MEMPHIS – Eighteen years ago Ron Crawford was hired as head football coach at Brentwood High School. He went on to lead the Bruins to the championship game and win the school’s first and only state title in 2002 – a storybook start to his Williamson County coaching legacy.
On Friday, Crawford’s Bruins penned their latest entry in a wild 2020 story and can write the final chapter to the football season next weekend in the Class 6A state championship Saturday night in Cookeville. Brentwood captured the program’s second-ever title berth with a 24-14 win at Bartlett High School.
Reaching a second state final was bittersweet for the veteran football coach as the Crawfords, the Bruins team and the greater Brentwood High family are still feeling the loss of Crawford’s mom, Mrs. Pat, who was laid to rest Sunday after a battle with COVID-19 and pneumonia.
“I just wish my mom was here to see it, but I think she did see it,” Crawford said Friday after Brentwood's historic win. “It’s kind of hard right now to be fully excited personally, but I look around at this joy for this team and these guys have worked so hard for this. It’s just unbelievable. I’m so proud of them to get to this point.”
The Bruins have embraced coach Crawford and his dad, Tom, an assistant on the Brentwood staff, more than ever this past month. That has brought an already tight-knit group even closer.
“Coach and his family are hurting,” said Brentwood senior Spencer Rich, who snagged an interception and also blocked a punt and an extra point Friday. “This shows how close of a family we are. We have their backs in this hard time.”
Brentwood senior quarterback Cade Granzow, who scored two touchdowns Friday, said he remembers coach Crawford speaking about adversity prior to the start of the season.
“We didn’t even know if we were going to have a season or not and when we started, we didn’t know how far we could get,” Granzow said. “The thing is, adversity is going to hit us, but it comes down to how we respond. A lot of things happened this year with our team and the way we responded is by coming together.
“This is the best brotherhood you can get. We just came together even more with everything we have faced. We’re united.”
Rich jump-started the Bruins immediately to help spoil the Panthers second trip to the state semis and first since 1999. The gritty senior plowed through two defenders to knock down a punt by Bartlett’s Walt Tucker inside the Panthers 5-yard line after Brentwood pushed the home team backward on the game's first three plays. Nick Hailey recovered in the end zone for the touchdown less than two minutes into the contest as the Bruins snagged the early momentum.
“It still feels pretty surreal,” Rich said. “This is just awesome to be one of two teams in Brentwood history to make it this far.”
Bartlett responded by reaching the Brentwood 15 on the next drive, but a high snap on fourth down resulted in a turnover on downs. Granzow guided the visitors on a 13-play, 59-yard drive to close the frame, capped by a Granzow 1-yard plunge for a 14-0 with 4.3 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Score Alert —> Cade Granzow on fourth and goal for the 1-yard touchdown. Brentwood leads 14-0 at Bartlett with 4.3 seconds to play in the first. The TD run: pic.twitter.com/GWXsaepQ1z— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) November 28, 2020
The Panthers turned to running back Robert Giaimo and the senior was able to find some space bouncing to the outside on the next drive eventually scoring on a 21-yard run with 6:59 to go in the second. Rich blocked the PAT attempt as Brentwood held a 14-6 lead.
John Howse set up the Bruins at their 43 with a 25-yard return on the ensuing kickoff and Granzow drove Brentwood 57 yards over the next 4 1/2 minutes. Granzow jumped over a pile, maintained his footing and leaned into the end zone for a 3-yard score getting an extra push from teammate Elliott Chaffin as the Bruins built a 21-6 lead with 2:35 remaining in the half.
The two teams traded interceptions with Rich coming up with his pick at the 1:58 mark, before Orlando Moore scooped up a short pass at the goal line just two plays later. Bartlett pushed into Brentwood territory before time ran out.
