Blount Press Row

The Real McGill

Player of year took teammates with him on championship run

William Blount Middle eighth-grader Parker McGill (No. 5) delivered a transformative season for the Governors. Game Photos by Mandy Street

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Many of the friendships went back years, but that didn’t mean you wouldn’t be held accountable.

“We were all buddies,” Parker McGill, the 2016 Barley’s/Blount Press Row Middle School Player of the Year, said, “but everybody would show up (last spring) and be mean. Nobody was fooling around.”

William Blount Middle running back Parker McGill, the Barley’s/Blount Press Row Middle School Player of the Year, accounted for 21 Governor touchdowns during the 2016 season.

Last fall, that seriousness about the task at hand carried William Blount Middle all the way to the top.

In a thrilling season finale at William Blount High’s Mike White Field, the middle school Govs rallied twice in the last two minutes on McGill touchdown runs to stun Sevierville Middle, 21-19, in the East Tennessee Football Conference championship game.

The win capped a perfect 9-0 season for 3-year-old William Blount Middle, the team comprised of students from Carpenters and Union Grove middle. McGill’s heroics in the championship game were beyond impressive.

Sevierville held the 5-foot-10, 175-pound McGill in check for much of the afternoon. In the final two minutes, No. 5 ripped the Bears for scoring runs of 60 and 65 yards, the winning burst with only seconds to play.

McGill credited blocks by teammates for both scores. All-Blount County selections Grant Lovin and Tyler Brown got him to the corner, Lovin on the first one, Brown the second. On both plays, receiver Blake Fields got the block that sprung McGill to the sideline.

“Blake made the blocks that let me get free,” McGill said. “How do you like that? A 125-pound wide receiver blocking for you.”

Bryston Williams stretches the ball over the goal line for a William Blount Middle touchdown during the championship game.

That, not the numbers, which we’ll get to in a moment, is what makes McGill special, William Blount Middle coach Rick Young said.

“He can flat play the game,” he said, “but he takes his teammates with him. It’s very rare.

“A lot of times you have a player that good, there’s some resentment. Every parent of a player on that team new Parker appreciated what everyone did.”

For the season, McGill crushed it. Check out his Hudl highlights. The quick, super agile speedster ran for 1,305 yards and 18 touchdowns in nine games. He put another 172 yards and two touchdowns in the books returning kicks. As a receiving option out of the backfield, he tacked on a 21st touchdown and another 52 yards.

Did we mention he started at linebacker on defense?

McGill, now a William Blount High freshman, was last timed in the 40-yard dash as a seventh-grader, stopping the watch in 4.49 seconds. That’s plenty fast, but that’s not what sets McGill apart, Young said.

“You can see his speed,” he said. “When he gets out in the open, you’re not going to catch him. What makes him special is his lateral movement. When he makes that jump stop, he’s back at full speed in a step. He’s really good about keeping his head up and seeing what’s going on.”

Nathan Nolan (21) and Grant Lovin converge on a Sevierville Middle receiver.

Young walked away from one of the area’s top youth programs, the Fairview Raiders, to launch the combined William Blount Middle program three years ago. The team went 5-3 in each of its first two seasons. Like McGill, Young said you could see something different was going on last spring.

During conditioning, “The bigger boys would start falling behind,” he said, “and the athletes would go back and get them. That whole group was focused on, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’”

It’s the approach McGill said he and his teammates are taking with them as they launch their high school careers this fall.

“We want to change the culture,” he said. “We want to make it a winning program.”

To do so, with so much wind at their backs, Young said he cautioned each of his departing eighth-graders to keep one thing in mind.

“Play high school football because you love the game of football,” he said. “Don’t play high school football because you’re trying to get a scholarship. Play it so that when you finish four years from now, if you decide not to play anymore, you can say, ‘Boy, I had a blast!’”

After that it’s drive, Young said, a trait McGill possessed like few players he’s coached.

“The big thing with Parker is he’s got the work ethic,” he said. “He works at it.”

It shows.

