Blount Press Row

Friday Night Rewind: Maryville

Senior lineman Wall says it all for state-bound Rebels
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Maryville’s Joel Hopkins bulls into the end zone for a Rebel score behind a block from offensive lineman Josh Wall (51) in Class 6A semifinal on Friday. Photos by Wallace Bowden

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

It was an amazing thing watching Maryville sophomore Isaiah Cobb tightrope the sideline for the game’s first touchdown Friday night.

It was absolutely mind blowing coming to grips with the block that sprung him.

Josh Wall

Josh Wall

Rebel right tackle Josh Wall, all 5-foot-6, 180 pounds of him, set the edge beautifully on the first quarter screen pass, allowing Cobb to slip behind him and reach the boundary.

Forty-six yards later, No. 1-ranked Maryville had the lead and would never trail in a bruising, 27-13 win over No. 2 Oakland in a Class 6A semifinal at Shields Stadium.

“They had a good plan for us on both sides of the ball,” Maryville coach George Quarles said. “Their wing-T almost had us outnumbered. The key to the game was getting stops.”

Maryville (14-0) meets Ravenwood (13-1) in the Dec. 5 BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.

A rematch from a year ago, it marks the Rebels’ 12th consecutive trip to the title game. Maryville, 5A finalist Independence (14-0) and Division II contender Northpoint Christian (13-0) are the only schools to reach their respective championship games unbeaten.

The wins, the championships, 11 in 18 seasons as the Rebel coach, keeping a handle on it all is as easy as focusing on the next game, Quarles said.

“I try not to think about it,” he said. “A lot of great players and a coaching staff that’s been together for a long time has a lot to do with it. And luck. There’s got to be some of that in there. We’ve been fortunate.”

Along with the Cobb score, the Rebels got two Joel Hopkins touchdown runs and a pair of Matthew Cone field goals in winning for the 44th consecutive time. It took a little bit of everything.

Sophomore quarterback Dylan Hopkins settled after a tough start to finish 12-of-23 passing for 205 yards. Receivers Kelby Brock, Brian Tillery and Christian Markham all had key grabs, a 49-yard strike from Hopkins to Brock the play before the Cobb score one of the night’s biggest.

To get a sense of the fight the Rebels had on their hands, check out defensive backs Josh Yoakum (20), Roman Nelson (40) and an unidentified Rebel combine on the stop on super-sized Oakland tight end Ty Nix.

To get a sense of the fight the Rebels had on their hands, check out defensive backs Josh Yoakum (20), Roman Nelson (40) and an unidentified Rebel combine on the stop on super-sized Oakland tight end Ty Nix.

More on that in a second.

Defensively, Maryville and Class 6A Mr. Football linebacker T.D. Blackmon stood in against a truly awesome Oakland offensive line. A Rebel front of ends Matt Young and Trajuan Purty and tackles Blake Oliviera, Colton Murrell and Isaac Keller put in a full night’s work slowing an Oakland wing-T/Power-I run game.

Typical of a win that took a little bit of everything was Wall’s amazing block.

Hopkins and Brock set the stage when the latter shook Patriot defensive back and former LSU commitment JaCoby Stevens up the home sideline, Hopkins hitting Brock over the shoulder for a 49-yard gain.

On the ensuing play, Hopkins took the defense left before a soft toss back to Cobb. Steaming upfield in front of him were offensive linemen Wesley Ferguson and Wall.

“All week long, they (the Rebel coaching staff) were preaching, ’Stay low; stay low,’” Wall said. “I pointed to Wesley to get the first one and I got the second one.”

Still, the Patriots weren’t just big along the defensive front. Much like Alcoa, Wall said, they were giants.

“(Offensive line) coach (David) Ellis has been a big help to me on that,” Wall said. “He was able to teach me to play the line without size.”

Place-kicker Matthew Cone connected on a pair of field goals in the final 22 seconds of the half out of Kelby Brock's hold

Place-kicker Matthew Cone connected on a pair of field goals in the final 22 seconds of the half out of Kelby Brock’s hold.

Oakland answered on the first play of the ensuing series, Brandon Matthews connecting with Zarius Gamble on a crossing route that went the distance for 79 yards. It was all hands on deck from there. A few highlights:

With Maryville unable to the move the ball after the Oakland score, punter Luke Orren switched the field position with a perfectly-timed, 50-yard blast.

Linebacker Dylan Delozier came up with a pair of stops, one for a 3-yard loss, with defensive back Roman Nelson blowing up a third-down screen for a 10-yard loss, as the Rebels made Orren’s punt stick on three plays.

Joel Hopkins punched in from a yard away for a 14-7 Maryville lead with eight minutes to play in the half, but he did anything but walk in.

Cone connected from 31 and 32 yards in the final 22 seconds of the half, the second coming after Blackmon forced an Oakland fumble.

And that was AFTER the Rebels withstood a 15-play epic on the Patriots’ opening possession, Oakland coming away empty on four plays beginning first-and-goal from the 7.

On fourth-and-goal at the 4, Maryville linebacker Hunter Townsend got the stop at the 3.

The Patriots got a second field goal from Aaron Sears to pull within 20-13 with just over a minute to play in the third. Stevens intercepted Hopkins on the first play of the ensuing series, the Patriots taking possession at the Maryville 21. On one of the night’s biggest exchanges, they got nothing.

Rebel linebacker Tyler Zwolinski limited Stevens, taking the direct snap out of the wildcat, to 3 yards on first down.

Drake Martin comes up with pigskin after a Rebel stop.

Drake Martin comes up with the pigskin after a Rebel stop.

Defensive back Drake Martin got the stop on second down to force third-and-6, knocking away a Patriot pass in the end zone on third down.

A fourth-down Oakland pass bounced harmlessly incomplete off the turf.

More than 11 minutes of the fourth quarter remained. There was still gobs of time, especially so after the Patriots deflected a Cone field goal attempt off the crossbar with eight minutes left.

Maryville — 40.8 points per game — has long been one of the state’s top offenses, but it was every bit the Rebels’ fourth-best scoring defense — 9.7 points per game — that got this one home.

Oakland got as far as third-and-14 at its 30 on the possession following the field goal block. There, Young and Purty poured through from opposite sides, Purty collecting the sack. The Patriots punted on fourth-and-18, and the Rebel offense went 62 yards in five plays to put it away.

Linebacker Hunter Townsend watches the final seconds tick away on Friday.

Linebacker Hunter Townsend watches the final seconds tick away on Friday.

Markham rescued a third-and-12 with a 20-yard grab over the middle. Dylan Hopkins kept through the left side to run 45 yards to the Oakland 5 on the next play.

On second-and-goal, Joel Hopkins was not to be denied, cutting hard and bulling his way in over the right side for a 27-13 Rebel advantage with 1:34 remaining.

“I remember last year around this time coach said, ‘Play like you’re running mad,’” Joel Hopkins said.

All in all, just another brick in the Wall for a program on its way to Cookeville in pursuit of its record 16th state championship in the playoff era.

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