Marcus Fitzsimmons

The Lions said they had gotten better since losing to Alcoa in last year’s 3A BlueCross Bowl, and they were.

CPA said it was a more physical team than a year ago, and it was.

They said they believed this was their time in Cookeville, and it turned out that it was.

Christ Presbyterian Academy completed its perfect season, the one Alcoa denied a year ago, by becoming more like the defending 3A state champions.

The Lions played a physical, aggressive style similar to the Tornadoes on Friday night. They won the toss and took the ball. They ran left, ran right and ran up the middle to get the first score on the opening drive and then spent the rest of the night making that lead stand up with a defense that refused to be run over again.

It was victory by imitation rather than intimidation.

CPA couldn’t stop Alcoa but they could stop the Tornadoes when it mattered. The Lions brought nine defenders in to stop the run and Tyson and simply double dog dared Alcoa to throw the ball. They bet the farm on corralling Tyson and Alcoa’s run game. Win or lose, it was not going to be the Alcoa senior carrying the ball another 49 times to deny the Lions again.

It was not a revolutionary new concept. Teams have thrown bodies in front of Tyson and his blocking mates for two seasons. Rarely do those bodies match up well enough. Rarer still is the instance Alcoa hasn’t burned that defense throwing over the top or to the outside to rearrange the light bulbs on the scoreboard or at least loosen up the defense. Alcoa had no such answer against the Lions. The Tornadoes never got in sync with the shots it took down the field and CPA didn’t give Alcoa many opportunities to try.

The Lions had thrown for almost 2,000 yards entering game No. 15. CPA had one pass attempt Friday, and that a statistical technicality to credit a spike to stop the clock before halftime. The Lions ran it at Alcoa’s defense, ran it outside when it looked too ugly in the middle but won the 3A title with an offense that ran the ball 54 times, didn’t truly attempt a pass, and relied on an aggressive defense.

Now who exactly does that sound like?

Credit CPA with a timely, gutsy game plan and executing it well. Credit the Lions seniors for taking the taste of ashes Alcoa left them with a year ago in this same venue to inspire them to be a bigger and better team. CPA learned how to be tougher than Milan to reach the title game. Now they appear to have learned to be every bit as tough as Alcoa; able to go toe to toe with one of the state’s most physical running teams in matchup missing only the cloud of dust and leather helmets.

“They were physical,” Rankin said of CPA, which became the second team to ever defeat Alcoa in a state championship game. “They seemed like they were more mature than us. They were flawless in their execution. And we were out of synch a little. We were beat up. That’s not an excuse, but it sure showed.”

It’s a new experience for CPA to hoist the golden ball in a crowd of BlueCross hats. It was a new force awakening and one that could well be around next year should this match up go another title round. It’s about time the best 3A pairing took place other than in the quarterfinals, and there’s a whole new year starting today to measure who wants it more.

Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times. You can follow him on twitter @TDT_Marcus. He wrote from Cookeville.

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