Maryville has a defense, too

Rebels, Lions to feature two of state's best stop units

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

The task was much simpler five years ago.

Red Bank High School’s football team went as running back Gerald Riggs Jr. went then. The team Maryville’s top-ranked Rebels will encounter in the rematch on Friday in Chattanooga won’t be as easy to solve.

The fourth-ranked Lions again have a feature back in 5-foot-8, 144-pound senior Dee Staton, but there’s so much more to the story this time, Maryville defensive coordinator Jim Gaylor said.

"Actually, they’re very balanced," he said, "which is more of a concern than if they just ran it or passed it. We’ve got our work cut out for us."

The Class 4A clash between the Rebels (12-0) and Lions (12-0) is the state’s feature game as the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association football playoffs move to the quarterfinal round on Friday.

Alcoa’s second-ranked Tornadoes host Sweetwater in a 2A tilt on Friday at Goddard Field.

Both kickoffs are 7 p.m.

The Lions not only have Staton, who rushed for 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 regular-season games, but, in 5-10
junior Jake Ledbetter, 1,800 yards, 26 touchdowns, Red Bank has proven prolific through the air as well. In 6-foot-1, 177-
pound junior Tim Benford, 41 catches, 500 yards, seven scores, the Lions have a budding Division I prospect at one of the receivers.

"They’re as balanced a team as we’ve played so far," Gaylor said, "lots of speed, a lot of balance, a lot of size up front. Anybody they throw it to can score.

"I’d much rather face somebody that’s going to give it to someone (to run) 25, 30 times. With this (Red Bank) team, you can’t just defend one person."

The Rebels and Lions have had their way with five common opponents this season, each issuing a similar thrashing, except one.

Red Bank crushed Brainerd, 77-8, earlier this season, with Maryville holding off the Panthers, 30-26, in a turnover-plagued first-round game two weeks ago. Brainerd struck for a pair of long scoring passes against a Rebel secondary that had given up only three scores through the air all season.

Upset-minded Rhea County would notch a pair of passing scores a week ago as well, but that was after the Rebels had run off 34 unanswered points en route to a 41-21 romp. The final Eagle score came late against Maryville reserves.

The Rebels are going to need a big night from Tennessee commitment Tyler Maples, Stephen Shiver, Tyler Clendenen and Caleb Clement in the secondary. Equally important will be the pressure Dwight Wood, Marcus Engelhardt, Justin Smith, Todd Hollingsworth and Justin Huskey can generate up front, Gaylor said.

In Red Bank’s 28-8 win over West last week, Ledbetter had much too much time to throw.

"They protect him well," Gaylor said. "West didn’t get a hand on him, and he gets rid of the ball really quick."

Few are better at rushing the passer than Wood. The Rebel senior reached Rhea County quarterback Caleb Wilson for five sacks a week ago, three of them coming in rapid succession at the end of the opening half as the Rebels began to assert themselves.

"He’s played a lot of games," Gaylor said. "He does a good job of taking care of what he’s supposed to take care of and making adjustments on the move.

"Not too many people are going to block him very long one-on-one."

The Rebels wield one of the state’s most explosive offenses, entering the battle of unbeatens averaging 38.0 points per game. The Lions have shut out six teams, limiting opponents to 4.6 points.

Both teams have firecracker offenses. How each plays defense will likely decide who moves on to next week’s semifinal round.

Sweetwater at Alcoa
The Tornadoes put it on the Wildcats, 63-20, during the regular season. Inspired by last week’s upset of one-time third-ranked Loudon, Sweetwater is no doubt looking for one more, only the job appears doubly tough this time.

Senior Chris Shiverdecker ripped Christian Academy of Knoxville for 195 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in a half of play last week. Tornado quarterback Randall Cobb threw for 123 yards. West Virginia commitment Kyrus Lanxter turned a pair of Cobb’s passes into scores.

Shiverdecker thrashed the Wildcats for 204 yards and three scores in the previous meeting, with Cobb delivering the haymaker with 215 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Lanxter only caught one pass, but it was an 82-yard score.

Win or lose, this is the Tornadoes’ last home game for 2006, with next week’s semifinal round already designated a travel
date. Slowing Alcoa behind such motivation isn’t going to make it any easier on the Wildcats.

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