By George Robinson for USA Today Tennessee
Three weeks ago, Springfield and Pearl-Cohn played to a statistical standstill. But the Firebirds rolled to 27-point win.
Friday night, with a Class 4A state semifinal berth on the line, Springfield’s Alan Gardner ran for more yards than Pearl-Cohn’s entire rushing attack. But again, it was the Firebirds who dominated with its defense, shutting out the Yellow Jackets 31-0 Friday in the 4A quarterfinal.
Pearl-Cohn (12-1) advanced to its third straight Class 4A semifinals, where the Firebirds will travel to Memphis East in next week’s semifinals. Pearl-Cohn finished runner-up to Knoxville Catholic a year ago.
Gardner ran 32 times for 160 yards but Springfield could not crack Pearl-Cohn’s defense. The Firebirds have only given up 14 points in a game twice in the past seven games. They stopped Springfield on three fourth-down plays, forced a fumble while Pearl Cohn’s offense converted 7-of-11 third down conversions.
Firebirds quarterback Xavier Shepherd was efficient, going 13-of-21 for 140 yards. Ke’juan Vaughn ran 14 times for 57 yards and scored two touchdowns.
How Pearl Cohn won
The Firebirds’ offense scored four touchdowns, but Pearl-Cohn won because of its defense. It bent but never broke, including giving up only four yards in the final 1:30 with Springfield inside the 10-yard line.
How Springfield lost
Springfield was essentially a one-horse show with Gardner running 32 times. But his production wasn’t enough to get the Yellow Jackets on the scoreboard.
Player of the game
Xaiver Shepherd. Although he didn’t connect for a touchdown pass, Shepherd was accurate and efficient hitting six different receivers for 140 yards on 13 of 21 passing.
Quote of note
“With the pressure mounting this week, we used that pressure to our motivation and won the game. Now we get a chance to play after Thanksgiving.”
—Xavier Shepherd, Pearl-Cohn quarterback