Some of their T-shirts are stained, some torn and others downright ratty, but Baylor's Red Raiders know what those shirts say: "Unfinished Business."
Surviving their own ineptitude and a sharp passing attack Friday night, the Red Raiders now have a chance to finish their business after pulling out a 31-28 victory over visiting Christian Brothers.
"We've talked all year about unfinished business. Now you have a chance to go back it up," Baylor coach Phil Massey told his team.
The Raiders came up short in their championship bid last season when they lost to Ensworth on a controversial late fourth-quarter pass into their end zone.
Friday night, Baylor fumbled five times and lost three and quarterback Matthew Oellerich was intercepted twice, but the Red Raiders got a 33-yard field goal from Henrique Ribeiro with 3:05 to play and held on -- barely -- not putting the game away until Oellerich picked up a first down in Purple Wave territory with less than a minute to play.
Christian Brothers, which upended Brentwood Academy 34-31 last week, got a passing show from senior quarterback Grant Powell and receivers Anthony Miller and Zach Phillips. Powell threw for three touchdowns and scored another on a 1-yard run, finishing the game with 289 yards on a 13-of-24 night.
The Red Raiders defense bent a lot more than the coaches would have liked, but they came up with numerous big plays, including three sacks and a tackle for loss from linebacker John Tipton. No plays were bigger for Baylor, though, than two interceptions by Nic Bullard, one of which he returned 21 yards to give his team a short-lived 14-7 lead with 6:47 left in the second quarter. His second pick killed a Purple Wave drive at the Baylor 9-yard line with 10 seconds left in the first half.
"We're never satisfied. Tonight we made a lot of mistakes," Tipton said. "CBHS is an excellent team and that quarterback is up there [among quarterbacks Baylor has faced]. He's good, has great presence and sees the field well."
Powell's first TD put CBHS up 7-0 late in the first period. He threw a 25-yard pass to Anthony Miller after Peyton Stone's fumble recovery set the Purple Wave up at the Red Raiders' 30.
Baylor tied it on a 5-yard pass to Ryan Seberg and went ahead on Bullard's interception. Less than two minutes later, though, the Wave rallied to tie it on a 75-yard pass play from Powell to Miller, who basically picked the throw off his shoe tops.
Another of the big plays for Baylor came from Landry Taylor, who blocked a 39-yard field-goal try early in the third period. That led to a 65-yard pass from Oellerich to Deosha McColley and a 21-14 Baylor lead with 4:26 left in the quarter.
The Red Raiders made it 28-14 on a 38-yard pass from Oellerich to a wide-open Reggie Upshaw, but Powell's 1-yard run brought CBHS back to within 7. Rebeiro's field goal stretched the lead to 10 with 3:05 left, and the Wave rallied again on a 30-yrd pass from Powell to Marcus Deanes with 1:50 to play.
Held in check all night, Oellerich was able to pick up a crucial first down after Taylor covered the Wave's onside kick, and Baylor was able to run out the clock and overcome its miscues on both sides of the ball.
"I'm disappointed that I turned the ball over," Oellerich said. "I tried not to get frustrated because the linemen were making huge holes, the receivers were making great catches and the defense was making big plays."
He was held to 46 rushing yards but rebounded to throw for 245 yards.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...
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Coaches are invited to submit player of the week nominations to Ward Gossett at firstname.lastname@example.org.