Boyd-Buchanan's football season ended last year with a controversial 21-20 overtime home loss to Friendship Christian in a TSSAA Class 2A quarterfinal. Kyle Thomas, a senior two-way starter on that team, still hasn't gotten over it.
"I think about it every day," Thomas said.
The Commanders won the 2011 state championship. The Buccaneers can do nothing about that now.
What they can do something about is pursue this year's state championship, and the Commanders stand in their way again.
Boyd-Buchanan (12-1) takes on Friendship Christian (11-1) tonight at 8 EST in Lebanon, this time in a state semifinal. The winner will advance to play tonight's winner between Adamsville and Dresden on Dec. 1 at noon EST at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville.
Thomas repeatedly has replayed in his mind his view from along the the goal line last November as Friendship quarterback Brennan Swindoll approaches on a fourth-and-6 scramble with Boyd-Buchanan ahead by six. From his perspective, Thomas sees Swindoll's knee touch down around the 3-yard line before he falls forward, stretches out with the ball and hits the pylon at the front of the end zone along the FCS sideline.
"The referee over there raised his hands and signaled touchdown," Thomas said. "The rest is history."
Or at least it became so after Hunter Anderson's winning extra point.
Now that both teams have navigated through the bracket and a rematch has materialized, Boyd-Buchanan coach Grant Reynolds said he expects his players to be in payback mode. But he doesn't expect that to consume them.
"We're not going to dwell on the past," Reynolds said. "The kids understand that. It's revenge. But once the game gets going, if that's all that's on your mind, you're going to lose sight of what you're supposed to be focused on. You need to stay disciplined with your keys and your reads. Those are the things that have gotten you to this point."
Thomas is one of eight who graduated off last year's team, so the 2012 Bucs have a little different look.
Swindoll, Anderson and others no longer play for the Commanders, who have a different look as well. Along with the graduation losses, they've had a big addition in new quarterback A.J. Long, a junior transfer from Pius X in Bangor, Pa.
"He is their offense," Reynolds said. "He runs it and throws it well. We're going to have to play good pass defense and get a good rush on the quarterback."
On the other side Reynolds said blocking well will be of the utmost importance. He believes the Bucs will have to control the ball and the clock like they did in a 35-21 victory over perennial Class 1A power South Pittsburg on Oct. 12.
Thomas attended that game at South Pittsburg. He regularly attends home games, and he made the trip to Knoxville for the Grace Christian game last week. He's not about to miss this one.
It might take a state championship for his haunting memories to subside. But for the Bucs to get that chance, there's restitution to be gained first.
"I do feel pretty confident," Thomas said. "I think [this year's Bucs are] a better football team than we were last year. I just wish I could be on this year's team. I know I'd want to do whatever it took to take care of what happened last year."
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.