance’s interception in the first quarter set up a 14-yard touchdown pass from Law to Reynolds, who later stripped Ensworth running back Mark Smith on the five-yard line. Myers scooped up the fumble took it to the end zone to give CPA a 21-0 advantage at halftime.
Law also ran for a 12-yard score in the second quarter and a 73-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, though the CPA defense did much of the legwork.
“(The defense) makes it a lot easier for (the offense), I think,” Stewart said. “They know they don’t have to score every drive because we’re going to get a stop.”
Ensworth (0-1) made its season debut after sitting out the first three weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Moore earned his first career start at QB and threw for 171 yards on 24-of-41 passing, but the Tigers committed nine penalties and were forced to punt five times.
“We were excited to just be out here competing, but that’s not going to cut it with the teams we play,” Ensworth coach Roc Batten said. “It’s gotta be more than just being excited to play. We have to execute and can’t have a lot of mental mistakes.”
Turrentine, an Ohio State commitment, caught seven passes for 50 yards and made six tackles for Ensworth. Charles Ingram added six catches for 62 yards. But the Tigers rushed for just 52 yards on 20 carries.
Ensworth will head to Chattanooga to face Baylor (2-0) next Friday, Sept. 18, while CPA will open its DII-AA Middle Region slate at Battle Ground Academy (2-1).
“Our first three games this year allowed us an opportunity to have a preseason,” Martin said. “We really focus on our region. BGA is next week – that’s one of our biggest games. (Friday) was a great opportunity to tune up before them.”