By Craig Harris for The News Examiner
NASHVILLE – The White House High School football team ran into an offensive juggernaut on Friday evening.
As a result, the Blue Devils’ season came to an abrupt half, suffering a 79-36 loss at Pearl-Cohn in one of the four Class 4A quarterfinal contests.
Pearl-Cohn moved on to play at No. 2 seed Trezevant – which captured a 20-17 win over top-seeded and previously-unbeaten Crockett County on Friday – in next Friday’s semifinal round.
“They are just so athletic,” White House head coach Jeff Porter said.
The second-seeded Firebirds dominated offensively from the start, beginning their first three possessions in Blue Devil territory and leading 28-0 before the first quarter was over.
Fourth-seeded White House (8-5) started the game with an onside kick, but Pearl-Cohn junior Charles West recovered it. The Firebirds scored five plays later, with senior tailback Ke’shawn Vaughn reaching the end zone on a 1-yard run after senior teammate Josh Montgomery made a one-handed catch of a short pass that turned into a 24-yard gain.
“We felt like we needed to get the ball first and get the lead,” Porter said. “Our goal was to get three yards per carry and run the clock. We felt it was our best chance. It just didn’t work out that way.”
It took just two plays for Pearl-Cohn to score on its second possession, a 34-yard run by junior Rontavius Groves and then Ke’shawn Vaughn’s 14-yard touchdown run as he glided untouched around the right end.
White House’s third possession ended with a turnover on downs, and Firebird junior quarterback Jimmy Ferrell and Groves started their offensive fireworks on the next play. Groves caught a 36-yard touchdown pass, and Ferrell’s successful conversion run created a 21-0 margin with 5:23 still left in the first quarter.
“You can’t take them (lightly),” Groves said. “That’s how you get beat.”
Ke’shawn Vaughn ripped off a 56-yard run on Pearl-Cohn’s fourth possession, setting up sophomore Ke’juan Vaughn’s 1-yard touchdown plunge two plays later.
The Blue Devils responded though with an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive.
Juniors Trey Hyde and Luke Hopkins caught passes for gains of 13 and 23 yards, and Hyde capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
However, that 21-point margin was as close as White House was ever able to get.
“It was 28-0 so fast.”
The Firebirds scored on their first 10 possessions before failing to reach the end zone on their 11th and final offensive series.
“If we go up, don’t stop,” Groves said. “That’s how we prepare ourselves.”
Pearl-Cohn (11-2) finished with 681 yards of total offense.
“They are pretty good,” Porter said. “One of the things are they are strong in is the offensive line. Everybody hears about the quarterback, the receiver and running back, but the offensive line makes that complete.”
Groves caught a 41-yard touchdown pass with 7:19 remaining in the half, but Blue Devil senior Chris Baldwin returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards, setting up Hyde’s 9-yard touchdown run two plays later.
“It was 35-14, and we kicked off,” Porter said. “We were hoping to get a turnover and go in (to halftime) down 14.”
Groves answered with a 49-yard kickoff return, and Ke’shawn Vaughn ran 39 yards for his third touchdown.
Junior Qaman Beynah added the point-after touchdown (PAT) kick for a 42-14 margin.
However, the first-half scoring was far from over as 20 points were scored over the final 2:10.
A 48-yard completion from White House junior quarterback Steven Rankin to senior wide receiver Josh Mullins set up Hyde’s 11-yard touchdown run.
Groves caught a 58-yard touchdown pass seconds later, and then, the Blue Devils punted the ball back to the Firebirds in the final minute of the half.
Pearl-Cohn covered 76 yards to the end zone in just three plays, needing just 30 seconds.
Firebird senior Mario Gordon caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone on the final play of the half, giving his squad a 55-21 lead.
The host squad compiled 475 total yards in the first half.
Rankin completed a pass to senior wide receiver Caleb Huffines on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, and he turned that into a 52-yard gain. Rankin scored on 1-yard sneak two plays later.
However, the Firebird offense just didn’t slow down as Ke’shawn Vaughn capped the ensuing 12-play, 90-yard scoring drive with a 9-yard touchdown run. He added the successful conversion run too, creating a 63-28 margin.
Groves’ final touchdown reception was a 72-yarder, which came on a quick pass that he ran up the home sideline.
“He’s phenomenal,” Pearl-Cohn head coach Tony Brunetti – whose squad has nine offensive starters returning from last season (including four offensive linemen) – said. “He’s a big-time playmaker. He makes big-time plays, and Jimmy is throwing the ball perfect.”
Ferrell completed all 15 of his pass attempts for 391 yards, and Groves caught seven passes for 251 yards.
