Brentwood Academy keeps finding ways to win close football games.

Nine of its 10 contests played on the field this season have been decided by two scores or less.

“We just know we’re never really out of it,” Brentwood Academy quarterback Tayler Montiel said.

The Eagles’ latest triumph came Friday in a 34-31 victory over Pope John Paul II in the TSSAA Division II AAA quarterfinals at Carlton Flatt Field.

Brentwood Academy (11-0) erased an 18-point deficit in the second quarter to advance to the semifinals, where it will host McCallie (7-3) on Friday, Nov. 20 with a state title appearance up for grabs.

“There’s so much parity in this league,” Brentwood Academy coach Cody White said. “I think people are finally figuring that out. Of the eight teams (in the DII-AAA bracket), all of us could have won it. It’s going to a tough battle (next week), and we’ve had a bunch of them.”

JPII (8-3) came up short but still finished with the best record in program history. Three touchdown catches and 209 total yards from Wisconsin commitment Antwan Roberts weren’t enough for David to knock off Goliath.

The Knights, playing like they had nothing to lose against 14-time state champion Brentwood Academy, jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the first quarter.

Sophomore Kenny Minchey passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns – including a 73-yarder to Roberts and a 21-yarder to Colin Cook in the first eight minutes. Backup QB Chet Lax lined up as a receiver, took a pitch from Minchey and hit Roberts for a 37-yard score to stun Brentwood Academy.

“We told ourselves we were going to come into this game and put the pedal to the metal,” JPII coach Justin Geisinger said. “We weren’t going to hold anything back. I feel good about that. It was a tale of two quarters in the first half – the first quarter was ours, and the second quarter was theirs.”

Montiel and the Eagle offense took over in the second quarter and led 24-21 by halftime. The senior, who threw for 245 yards on 17-of-24 passing, found classmate Amir Annoor for a pair of 17-yard touchdowns, sandwiching a 29-yard scoring strike to sophomore Deuce Scott.

Scott also tacked on a seven-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. His emergence has allowed Brentwood Academy to become two-dimensional after it struggled to run the ball early in the season.

“It’s very important to keep the defense guessing if we are going to pass or run,” said Scott, who rushed for 158 yards on 30 carries. “I saw that (JPII) was (leaving space), so I just cut back on them and got my yards.”

After trailing by as many as 10 points, JPII picked up a safety on an errant Brentwood Academy snap with 5:30 left in third quarter. Minchey hit Roberts for a 25-yard touchdown pass to bring the Knights within three early in fourth quarter.  

“I told our guys I wanted them to be vulnerable and risk it all,” Geisinger said. “Lay everything out there. I didn’t know what the outcome would be. We can control how we influence the game and what we do, but we can’t control the outcome.

“Against an undefeated team, to come in and have an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter – that’s what we wanted.”

However, Brentwood Academy’s defense came up big in the end. Senior Caleb Brooks recovered a JPII fumble with 5:29 remaining, allowing Scott and company to run out the clock for another narrow win.

The Eagles will try to use that same formula to get back to the BlueCross Bowl for the fifth time in six years. Brentwood Academy edged McCallie 30-27 on Sept. 4 in Chattanooga.

“I think our tradition helps us a lot. Our kids expect to win,” White said. “They never think that they’re out of anything. That’s a testament to the people in the past and all those things. At the same time, (our team) is tough-minded and they believe in each other.”

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