Barley’s/Blount Press Row
All-Blount County Middle School Football Team

Parker McGill
William Blount Middle
Barley's/BPR Player of the Year

The Barley's/Blount Press Row Middle School Player of the Year led the Fighting Govs in rushing with 1,305 yds and 18 touchdowns. He had three scores of better than 60 yards nullified by penalty. He added an additional touchdown on a 52-yard reception, two more while amassing 172 yards returning kicks. McGill was also one of William Blount's top tacklers at linebacker. (Editor: The championship game was enough for us. Wow!)
Dalton Willis
William Blount Middle
A quiet leader on the defensive side of the ball, Willis led the Fighting Govs from his linebacker position with 75 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss. In East Tennessee Football Conference championship game, Willis was a one-man blitz package.
Job Matossian
William Blount Middle
In nine games, Matossian deposited 91 percent of his kickoffs inside the opponent's 5-yard line, including seven in the end zone. As a sixth-grader, he made a 30-yard field goal. As a 7th grader, he was in range anytime the Fighting Govs were inside their opponent's 30. Matossian was 26 of 31 on point after attempts. This kid could easily be the next Zach Sharp.
Grant Lovin
William Blount Middle
The vocal leader of the team, Lovin tallied 55 tackles from his linebacker position, including six tackles for loss. As a running back for the Fighting Govs, Lovin was a dangerous lead blocker for William Blount Middle. You'll see this guy early at the high school level, and he'll impress you.
Logan Swanner
William Blount Middle
Swaner led the Fighting Govs from his offensive tackle position, grading out at a 93 percent assignment success rate. He ended the season with seven pancake blocks and was awarded the Roadgrader Award by the William Blount Middle coaching staff.
Tim Cummings
William Blount Middle
At 6-foot-1, Cummings dominated from his defensive end position, leading the team with seven sacks. His play on the end of the line, combined with Willis at linebacker on the other side, were the core of a formidable defense. On the offensive side of the ball his strength, height, sure hands and route running made him a dangerous weapon.
Tyler Brown
William Blount Middle
Brown was the consummate team player for the undefeated Fighting Govs. He played linebacker, nose tackle, defensive end, on the offensive line and fullback. He stood out at every position. Returning an interception for a touchdown as a linebacker, Brown had several tackles for loss as a nose tackle and three sacks as a defensive end.
D.J. Burks
Maryville Junior High
If you're old enough to remember former Maryville High Mr. Football winner Toki McCray, Burks is one you're going to want to watch. You'll have to wait a year, though. He's just a seventh-grader. The Rebel quarterback completed 60 percent of his passes. He returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and was a menace at safety on defense.
Thomas Roberts
Maryville Junior High
Roberts is a game changer. At running back, he led the Rebels in rushing. At linebacker, he led them in tackles ... but dig this: In the East Tennessee Football Conference third-place game with Heritage Middle last fall, Roberts carried 11 times for 178 yards, averaging 16.1 yards per carry, and scored four touchdowns. Will be heard from right away at the high school level.
Aiden Higgins
Maryville Junior High
Higgins led the Rebels in catches, yards per catch and receiving touchdowns from his wide receiver spot. From his corner back spot, he was the secondary's top tackler. Only an injury to Rebel quarterback D.J. Burks at midseason prevented Higgins from posting some genuinely monster numbers. Watch this guy at the high school level.
Lou Burchfield
Maryville Junior High
Burchfield is a masher, far and way the Rebel leader in pancake blocks from his tackle spot. At defensive end, he was the team's second leading tackler. Blocking several punts, Burchfield, the defensive most valuable player of the East Tennessee Football Conference third-place game, also paced Maryville Junior High in take aways.
Nate Marsh
Alcoa Middle School
Marsh is major. The Tornado quarterback rushed for a blistering 1,249 yards and eight touchdowns. Through the air came 382 yards passing and five additional scores. We love the two pancake blocks from a QB. Defensively, Marsh had 31 solo tackles at linebacker.
Braxton Baumann
Alcoa Middle School
One of two Tornado quarterbacks, Baumann helped direct an explosive offense. It's on defense, though, as a big-hitting linebacker, where he shined. Finishing with 24 solo tackles, 22 assist and a mind-numbing 20 tackles for loss, Baumann terrorized opposing offenses. Quarterbacks hated him; he had 10 sacks and 10 knockdowns.
Isaiah Cox-Penson
Alcoa Middle School
A tall, rangy receiver with explosive speed, Cox-Penson snared enough passes to finish with 235 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, he collected 27 solo tackles, 17 assists and three tackles for loss, breaking up nine passes to go with two picks. Impact player.
Luke Summerall
Alcoa Middle School
A two-time Barley's/BPR all-county selection, Summerall finished 2016 as the Tornadoes top tacklers. The Alcoa Middle linebacker's 74 stops - 29 of them solo -- are some of the best we've seen. Twenty-two of his tackles were for loss, tacking on 4.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries for good measure.
Elizah Smith
Smith played three years for the Royals and was a standout at nose guard and tight end. He was unstoppable as a nose guard, leading the team in tackles for loss while drawing constant double teams. Had touchdown catches of 79 and 65 yards during a playoff game. Named all-district and All-East Tennessee.
Jordan Blair
Blair was another three-year starter for the Royals. After recovering from a serious injury as a sixth-grader, he distinguished himself on the offensive and defensive line with extraordinary leadership skills and physical play. An all-district and All-East Tennessee pick. (Editor: Way to roar back, Mr. Blair.)
Jordan Taylor
Another of the Royals' three-year starters, Taylor played multiple positions Eagleton. A very intelligent athlete, he play linebacker, cornerback and safety on defense and running back on offense. Eye-popping stat: averaged 22 yards per return returning kickoffs.
Tristan Hurst
Like his fellow all-county Eagleton teammates, Hurst went the distance for the Royals: three-year player. Initially a running back/defensive end, Hurst took over at quarterback in 2016. He excelled in the position, leading the Royals in rushing and scoring while operating the offense with a genuine mastery. He was an all-district and All-East Tennessee selection.
Spencer Williams
Heritage Middle
Williams was the only Mustang to play for three years. He started as a seventh-grader and became the team captain as an eighth-grader. A workhorse at receiver, linebacker, running back and quarterback, Williams hit it out of the park in the opener against Fort Loudon, scoring four touchdowns. He accounted for better than 80 percent of the Mustang's offense. Broke his thumb early in the season and went the rest of the way in a cast. Legit.
Michael White
Heritage Middle
White has been a two-way starter for the Mustangs for two years on the offensive and defensive lines. His aggressiveness led to clutch nights against Rhea County and Eagleton, where he recorded eight tackles in each game, five for lost yardage. Shared co-defensive most valuable player honors with fellow Heritage all-county selection Nick Bryant.
Nick Bryant
Heritage Middle
Versatility was key for Bryant last season. He served as place-kicker, offensive guard, defensive end, nose guard and linebacker for the Mustangs. He excelled in all facets of the game. A natural leader, Bryant shared co-defensive most valuable player honors with fellow Heritage all-county selection Michael White.
Dillion Foxx
Heritage Middle
A two-way starter at receiver and safety, Foxx was a go-to player on offense while gradually becoming a playmaker on defense. A key asset on special teams, he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Foxx lined up in the wildcat and took over at quarterback due to the injury of starter Zack Holliman. A seventh-grader, Foxx was named offensive most valuable player of the year. One to watch.

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