One more time

Governors hope for repeat of 2001 shocker

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Dobyns-Bennett is the state’s top-ranked team.

William Blount, competitive in all 10 games during the regular season, travels to Kingsport for a Class 5A playoff opener.
William Blount wins.

The previous scenario isn’t wishful thinking on the part of the Governors and William Blount coach Scott Meadows. It’s
recent history.

The Governors shocked the then-No. 1-ranked Indians, 26-19, when the same variables converged for a 2001 meeting. Friday, the 2006 Governors will look to duplicate the feat.

"I believe we’ve got a shot," Meadows said. "We’ve got to play very fundamentally sound on defense and control the ball on offense. We’ve got to have a good game between the tackles."

The Governors/Indians clash highlights a trio of playoff openers involving Blount County teams on Friday. Alcoa’s two-time defending Class 2A champion Tornadoes host Cumberland Gap at Goddard Field, with Maryville’s two-time defending 4A champion Rebels welcoming Brainerd to Shields Stadium.

All kickoffs are 7 p.m.

The Indians (10-0) confronting William Blount (6-4) are much in keeping with the Dobyns-Bennett team of 2001, then-Governor coach Earl McMahan said. As with this year’s team, few were giving William Blount much of a chance.

"We asked (the players), ‘What are you hearing?’" McMahan said. "They said, ‘We’re going to get beat.’ We asked them, ‘What is your family telling you? How many of you think you can win?’ We asked them to raise their hands.

"There weren’t many."

Everything changed with that Monday’s practice.

"We had everybody write down all the reasons we couldn’t win," McMahan said. "We put them all in a bucket, and we burned them. We said, ‘OK. Now that we’ve gotten rid of that, let’s go practice.’"

The Indians are likely to attack where the Governors have proven most vulnerable this season. Coty Sensabaugh is an elite-class receiver whose older brother, Gerald, is a defensive back with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The Dobyns-Bennett ace has caught 42 balls for 880 yards and 14 touchdowns. Indians quarterback Bo Burton has completed 106 of his 166 throws for 1,584 yards and 18 scores, with three interceptions.

The Indians do just enough on the ground to keep opponents honest.

"They throw the ball," Meadows said. "They put your outside backers and people that run to the ball in a bind. They’ve got a very, very good wide receiver.

"It’s going to be a challenge. They’ve got great speed. They’re fast to the football defensively. It’s almost machine-like, mechanical, on offense. We’ve got to keep the ball out of their hands. We’ve got to do what we do best."

Darran Walker highlights a once collection of unknowns who’ve become stars this season. The Governor senior has torn at opposing defense for 1,229 yards and 15 touchdowns in a year where many wondered if he could compensate for the loss of his older brother and former Governor star Brad Walker.

In senior Mohamed Baskin and sophomore Darrin Garner, the Governors have the speedsters to force teams to defend the boundaries. Garner’s pretty nifty between the tackles, too, evidenced by a player of the week performance in last week’s region-clinching win over Heritage.

The emergence of Tyler Burstrom at quarterback has been key for the Governors. The sophomore signal-caller took the reigns in Week 4, adding a passing element when needed that’s helped open running room for Walker, Baskin and Garner.

Junior Grey Clevenger has proven a solid, big-play receiver, collecting four scores while averaging 24 yards per catch.

The Governors are a last-second defeat at No. 2 Ooltewah and pair of overtime losses to Farragut and McMinn County from claiming the Region 2-5A crown.

"That’s the (region’s) 1, 2 and 3 seed right there," Meadows said. "I think we’ve surprised some people this year."

To add another Friday, the Governors will need big games from Jeremy DeGroodt, Sam Greene, Josh Madden, Andrew Anderson and Thomas Waggoner up front, Meadows said.

McMahan, now an assistant principal at Heritage, believes the 2006 Governors have what it takes for a reprise of 2001.
"I think they’re a team that has that capability," he said. "They just have to take the bus ride up there believing they can win and ignore the hype."

Cumberland Gap (4-6) at Alcoa (8-2)
Region 1-2A’s fourth seed comes to Blount County representing a league that has enjoyed little postseason success. Of the region’s four playoff teams, only Gatlinburg-Pittman, with a 33-27 decision over Wartburg in 2004, has come away with a win. The remaining three teams — Happy Valley (0-7), South Greene (0-7) and Cumberland Gap (0-3) — are a combined 0-17. The Highlanders are 1-3 in postseason play.

The second-ranked Tornadoes routed No. 7 Booker T. Washington of Memphis, 56-15, in last week’s regular season finale. Senior Chris Shiverdecker carried 10 times for 175 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. Quarterback Randall Cobb riddled the Warriors secondary for 198 yards and three scores in a half of play.

Throw in playmakers Kyrus Lanxter, Brian Sommer and Sam Thompson at the receivers, and Cumberland Gap is facing down a lot of firepower.

Defensively, ends Rae Sykes and Bobby Keller, linebackers Bart Hicks, Darrell Tate and Troy Hodge and defensive back Alex Green have been playing lights-out ball of late.

Alcoa has a bigger enrollment than the town of Cumberland Gap — population 202 — has residents. The Tornadoes are likely to roll and roll big.

Brainerd (4-6) at Maryville (10-0)
The Panthers lost, 22-20, to hapless Chattanooga Central in their regular-season finale last week. The top-ranked Rebels are loaded.

Maryville starters have seen the fourth quarter in only one contest this season — a 17-14 victory over Alcoa. — and it’s unlikely Brainerd will be around, at least competitively, for the final 12 minutes Friday.

Maryville quarterbacks Derek Hunt, a senior, and Brent Burnette, a junior, are a combined 100-of-132 passing for 1,812 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, against on two interceptions. Burnette is an unheard of 63-of-86 for 1,243 yards and 11 scores. Throw in a running game that includes seniors Adrian "Tank" Baker and Ryan Singleton, and the Panthers have big job ahead of them.

The receiving corps at Hunt’s and Burnette’s disposal includes co-Tennessee commitments Tyler Maples, receiver, and Aaron Douglas, tight end. Opposite wide out Stephen Shiver, a junior, is likely to follow Douglas and Maples to the Southeastern Conference, and there’s plenty more where that came from.

The Rebels have been robbed of countless shutouts this season when opposing teams have left their starters in against
Maryville reserves, long after the game’s outcome had been decided. In this one, it may not matter.

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