Blount Press Row

Defense Wins Championships

Dylan Jackson: Blount Press Row player of the year

_MG_7512Maryville junior Dylan Jackson paced a defense that finished one of the state’s very best in 2013. Photo/Illustration by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Maryville yielded 19.7 points per game defensively during its run to a state runner-up finish in 2012.

From his defensive end position, Maryville junior Dylan Jackson finished fourth-best among Rebels with 81 stops. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

From his defensive end position, Maryville junior Dylan Jackson finished fourth-best among Rebels with 81 stops. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Gracie's InsideIn 2013, the Rebels cut that number nearly in half – 8.8 points – en route to the school’s record 14th state championship in the playoff era.

Only one defense in George Quarles’ 15 seasons as coach at Maryville had ever done better – 2004, 8.4 points. Only Trezevant – 6.5 points — was better in the state in 2013, the Bears falling just short of a BlueCross Bowl showdown with Fulton with a loss in the Class 4A semifinals.

“Clearly, from one year to the next, it’s one of the biggest improvements we’ve ever had,” Quarles said. “The defensive coaches felt disappointed in how we played (in 2012) and didn’t want to go through that again.”

That broke the tie and made Maryville junior Dylan Jackson our pick as the Gracie Restaurant/Blount Press Row 2013 Blount County Player of the Year.

“I just did my job,” Jackson, a finalist for Mr. Football lineman of the year, said. “I just tried not to do too much and take the plays as the came. Just do your job and you’ll win. That’s how it is here.”

Jackson and player of the year runner up John Garrett, the Maryville quarterback, both had seasons that made them far and away the top two choices. Considering Garrett’s numbers, the decision was a brutal one right up to the day three weeks ago we informed Jackson he was our selection.

Jackson, Kyle Withrow (77), Matt Young (88) and Ritchie Koons wait for the snap against Webb. Photo by Brandon Shinn

Jackson, Kyle Withrow (77), Matt Young (88) and Ritchie Koons wait for the snap against Webb. Photo by Brandon Shinn

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound defensive end announced a verbal commitment to the University of Tennessee just last week.

“His size and athleticism are pretty rare,” Quarles said, “that big and that mobile. Then you put in there his desire — and he’s a very coach-able player – and that’s what you get.”

Garrett’s statistics in 15 games in 2013 are mind-blowing, some of them likely unmatched by any quarterback in school history. Listen at some of this:

Passing – 150 completions of 250 attempts (75 percent), 2,526 yards, 31 touchdowns, one interception.

Rushing – 126 carries, 1,006 yards, 13 touchdowns.

Under Garrett’s direction the Rebel offense racked up a school-record 6,853 yards of total offense, tacking on a school-record 655 total points for good measure. The 44.4 points per game was an increase by almost three (41.7) from a year ago.

Rebel quarterback John Garrett threw one interception in 15 games against 30 touchdown passes.

Rebel quarterback John Garrett threw one interception in 15 games against 31 touchdown passes.

Named offensive most valuable player of the Class 6A BlueCross Bowl, Garrett finished 15-0 in his only season as the starter and was named All-State.

A high school football player doesn’t have that kind of senior year in the movies.

Still, for us, it was Jackson, with what Maryville had to start with on defense in 2013 playing a role.

Maryville returned a pair of terrific playmakers on offense in running back Shawn Prevo and wide out Cody Carroll, both seniors.

Prevo entered 2013 already the Maryville career record holder for rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns and carries. The All-State back and Mr. Football finalist tacked on another 1,337 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior, including a 131-yard, two-touchdown effort in the championship game.

A starter from the first game his freshman season, senior Shawn Prevo finished his career in 2013 as the Rebels all-time leader in carries, rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns. Photo by Brandon Shinn

A starter from the first game his freshman season, senior Shawn Prevo finished his career in 2013 as the Rebels all-time leader in carries, rushing yardage and rushing touchdowns. Photo by Brandon Shinn

Carroll, owner of the fastest 40-yard dash time on the team and an All-State selection as well, had 41 catches for 882 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall, averaging 21.5 yards per catch. Along with Prevo and all-county selections Drew Curtis, center, and Ritchie Koons, guard, it helped the Rebels open spring practice with the some things to work with.

On defense, with Garrett now full-time at quarterback, the only starters back from the 2012 championship game were defensive back John David Mitchell and Jackson.

“I told Dylan he had to be our bell cow,” Quarles said. “I said, ‘You’re the one the other guys are going to follow.’”

That wouldn’t be a problem.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” Jackson said. “We just gritted our teeth and started fighting back.”

It’s there where the magnitude of what Jackson accomplished in 2013 begins to take shape.

Cody Carroll skips in for six at the state championship game. Photo by Brandon Shinn

Cody Carroll skips in for six at the state championship game. Photo by Brandon Shinn

All defenses, whether high school, college or professional, are set up for linebackers and defensive backs to make most of the tackles.

“We’re basically gap-fillers,” Jackson said.

