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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / MBA's Dominic Allocco, left, Jake Stumb, rear, and Nasir Cook (2) stop Baylor's Elijah Howard inside the 8-yard line on fourth down and short of the first-down marker during a Division II-AAA quarterfinal Friday night at Baylor's Heywood Stadium.
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Division II-AAA quarterfinals

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Whether it's the high school football playoffs or the end of the early bird special at Cracker Barrel, there's one thing certain.

There will be a lot of seniors upset.

The graduating class of football players at Baylor School — a group that was the foundation for a resurgent 2019 campaign — was left with the aching feeling of finality Friday night.

Montgomery Bell Academy freshman Marcel Reed handled the moment, and the Big Red defensive front handled everything in sight in a 12-7 win at Heywood Stadium.

Baylor finished the season 9-2. MBA (7-4) advances to the Division II-AAA semifinals next Friday.

"I've been part of the team since the eighth grade, and to be part of the team that kind of turned it around is special," three-year starting tackle Daniel Oliver said between hugs and while still wearing his helmet. "We believed we were going to win state."

It's the same dream every high school football team in Tennessee starts with in August. The field is pared down come Halloween, and with each passing week of the postseason the numbers are halved.

MBA will practice Monday in large part because of a swarming defense that held Baylor to eight first downs gained. Other than Noah Martin's 72-yard scoring run, the Big Red held the Red Raiders to 124 yards on 41 snaps.

"They had a great scheme and used a lot of different things on the (defensive) front," Baylor coach Phillip Massey said. "We knew they were tough, but that's football in this league; everyone's tough."

Toughness aside, MBA was relentless to the football and hounded Baylor star junior running back Elijah Howard so thoroughly, he likely checked his closet for a Big Red linebacker before going to sleep.

"He's one of if not the best player in the state," MBA coach Marty Euverand said. "We knew it was going to take all 11 guys to slow him down."

Mission accomplished. Howard managed 80 hard-fought yards on 21 carries, doing his best to avoid a backfield-crashing Big Red wave that would have made Sen. McCarthy squeamish. Howard's final run was stopped at the line on fourth-and-3 at the MBA 8 with less than a minute to play.

Of Howard's 21 carries, 11 failed to get past the line of scrimmage, and despite MBA's eight- and nine-man defensive fronts, the Baylor passing game never clicked either.

The visitors' defensive dominance and the disappointing finish for the hosts overshadowed a dynamite defensive showing by Baylor in a lot of ways.

"I thought we played great defensively," Massey said. "They got a couple of big conversions, but for the most part our defense was outstanding."

Baylor's defense allowed 210 total yards, forced four punts and had an interception by Riley Jenne and a key sack from Samuel Taylor.

MBA freshman quarterback Marcel Reed made the most of the limited production, though, accounting for 137 of those 210 yards — he had 82 passing, 55 rushing — and found Noah Mendoza for both Big Red scores.

"Ever since we put him in the starting lineup, it's changed our season," Euverand said. "He's poised beyond his age."

Eventually, though, all freshmen become seniors and the chase of a state title ends — good or bad — with tears.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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