2019 TSSAA Class 4A Semifinals

Playoff Football: Nolensville eyes first BlueCross Bowl berth

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Playoff Football – DeKalb County at Nolensville, 4A Quarterfinals

Ryder Galardi 

The Nolensville football team opened the season with eight straight wins before ending the regular season with back-to-back losses. Knights coach Paul Derrick called the setbacks “a wakeup call.”

Nolensville reached the TSSAA Class 4A Semifinals for the first time and has outscored opponents 122-20 in the playoffs.

“Our guys just really, really rose to the challenge and executed in all facets of the game,” Derrick said. “I think we are playing the best football of the year and thats exactly what you want at this time.”

Nolensville, which improved to 11-2 overall with last week’s 42-6 win over DeKalb County, travels to unbeaten Elizabethton (13-0) Friday. Both teams are looking to advance to the BlueCross Bowl Championship for the first time, though state records indicate Elizabethton won a championship way back in 1938, but that tournament was not a part of the modern TSSAA playoffs, which came into existence in 1969.

Nolensville has played varsity football for just three full seasons, but continues to impress. Last week was the Knights first appearance in the state quarterfinals and just the school’s second home playoff game – the first was on Nov. 8 in their 47-7 win over Macon County.

“To see a group of young men come together like this and be just one game away from a BlueCross Bowl, it’s so special,” Derrick said. “I’m not sure entering the season how many people believed how good we could be, but us coaches knew we had some pieces and could be a really good football team.

“The kids just bought in and believed in themselves. I’m very excited for this team.”

Ryan Pistulka produced a big game on the ground to lead Nolensville with 166 yards rushing on 14 carries with three touchdowns last week. Quarterback Ryder Galardi also ran in a score and connected with Tim Coutras on another TD.

Galardi has thrown for more than 2,200 yards with 25 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Coutras, a Mr. Football finalist, has snagged 51 catches for 994 yards and 14 TDs as Galardi’s top target. Coutras also has rushed for three scores and has 54 tackles with eight interceptions and a TD on defense.

Pistulka leads the ground game at Nolensville with 759 yards rushing and 10 scores. Samson Johnson has another 438 yards with nine TDs.

Elizabethton is coming off a 24-13 win against defending state champion Greeneville in the quarterfinals. The Fighting Cyclones allowed 13 points in the first quarter, but bottled up Greeneville the rest of the way.

Cade Maupin, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior, racked up 143 all-purpose yards to lead Elizabethton in the quarterfinals. He’s rushed for 100 yards or more in five of six games and has accumulated 1,402 yards on the ground this season with 11 TDs. Sophomore quarterback Bryson Rollins guides the Fighting Cyclones offense with just over 2,000 yards passing, 40 total touchdowns and just three interceptions. He’s also rushed for 792 yards this season and has 14 TDs on the ground.

“They are a very solid football team and I just don’t see a lot of weaknesses,” Derrick said of Elizabethton. “No matter who you face this time of year, it’s a challenge, but hopefully we can go over there and make another great memory for this team.”

Nolensville ended Livingston Academy's unbeaten run in the second round. The Wildcats hosted the Knights with a 11-0 record, but fell at home 33-7 on Nov. 15.

Springfield (10-3) hosts (12-1) Haywood in the other semifinal.

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