Blount Press Row

There Is Another

Cardwell decisive in Rebels/Fighting Govs battle at Union Grove
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Maryville Junior High’s Kaleb Cardwell is tackled by William Blount Middle’s Eddie Brown on Thursday night at Union Grove Middle. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

T.D. Blackmon, Matt Young, Christian Markham, Dylan Hopkins . . .

Maryville Junior High quarterback Cole Grubbs rolls to throw.

Maryville Junior High quarterback Cole Grubbs rolls to throw.

Add Kaleb Cardwell to the list of those sure to cause a stir at the high school right away as a freshman.

Wouldn’t sleep on Cole Grubbs or Michael Buchanan, either.

Cardwell, an eighth-grader, set up one Maryville Junior High touchdown with a blocked punt, adding a second score himself, as the Rebels turned back a stubborn William Blount Middle team, 14-0, in front of a big crowd at Union Grove Middle Thursday night.

Blackmon, at linebacker a year ago, Young, defensive end, and Markham, at receiver this season, all started as freshmen at Maryville High. That’s not easy to do for a program that’s won 10 state championships since 2000.

Hopkins, a freshman quarterback, continues to draw rave reviews from the high school coaching staff in practice. It won’t be long.

Cardwell distinguished himself right away against the Fighting Govs (4-3) with a blocked punt on the game’s second possession. The Rebels (5-2) took over at the William Blount 30-yard line and were in the end zone in three plays – and that’s with a 15-yard penalty for a block in the back that negated a touchdown.

“I got a little push (on the blocked punt),” Cardwell said. “I got through and just tried to make a play.”

Maryville Junior High coach Jay Malone gave credit to special teams coach T.J. Emory in calling for the block.

The Rebels were expecting a tough match up, Emory said.

“If you can get a short field early, you can put them behind the eight ball right away,” he said.

Grubbs, the cool-headed Maryville Junior High quarterback, quickly erased the penalty yardage with a 17-yard toss to Cardwell to put the Rebels in second-and-goal at the 6. William Blount Middle’s “Downtown” Eddie Brown made a gutsy, big hit at the boundary to deny Cardwell the score.

William Blount Middle's ? makes one of the plays of the game with this second half interception.

William Blount Middle’s Jared Young makes one of the plays of the game with this second half interception.

Cole Roberts slipped into afterburner to make it around left end for the touchdown on the next play.

The Grubbs to Cardwell connection proved a game changer time and again for the Rebels. The tall, athletic Cardwell out in the flats has proven a go-to play all season, Malone said.

“We brought that play back for Kaleb because we knew he could be disciplined with the delay (at the line),” he said.

The Fighting Govs, in their first season as a consolidated program of Carpenters and Union Grove middle schools, stiffened defensively after the Roberts score. Jared Young, Joshua Burkhardt, Aaron Mulholland, Daniel Mejia and Brown came up with big play after big play defensively.

“That was one of the best (Union Grove/Carpenters) teams I’ve ever seen,” Grubbs said. “They came to play.”

That, more than anything, is what he’s tried to instill with William Blount Middle since leaving a championship Fairview Raiders youth program, head coach Rick Young said. The brainchild of William Blount High School coach Justin Ridge, consolidating the Carpenters and Union Grove programs simply makes sense, Young said.

“It’s a new challenge, and I love it,” Young said. “The kids have done everything we’ve asked them to do, and I’m proud of them. The boys played their hearts out.”

With less than a minute to play in the half, Maryville Junior High put together a gritty, 50-yard, 12-play drive to open the lead to two touchdowns.

The march included a tricky, hook-and-lateral from Grubbs to Cardwell to Buchanan for one big gain. Buchanan kept the drive alive with a fourth-and-1 run at the William Blount 41-yard line.

From the 2, Grubbs rolled to his left and flipped a soft pass to Cardwell for a 14-0 Rebel lead at intermission.

As stingy with points the Fighting Govs were proving, Ethan Ensley was processing equally negative feelings about the William Blount Middle offense. Big No. 52 finished with a pair of sacks, his second on the game’s final play.

Fighting Govs quarterback ? lets it rip.

Fighting Govs quarterback Drew Blair lets it rip as Maryville’s Ethan Ensley closes.

The Fighting Govs were far from out of it and, on the first possession of the fourth quarter, looked poised to strike.

Jared Young intercepted a Grubbs pass in the end zone and sprinted back to the 50-yard line on the return. Fighting Govs quarterback Drew Blair marshaled the running game and backs Ryan Ballard, Kalib Sugden and Garrett Brackett drove doggedly to the Maryville Junior High 14-yard line.

Sugden twice kept the drive alive with fumble recoveries.

“They’re a solid football team that’s well-coached,” Malone said. “Their kids played tough with more passion and heart than I’ve seen in a while. I know coach Young very well. He’s assembled a good staff and got them playing really well.”

The time remaining becoming a factor, the Fighting Govs were finally forced to put it up and get a quick score. Buchanan intercepted Blair in the end zone and returned the pick 102 yards for a score, the touchdown wiped out by another block in the back penalty.

Again with the ball, the Rebels exhausted all but the final 24 seconds to close it out.

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