Blount Press Row

Ten Straight

Defense sparks Rebel rising to again reach title game

DSC_0078Maryville quarterback John Garrett gets the signal from the sideline Friday night at Shields Stadium. Photos by Brandon Shinn

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

When’s the last time Maryville went three and out on three straight possessions on anybody?

Linebacker T.D. Blackman makes the stick on Blaze quarterback Jauan Jennings.

Linebacker T.D. Blackman makes the stick on Blaze quarterback Jauan Jennings.

Has it ever happened?

Didn’t matter.

Luke Orren just kept kicking the Rebels out of trouble. The two Dylans – Jackson and Shinsky – latched onto second quarter interceptions that turned the tide.

The offense put touchdowns behind both picks, and top-ranked Maryville was soon on its way back to the state championship game for the 10th straight time after turning back Blackman, 28-16, in a Class 6A semifinal Friday night at Shields Stadium.

The Rebels (14-0) will meet Hendersonville (11-3) in the BlueCross Bowl finale on Saturday at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

Kickoff is 7 p.m. CST.

Hendersonville held off White Station, 49-41, in the other Friday semifinal.

John David Mitchell cleans up against a Blaze ball carrier.

John David Mitchell cleans up against a Blaze ball carrier.

Down 6-0 after a quarter, Maryville powered to a 14-6 halftime lead behind a 1-yard touchdown run by Shawn Prevo and a John Garrett 7-yard toss to Kelby Brock.

Garrett finished a fiercely accurate 16-of-18 passing for 216 yards and three scores on a night Maryville could do little against a stout Blackman defense running the ball.

Rebel tight end Bryce Miller had a pair of scoring grabs in the second half of 15 and 8 yards. The Maryville junior would later have the final say in finishing Blackman for the night.

Blaze quarterback Jauan Jennings opened the scoring with a 6-yard scamper with two minutes to play in the opening quarter. As it had on its two previous possessions, the Rebel offense went three and out on the ensuing series. Orren negated the damage each time with a series of delightful kicks, finishing with an average of 41 yards per punt.

“They had seven punt returns for touchdowns this year,” Maryville coach George Quarles said. “We really didn’t want to punt to them, but what do you do?

“The good thing was Luke was busting them. He was hitting them pretty good.”

Shinsky picks off a Blackman pass,

Shinsky picks off a Blackman pass,

When pressed, an interception can really rouse a defense. When the guy getting up quickly for the pick was 6-foot-6, junior defensive end Dylan Jackson, it charged the whole Maryville sideline.

The backup tight end on offense, Jackson, a finalist for Mr. Football lineman of the year, returned the ball 15 yards down the sideline to the Blaze 38. Jaylen Burgess burst 14 yards around left end to first-and-goal at the Blackman 3 three plays later. Prevo, a finalist for Mr. Football back of the year, drove through over left guard two plays later for a 7-6 Maryville lead.

The Blaze were poised to take the lead right back, Blackman in first-and-10 at the Rebel 13, when junior linebacker Dylan Shinsky picked off Jennings at the Maryville 8 with 2:57 remaining in the half.

You could see it coming like a truck down a dirt road.

Ten plays, consuming all but the final 33 seconds of the half, culminated with Brock’s diving touchdown catch, Maryville going to the locker room with a momentum building 14-6 lead.

Kelby Brock makes the diving grab for a Rebel touchdown.

Kelby Brock makes a diving TD catch.

“We needed a spark, and that, obviously, gave us a spark,” Quarles said. “From there, we played pretty good.”

The Blaze made it tough for Prevo to find any room running the ball, the school-record holder finishing with 58 yards and the lone score on 17 carries. Garrett helped compensate with 79 yards on 13 rushes keeping on the option.

“They’re just good,” Quarles said, “and we had a tough time blocking them.”

With the ground game largely shut off, Prevo became Garrett’s top receiving target, the former finishing with four catches out of the backfield for a team-best 71 yards. His grabs would do a lot to set up the Miller scores.

“Anytime you have a guy like Shawn in the backfield, the whole (defense) is going to fly to him,” Garrett said.

A spirited Maryville defense, with freshman middle linebacker T.D. Blackman setting the tempo, limited the Blaze to a Blaine Burks 32-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half.

The Rebels went 60 yards in six plays to open the gap to 21-9 with four minutes to play in the third, Garrett hitting Miller over the left side for the points. Charlie Davidson, 16 carries, 104 yards, pulled Blackman within 21-16 to start the fourth.

Garrett rolls to throw.

Garrett rolls to throw.

The Blaze had three opportunities to regain contact the final 12 minutes.

Big stops from T.D. Blackman and tackle Ritchie Koons led to the Blaze going three and out for the first time since their opening possession on one of them. The Rebel defense repeated the feat on a Blackman possession with five minute to go, Brock, at defensive back, breaking up a Jennings pass on third down.

“We just played contain, filled the gaps and made tackles,” T.D. Blackman said.

Miller, continuing the theme double-duty big plays, finished things with an exclamation for Maryville, his sack from defensive end putting Blackman in third-and-21 on its last possession with just over two minutes remaining. A Shinsky blitz on fourth down produced a hurried, incomplete Jennings throw.

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