The MASE Phoenix football team earned a little more respect each week of the regular season, which ended without a blemish last Friday (Oct. 29).
The Phoenix completed their first undefeated (10-0) season with a 56-6 win over Bluff City.
Yes, this is the same school that went winless in 2017.
It’s also the school guided by veteran head coach Cedric Miller, who netted his first undefeated season. The feat came in Miller’s first year at MASE after moving over from the now-closed Memphis Academy of Health Sciences (MAHS).
MAHS won the Region 7 AA District championship last season and made it to the third round of the playoffs. All the eligible players from that team enrolled at MASE and brought with them the experience of making a deep postseason run.
Now, MASE is one of the teams favored to make it to Chattanooga for the state championship game.
“It feels good,” said Miller, adding, “We are still not respected. Everyone feels we had a cupcake schedule. We can only play who they put in front of us. I am excited for the kids.”
After MASE’s winless 2017-18 campaign, the Phoenix went 7-4 the next year. The 2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic. Last year, the team finished with a 3-6 record.
As for the lack of respect Miller reference, that largely has to do with playing in a region that generally does not garner much respect.
Still, the Phoenix was ranked third in the state in the final regular season Associated Press poll.
Miller credits the offensive line, which may be the largest in the city, for the lion share of the team’s undefeated season. Kristian Miller, Andrew Wells, Tyler Wren and Charles Humphrey are the core of that line, which ranges from 6’1” to 6’7. And they play a physical brand of high school football.
The offense has averaged 46 points per game, with Kurmaro Brown as a standout playmaker.
“He has been our bell cow this year,” said Miller. (He had 71 touches for 1,033 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has over 1,400 all-purpose yards and 28 total touchdowns. He does it for us in all different ways, offense, defense and special teams.”
Miller noted that he “returned seven starters from last season. The base of the defense was there. We just filled in a few spots. We had six kids that had to sit out last season because they transferred from private schools. They just filled the void.”
MASE scrimmaged against Germantown and Lausanne in the summer. Miller wanted to see how the team would react when they were faced with some adversity. Both schools only scored once against MASE, which has nearly 60 players on the team. The team only had 28 players last season.
As things stand, MASE is in a position to bring the first state football championship to Memphis since the Whitehaven and East State championships a few years ago.
MASE will kick off the first round of the playoffs at Crump Stadium on Friday (November 4) at 7 p.m. The Phoenix will not have to leave Memphis until they play in the championship, if they advance that far. Miller prefers to play his home games at Crump, saying the team feels more comfortable there.
Asked about keeping the team motivated, Miller said, “I challenge them every day. We do certain drills to put them to the test. I try to keep them on the edge. It is hard, but I have had similar problems when I was at MAHS. I just brought those same tactics over to MASE.”
Miller knows that team focus is essential.
“I tell them, we are trying to go 1-0 every week. We will deal with whoever we play. We have West Carroll this week; that is who we focusing on.”