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‘Passing’ state final
Record-setting CAK air assault crushes Milan for Warriors’ first-ever state title

Franklin Murchison, CAK wide receiver (5), hauls in a touchdown pass against Milan.- Dan Barile/farragutpress
COOKEVILLE — Christian Academy of Knoxville’s pass-happy offense, with a huge Class of 2013 flavor, set a pair of state records Thursday evening in Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

In the process, Rusty Bradley’s Warriors brought home the program’s first ever state title less than 10 years after CAK fielded its first varsity football team.

Charlie High, Mr. Football Back of the Year in Class 3A, set TSSAA BlueCross Bowl records for touchdown passes, seven, and passing yards, 476, as the Warriors (13-2) blistered perennial power Milan 49-14 in the 3A championship game Dec. 1.

CAK junior linebacker Camden Winzenburg, BlueCross 3A Defensive Most Valuable Player (six tackles), hit the high points. “Holding them to 14 points was just amazing, and our offense just blew up the scoreboard,” he said. “Once we beat [Alcoa] twice, I felt like God was telling me, ‘This is your year, this is CAK’s year.’”

High, the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player who proved elusive in the pocket while completing 32 of 41, said his “offensive line really stepped up for us tonight and the receivers just went up and got the balls.

“I wasn’t expecting these kind of numbers,” the junior added. “On film they looked really good.”

Two outstanding catches from junior wideout Davis Howell (game-leading 11 catches for 126 yards and four touchdowns) set the tone: a leaping 35-yard TD grab at the goal line taking the ball away from two defenders in the final seconds of the first half, plus a fingertip diving catch setting up another touchdown.

Other top receivers were junior Josh Smith (seven, 139 yards, one 54-yard TD catch), junior Franklin Murchison (seven, 138 yards, 49-yard touchdown catch) and senior Josh Henson (three, 23 yards). Junior running back Corey Rathbone hauled in a 12-yard screen pass for six points.

Bradley, CAK head coach, praised his offensive line: tackles Brett Kendrick and Patrick Dalton, center William Gass and guards Alec North and Zach Jenkins. “They had zero career starts among them coming into the season. … The way that they have jelled; the job [coach Mark Bradley] has done with our offensive line has just been huge.”

High added, “They’ve ended up becoming the best offensive line that we’ve had.”

Howell said the win “was for the seniors, we just wanted to do it for them.” Seniors were a huge part of CAK’s defensive success, as Milan (13-2) gained just 277 total yards — only 62 passing.

“Colby Maddux [linebacker] set the tone for our defense, a three-year starter; he’s the guy who made sure everybody was in place, in position,” Bradley said.

“Jordan Ritchie [five tackles], to go through what he went through last year as a junior, having to re-learn how to walk and run with what he dealt with, with his battle with cancer; to be able to come out and make plays at free safety for us was unbelievable,” he added. “Clay Powers and Chance Kennedy, two defensive tackles ... did a phenomenal job. Josh Henson [five tackles] did a great job at defensive end, he was kind of our pass rush specialist. Doug Redford at corner … to step in and start and contribute the way he did was great.”

Redford and defensive end Reagan Matlock each had six tackles. Smith killed a Milan drive deep in CAK territory with an interception. Kennedy and Parker Cochran recovered fumbles.


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