Blount Press Row

Class of the Field

Rebels claim record 14th title in memorable show of humility

DSC_0122Maryville coach Geoege Quarles huddles with the Rebel offense during a timeout at Saturday’s state championship game. Photos by Brandon Shinn

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Cookeville – Brian Tillery ran 9 yards to first-and-goal at the Hendersonville 1-yard line with five minutes remaining.

Cody Carroll skips clear of Hendersonville defender en route to Maryville touchdown.

Cody Carroll skips clear of a Hendersonville defender en route to a Maryville touchdown.

Not only were the Commandos about to lose the Class 6A state championship game, and by a sizeable margin, the top-ranked Rebels were a yard away from putting 50 points in Hendersonville.

On four straight running plays, right up the middle, with Maryville reserves streaming onto the field by twos and threes with every snap, Rebel coach George Quarles displayed the most important characteristic of a champion.

Two carries each by backups Jaylen Nickerson and Joel Hopkins could get the ball no closer, and Maryville turned the ball over on downs at the 1 with 3:46 remaining.

Pure class.

“It just felt like the right thing to do,” Quarles said. “If we score, we score.”

The game’s outcome was largely a forgone conclusion by halftime, the Rebels rolling to a 44-7 win on Saturday at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium on the final night of the BlueCross Bowl.

The title was the 14th for Maryville (15-0) in the playoff era of Tennessee high school football, breaking a tie with Blount County rival Alcoa, which won its 13th the night before.

The title pulled Quarles into three-way tie with Tornado coach Gary Rankin and former Brentwood Academy skipper Carlton Flatt for the record for most championships by a coach with 10 each.

Offensive most valuable player John Garrett directs the Rebel offense.

Quarterback John Garrett directs the Rebel offense.

BlueCross Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player John Garrett capped a truly spectacular senior season, his first as the Rebel quarterback, with a night of 13-of-18 passing for 277 yards and touchdown passes to running back Shawn Prevo and receivers Cody Carroll and Kelby Brock.

Garrett, eight carries, 61 yards, would add a 3-yard scoring run.

The Rebel leader started at defensive back in last year’s championship game loss to Whitehaven, Garrett missing much of the season to a bout with mono. His performance this season, completing better 70 percent of his throws, has been off the scales.

“Confidence makes a big difference,” Quarles said. “When you have confidence and come out and play, you’re going to get a chance to be successful.

“He has a great amount of confidence. He’s very smart and a lot better athlete than people give him credit.”

Prevo, the school’s all-time leading rusher, closed a career where he’d been a starter in the Maryville backfield since his freshman season with 18 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns rushing, and the one scoring catch.

School-record holder Shawn Prevo goes up and over the top for a Maryville touchdown.

School-record holder Shawn Prevo goes up and over the top.

Carroll, also a senior, also went out in a flourish, racing through the Hendersonville secondary for four catches, 147 yards and three scores.

“Wow!” he said. “I didn’t know it was that much.”

Brock, a sophomore, finished with three grabs for 32 yards and the one touchdown. Junior tight end Bryce Miller had three receptions for 25 yards, his catches going a long way to spread the Commandos out defensively.

Senior place-kicker Caden Ryding split the uprights with a 29-yard field goal at the halftime horn.

Displaying the balance that has become their trademark during Quarles’ 15 seasons as coach, the Rebels closed their return to the top with 218 yards on the ground to go with Garrett’s aerial assault.

The game’s first four minutes looked every bit like a shootout was in the offing.

Garrett rolled right on third down on the opening possession, firing back across the formation to Prevo, who turned on the magic and danced 51 yards through the Hendersonville defense for a 7-0 Maryville lead.

The Commandos (11-4) hit right back, Bailey Rogers running under a Jeremias Elston bomb for 43 yards to even things at 7-all with eight minutes still to play in the quarter.

Rebel safety John David Mitchell closes on the ball carrier.

Rebel safety John David Mitchell (9) closes on the ball carrier.

“On film, they hadn’t thrown downfield at all,” Maryville defensive back and BlueCross Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player John David Mitchell said, “so that kind of surprised me.”

The Rebel defense stepped it up from there. The Commandos would complete only one more pass on the night, Elston finishing 2-of-9 for 49 yards.

With Hendersonville a wing-T running team, that was pretty much it.

The Commandos could manage only 136 yards rushing on 39 carries as junior defensive end Dylan Jackson, team-best 5.5 tackles, Mitchell, five, and Miller, doubling at defensive end, four, paced a Maryville defense that let nothing else get by them.

“We didn’t lose any faith in our defense,” Carroll said. “They’ve played great all year. We knew they’d get ’em next time.”

Linebacker Dylan Shinksy, defensive back Marcus Brooks, down lineman Kyle Withrow and defensive back Paul Bristol each finished with three or more stops.

“You can’t really describe how well the defense has played this year,” Garrett said.

“Heart” is how Jackson described it.

Dylan Jackson (79) throws off a Commando lineman on his way to the ball.

Dylan Jackson (79) throws off a Commando lineman on his way to the ball.

“We had a bunch of guys come out here and do their job,” he said.

Against one of the state’s toughest schedules in 2013, the Rebels limited opponents 8.8 points per game.

“Last year, statistically speaking, we were not very good defensively,” Quarles said. “I think (defensive coordinator Jim) Gaylor and the defensive coaches took that to heart.”

Working against that defense in practice everyday helped the Rebels average 44.4 points per games, fifth-best statewide among all classifications, Prevo said.

Offensively, as the Commando safeties crept ever closer to the line of scrimmage to slow Prevo, Garrett made the connection with Brock for a 12-yard scoring pass and a 14-7 Maryville lead with six minutes to play in the opening quarter. Carroll went to afterburner on the ensuing Maryville series for a 51-yard touchdown catch for a 21-7 advantage at the four-minute mark of the first.

Carroll enjoyed a senior season to remember, one that included escorting the queen, Maryville senior Carrington Watson, during homecoming.

Carroll enjoyed a senior season to remember, one that included escorting the queen, Maryville senior Carrington Watson, during homecoming.

“I’m used to being the decoy,” Prevo said. “We do the play fake, and John (Garrett) goes for like 80.”

With 10 minutes to play until halftime, Prevo went up and over from the 1 to open up the lead to 27-7, with Garrett running 3 yards for a 34-7 bulge one possession later. Ryding ensured the Rebel two-minute offense didn’t go away without points as the half closed.

“We kept reminding our kids they (the Commandos) were down 20 to Independence,” Quarles said, “so that was in our heads.”

Perhaps fittingly, Prevo finished the scoring with a 2-yard run midway through the third.

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