For more BlueCross Bowl coverage from the Times Free Press, read more here.
Paul Wade has been a part of 11 TSSAA football state championships as a coach, but this year's Division II-A BlueCross Bowl win for Donelson Christian Academy over Nashville Christian has a spot right near the top.
Three years after enduring an 0-10 season as freshmen, the Wildcats' seniors closed their high school football careers with a 31-7 victory, ending a memorable ride with a dominant finish for the ultimate feeling as champions.
"This is unbelievable," senior wide receiver Dayton Sneed said. "It's truly undescribable. You have to feel this. It's pure happiness. Not a lot of people get to feel this for a reason. We were truly the best of the best, and that's crazy looking back at how far we've come. We never gave up."
Sneed took the opening kickoff 62 yards, had his third interception of the postseason in as many games, and was on the receiving end of a 58-yard bomb from quarterback Bradford Gaines, who hit him in stride down the left sideline for a 21-0 lead with 4:23 left in the third quarter.
It was Sneed's 17th touchdown catch of a season in which he surpassed 1,300 receiving yards. Both are program records.
DCA (12-1) was tough for Nashville Christian (11-3) to handle — especially the Wildcats' defensive line, led by junior LJ Tolbert, that exploded into the backfield for four sacks. The Wildcats overcame a sluggish start that included throwing two interceptions in the first quarter.
Senior standout Nathan Magalei's 67-yard interception set up the first score from DCA sophomore running back Ashton Jones, who finished with 28 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Jacob Cook, who had a 90-yard kickoff return for a score and finished with seven tackles, was honored as MVP of the game.
"In 2018, we did not think about nights like this," said Wade, who is 11-1 in TSSAA championship games as an assistant or head coach, with four titles as a head coach. "We lived in misery then. We had to make every single thing that was a positive a victory because Friday nights were tough. I can't thank these players and their families enough for hanging in there."