“He was perfect,” Groves said of Ferrell. “That’s it … it was perfect. He kept his eyes downfield.”
Vaughn rushed for 170 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries.
“We have a lot of weapons,” Groves – who has scholarship offers from the University of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University, the University of Kentucky and Purdue (Ind.) University – said. “The whole entire team plays a factor. It’s not one person. We’re all making plays.”
Brunetti added, “I feel like our offensive line is one of the best in the state.”
Huffines recovered a muffed punt with less than eight minutes remaining, and Hyde’s fourth touchdown run came three plays later, on a 3-yard run.
Hyde finished with 101 yards rushing on 24 carries, and Rankin completed 8 of 21 pass attempts for 180 yards.
Pearl-Cohn sophomore DeMarcus Stevenson blocked a punt that sailed through the back of the end zone for a safety with 1:39 remaining, and freshman teammate Jimmyirous Parker returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.
Beynah’s final PAT capped the scoring.
“There are positives to take from tonight,” Porter said. “We are glad to get to play in this game. This is what our district is next year. It’s good for our kids to see this athleticism. It what we are going to see in Pearl-Cohn, Springfield and Maplewood. It will be a great challenge for our kids.”
The previous high point total that the Blue Devil program had allowed was 61 points, which occurred on three different occasions (in a 61-0 loss to Hendersonville in 1943, in a 61-0 loss to Lebanon in 1947 and in a 61-0 loss to Greenbrier in 1960).
The Firebirds have erupted for 142 points over the last two weeks, including a 63-7 win over visiting Spring Hill in the second round of the playoffs.
Pearl-Cohn entered Friday’s contest averaging better than 48 points per game. It was the seventh time the Firebirds have scored 55 points or more this season.
Pearl-Cohn regularly talks about winning the state title.
“It’s often,” Groves said. “It’s every day. We don’t want to make it seem like we’re scared to talk about it.”
White House fell in the 4A quarterfinal round for the fifth consecutive season. However, the Blue Devils reached that point despite placing third in District 9-AAA and entering the playoffs with four losses.
“It all goes to the kids,” Porter said. “After week eight (a 14-7 loss to visiting Westmoreland), it was obviously a very discouraging time. We had lost three out of four (games) at that point. To lose three out of four and get back to tonight, all the credit goes to the kids.”
Brunetti added, “Porter is doing a great job with that program, and they’re young.”
White House loses 13 seniors.
“Hats off to our senior class,” Porter said. “They played 52 career games. I think that might be the most (of any senior class in the program’s history).”
Sports reporter Craig Harris can be contacted at 575-7138.
PC – Ke’shawn Vaughn 1 run. Qaman Beynah kick. PC – Ke’shawn Vaughn 13 run. Kick failed. PC – Rontavius Groves 36 pass from Jimmy Ferrell. Ferrell run. PC – Ke’juan Vaughn 1 run. Beynah kick. WH – Trey Hyde 2 run. Dillon Anderson kick. PC – Groves 41 pass from Ferrell. Beynah kick. WH – Hyde 9 run. Anderson kick. PC – Ke’shawn Vaughn 39 run. Beynah kick. WH – Hyde 11 run. Anderson kick. PC – Groves 58 pass from Ferrell. Beynah kick. PC – Mario Gordon 21 pass from Ferrell. Kick failed. WH – Rankin 1 run. Anderson kick. PC – Ke’shawn Vaughn 9 run. Ke’shawn Vaughn run. PC – Groves 72 pass from Ferrell. Beynah kick. WH – Hyde 3 run. Hyde run. PC – DeMarcus Stevenson blocked punt through the end zone for a safety. PC – Jimmyirous Parker 80 kickoff return. Beynah kick.
White House – Trey Hyde 24-101, Troy Raymond 2-10, Ronald Honeycutt 1-1, Tanner Jordan 2-0, Steven Rankin 6-(-38).
Pearl-Cohn – Ke’shawn Vaughn 19-170, Rontavius Groves 5-58, Ke’juan Vaughn 7-31, Jimmyirous Parker 1-18, Jimmy Ferrell 1-14, Mario Gordon 3-(-1).
White House – Steven Rankin 8-21-0-180.
Pearl-Cohn – Jimmy Ferrell 15-15-0-391.
White House – Caleb Huffines 2-63, Luke Hopkins 2-35, Trey Hyde 2-21, Josh Mullins 1-48, Brian Mullins 1-13.
Pearl-Cohn – Rontavius Groves 7-251, Mario Gordon 3-71, Josh Montgomery 3-58, Ke’shawn Vaughn 2-11.