For a down lineman to be anywhere near the top five in tackles at the end of the season is a major achievement. Maryville followed form for the most part, with all-county linebackers T.D. Blackmon (120 tackles) and Dylan Shinsky (105) setting the tempo. Defensive back Chancellor Coates was third with 87.

In the fourth spot was Jackson with 81.

At season’s end, the future Vol was the only Rebel named to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State team for defense.

Jackson’s stock soared with us when we factored Blackmon and fellow Rebel freshman Matt Young into the equation. The play of Kyle Withrow, Koons, Jackson and Young, who began the season at the other end before injury cut his year short, not only kept opposing linemen off Blackmon, giving him time to grow into the job. It lured opposing offenses into a beautiful defensive trap.

Young was no cupcake, but, given the choice of running at him or Jackson, it wasn’t surprising most teams chose the former option.

Jackson sheds a Hendersonville blocker at state. Photo by Brandon Shinn

Jackson sheds a Hendersonville blocker at state. Photo by Brandon Shinn

“In the state championship game, you could really tell,” Quarles said. “There were several times it was obvious they (the Hendersonville Commandos) were going to go to the other side. That helps everybody (on defense).”

Against that backdrop, Jackson distinguished himself on three memorable occasions.

Alcoa went right at Young when the Tornadoes played host to the Rebels in Week 1. On one early first-half play, Alcoa’s Jaquez Tyson took the handoff and headed for right tackle, Young occupying the opposing left end on defense.

Jackson, who won the 40-yard dash for linemen at the jamboree pulling away, scraped down the line of scrimmage from right end and beat Tyson to the hole.

The Tornadoes averaged 44.2 points per game in rolling to school’s 13th state championship in 2013. Against the Rebels, the offense didn’t record a score, Maryville winning, 31-2, Alcoa dodging the shutout on a second-half safety.

“I realized then we were a really good defense,” Jackson said. “I knew we had a good chance of doing something this year.”

Sevier County welcomed the Rebels to Sevierville in Week 4 for what many felt would be a real shootout. The spread-offense Bears possessed near lethal striking power, twice putting up better than 60 points in their first four games, including a 62-27 shellacking of Bearden and a 63-28 rout of Morristown West the week before the Maryville game.

T.D. Blackman works off a block against West. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

T.D. Blackmon works off a block against West. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Sevier County (11-2) averaged 39.9 points per game in 2013, scoring 53 points or better seven times. Nine times the Bears scored at least 40.

Jackson set the tone against Sevier County the first time the Bears snapped the ball, pouring in to bear hug quarterback Luke Manning for a 4-yard sack. Sevier County, at least figuratively, never got off the deck, Maryville rolling to a stunning, 55-6 win.

Eight weeks later, the Rebels swept the Bears from the playoffs, 56-14, in the rematch at Shields Stadium.

Then there’s game, the play, really, that’s not only hard to describe; it’s hard to believe.

Jackson wraps up against Bearden.

Jackson wraps up.

Blackman rolled into Maryville for a late November semifinal a powerful, powerful club. Junior quarterback Jauan Jennings was a mesmerizing three-star prospect, with a punishing ground game backing him up. Defensively, the Blaze were so stout they became the only team all season – maybe ever in the Quarles era — to send the Maryville offense three plays and out on three straight possessions to start a game.

“They have so many athletes on that team it’s unbelievable,” Jackson said.

It was a rare brilliance for the game that enabled Garrett to deliver one of the great seasons for a high school quarterback you’ll ever see. Much the same thing is the reason only a player of Jackson’s caliber could do the following.

With Maryville down, 6-0, early in the second quarter, Jennings faked the handoff and looked right, wheeling back to his left a moment later for what appeared a well set up screen. Jackson wasn’t fooled.

“The tackle didn’t even try to block me,” he said. “I knew it was a screen, so I just stayed put.”

Shadowing the approaching Blaze running back, Jackson jumped the route for an interception, returning the pick 12 yards to the Blackman 38. Prevo scored soon after for a 7-6 Maryville lead.

Defensive back John David Mitchell, defensive most valuable player of the BlueCross Bowl, was one of only two returning starters on defense, along with Jackson, when the Rebels opened spring practice in Feb. 2013. Photo by Brandon Shinn

Defensive back John David Mitchell, defensive most valuable player of the BlueCross Bowl, was one of only two returning starters on defense, along with Jackson, when the Rebels opened spring practice in Feb. 2013. Photo by Brandon Shinn

Shinsky followed with an interception of Jennings on the next Blackman series. Ten plays later, the Rebels led, 14-6, at halftime en route to a 28-16 finish.

Mitchell gave a worthy performance a week later in being named the BlueCross Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player. The Rebel defensive back finished with five tackles and a key pass break up as Maryville beat Hendersonville, 44-7, at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

Jackson finished with 5.5 tackles, two of them for loss.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: '15 TN DE Dylan Jackson (UT commit 1/16/14) - Page 15 - VolNation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *