Cade Granzow and most of his senior teammates were born in 2002 – the only year Brentwood ever made it to the state final in football.
Now, nearly two decades later, the Bruins are headed back to the championship after a 24-14 victory at Bartlett in a Class 6A semifinal Friday night.
“I was just born when they made it to the state championship and won it, and I just feel like it’s all coming around,” said Granzow, the Brentwood quarterback who was nearly 4 months old when the Bruins edged Riverdale 10-7 for the 5A title 18 years ago.
Brentwood (11-3) gets a rematch with Riverdale’s archrival, Oakland (14-0), in the 6A final at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville on Dec. 5.
The Patriots shut out the Bruins 37-0 back on Oct. 2.
Granzow rushed for two touchdowns, the 101st and 102nd TDs of his career, to lead the way against Bartlett (8-2).
Ron Crawford was in his first year as coach at Brentwood the last time the Bruins won the state title.
“I’d inherited a team that had really good players,” Crawford said. “Les Steckel was helping us then (as offensive coordinator) and he called plays in four Super Bowls, and it was the only championship he ever won so it was kind of cool. Great memories, it was a long time ago, man.”
Oakland figures to be a heavy favorite after crushing tradition-rich Maryville 49-7 in the semifinals.
“There are no expectations and the pressure falls on them,” Crawford said. “Hopefully, we can perform better than we did last time: four times in the red zone we didn’t convert. They’re just extremely talented.”
The Bruins have shown impressive resiliency battling through the COVID-19 pandemic, the passing of Crawford’s mom and defensive line coach Tom’s wife and multiple injuries.
“We always talk about it being a microcosm of life … that can never be truer than this year,” Crawford said. “So we’ve had anger, frustration, disappointment, joy, loss of loved ones, but we’ve had a lot of love along our team and a lot of belief in each other and a lot of forgiveness.”
Linebacker Spencer Rich made one of the game’s biggest plays when he blocked a punt on the Panthers’ first possession. Nick Hailey recovered the football in the end zone, giving Brentwood a 7-0 lead.
“Spencer Rich is just a baller and he’s playing his heart out,” Granzow said.
Rich also intercepted a second-quarter pass, his third pick of the playoffs.
“He’s been huge for us all year, very talented,” Crawford said. “Really smart player, tough kid.”
Granzow’s touchdowns helped give the Bruins a 21-6 halftime lead.
Robert Giaimo’s 1-yard TD run and Walt Tucker’s conversion run narrowed Brentwood’s lead to 21-14 with 6:30 left in the third quarter, but Bartlett never scored again.
Thomas Day’s 22-yard field goal completed the scoring with 5:10 left.
“It’s a true blessing just to keep on playing with the boys,” said Bruins cornerback John Howse, a Vanderbilt commit. “Our defense did great tonight.”
Brentwood has won five straight since falling to Independence on Oct. 24.
“I’m absolutely pumped, excited and ready to go,” Bruins defensive tackle James Lowe said of the Oakland rematch. “We’re ready to change the narrative for this state championship.”
Brentwood ended Bartlett’s eight-game winning streak. The Panthers played in their first semifinal in 21 years.
“It’s been a true brotherhood here at Brentwood,” Granzow said.