Score Alert —> Cade Granzow with the dive and second effort for a 3-yard touchdown. Brentwood takes a 21-6 lead with 2:35 to play in first half. The score: pic.twitter.com/WbNjE6qBT8— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) November 28, 2020
“I think we were able to pound the ball pretty well for awhile there,” said Granzow, who closed 12-of-23 passing for 122 yards with another 54 yards on the ground. “We tried to take it play-by-play and just stay calm.”
Tucker and Giaimo led the Panthers out of the break with a scoring drive capped by Giaimo’s 1-yard run with 6:30 to play in the third. The senior has been nursing an ankle injury suffered in a second round win over Houston, but managed to lead the Panthers with 86 yards on 23 carries. Tucker added a two-point conversion run as Bartlett pulled within 21-14 midway through the third. The senior QB threw for 259 yards on 14-of-22 passing.
Brentwood motored inside the Bartlett 5 on the next possession, but a high snap turned the ball over on downs. Granzow scrambled to cover up the loose ball at the Bartlett 18 with 1:51 to play in the third.
Brentwood’s defense followed with a stop as the fourth quarter began and the Bruins turned to Granzow’s ground game to chew up nearly six minutes before settling on a 21-yard Thomas Day field goal with 5:10 to play.
Score Alert —> Thomas Day FG. Brentwood takes a 24-14 lead at Bartlett with 5:10 to play at Bartlett. The kick: pic.twitter.com/jGPR8VxG6F— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) November 28, 2020
Tucker pushed the Panthers all the way to the Brentwood 11 late, including a 52-yard pass to Dailan Jones, but his fourth-down pass attempt was tipped and fell incomplete with 3:07 remaining. Scott Collins picked up a pair of first downs on the ground for Brentwood and Granzow took a knee to drain out the final seconds.
“This feels great. It’s a real blessing,” Granzow said. “This has been a heckuva season and 2020 itself has been something. With coach Crawford’s mom passing away, all the COVID stuff, we just kept prevailing and getting through it all. I give all the glory to God.
“Now this is the final chapter of the story at Brentwood this year. We need to have a good week of practice. This is our last hurrah and we have to get it done and finish this chapter right.”
Brentwood will battle Oakland for the championship on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in Cookeville. The top-ranked and unbeaten Patriots raced past rival Maryville 49-7 Friday and own a 37-0 victory over the Bruins last month in a contest scheduled at the last minute.
“We will certainly have our work cut out for us, but we are honored to be at this point and have a chance to play one more week,” Crawford said. "These guys are great kids and they are fun to be around. I know we will play hard.
"We’ll work on a plan and give ourselves the best chance."
Brentwood 24, Bartlett 14, Class 6A Semifinal
Brentwood – 14 7 0 3 – 24
Bartlett – 0 6 8 0 – 14
1Q 10:09 Brentwood – Nick Hailey blocked punt recovered in end zone (Thomas Day kick);
1Q 0:04 Brentwood – Cade Granzow 1 run (Day kick);
2Q 6:59 Bartlett – Robert Giaimo 21 run (Kick blocked);
2Q 2:35 Brentwood – Granzow 3 run (Day kick);
3Q 6:30 Bartlett – Giaimo 1 run (Parker Moore pass from Walt Tucker);
4Q 5:10 Brentwood – Day 21 FG.
Team Statistics (Brentwood-Bartlett)
First Downs 15 15
Total Rushing Yards 116 110
Total Passing Yards 122 259
Total Yards 238 369
Fumbles/Lost 0/0 0/0
Interceptions 1 1
Punts-Distance 1-36 1-30
Total Penalties/Yards 6-47 4-30
Time of Possession 25:13 22:47
Third Down Conversions 9/14 6/14
Fourth Down Conversions 1-1 2-2
Brentwood 36-116 (Cade Granzow 18-54, Scott Collins 11-35, Luke Walters 7-27.
Brentwood – Cade Granzow 12-23-1-0 for 122.
Brentwood 12-122 (Walker Merrill 6-28, Aaron Walton 4-36, Mac Hirshman 1-39, Scott Collins 1-19).