Murfreesboro, Tenn. — Who says you can’t win ’em all?
Brent Burnette passed for 222 yards and touchdowns, with running back Thomas Shuler recording his third consecutive 100-yard game, and Maryville High School’s football team claimed its fourth straight Class 4A championship with a 28-13 win over Maplewood Saturday night at Middle Tennessee State University.
With the win, the top-ranked Rebels (15-0) capped their fourth consecutive undefeated season, the senior class finishing their Maryville careers an unblemished 60-0.
Maryville joined Alcoa, Class 2A champions the day before, as the only Tennessee Secondary Athletic Association teams to win four in a row. The Rebel crown was the program’s 11th overall, moving Maryville ahead of Brentwood Academy for the record there as well.
“It’s just crazy to be able to go 60-0 like this,” Burnette said.
As the seconds ticked away, Maryville coach George Quarles watched his seniors celebrate.
“You could tell they were feeling it a little,” he said. “For them to get this done … was kind of sweet. You can’t say enough about these kids.”
Burnette was flawless in his final game as a Rebel, competing 15 of his 22 passes for two scores in being named BlueCross Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player. The undeclared Division I prospect connected on a pair of scoring throws to sophomore Chris Jordan of 17 and 34 yards.
Shuler sliced through openings in the Panther defense to finish with 116 yards on 21 carries and one rushing score of 3 yards. The sophomore back would catch a third-quarter, trick-play pass from receiver Stephen Shiver for another score, the 30-yard strike boosting Maryville lead to the final margin.
The Rebels, who’ve now won seven of the last eight 4A crowns, never trailed after taking a 14-3 lead on the Shuler score with six minutes to play in the half.
“Maplewood was a great team,” Burnette said. “They made great plays. We just came up with the right plays at the right time.
“I still can’t believe this is it.”
Maryville went 62 yards in eight plays to take a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening possession. Burnette connected with running back and fellow senior Tim Rodrigues on back-to-back throws to move the drive along. Rodrigues who collect 30 yards of the march with the two grabs, finished his day with five grabs for 61 yards.
“Part of our plan was to get it to Tim out of the backfield some,” Quarles said.
On first-and-10 from the 17, Burnette rolled left, fought off the rush and fired downfield to Jordan for the score with nine minutes to play in the period.
Maplewood (12-3) hit right back with a 4-yard Markus Cantrell touchdown run on the ensuing possession. With six minutes to go until halftime, Shuler scooted into the end zone around left end from 3 yards to return the lead to the Rebels at 14-7.
Undaunted, the Cougars tore right back. Dominique Howard returned the kickoff following the Shuler 37 yards to the Maryville 40-yard line. Three plays later, Cantrell again found the Rebel end zone, this time from 4 yards, as Maplewood trimmed the deficit to 14-13. The extra sailed wide.
Maryville pulled further in front with three minutes until intermission when Burnette found Jordan streaking unattended behind the Maplewood secondary. The 34-yard strike sent the teams to the locker room with the Rebels holding a 21-13 advantage.
“(Receivers) Stephen (Shiver) and Tyler (Clendenen), they draw a lot of attention,” Jordan said. “A lot of their players were going after them. When I saw the safety following Tyler and Stephen, I knew it was going to be wide open.”
The difference through two quarters had been Burnette, who riddled Maplewood’s defense for 175 yards and the two scores on 11-of-15 passing. Shuler’s eight carries for 42 yards and the touchdown kept the Cougars from loading up the blitz. Quick throws from Burnette did the rest.
“We knew they would be bringing a lot of pressure,” Burnette said. “We knew we would have to run some quick hitters out in the flat.”
Tight end Aaron Douglas had four catches for 68 yards at the break, the Cougars experiencing some serious matchup problems with the 6-foot-6 University of Tennessee commitment.
The offense carried Maryville for a half. In half two, the Rebel defense answered the call.
“Our defense stepped up the second half and just made some stops,” Quarles said. “Coach (Jim) Gaylor and the defensive staff have done a phenomenal job putting our defense together.”
The Maryville offense stalled on its first possession of the second half. On fourth-and-11, punter Mark Young set the stage for a finishing stroke when his kick, plus a Maplewood block in the penalty, pinned the Cougars deep at their own 8-yard line to begin a drive four minutes to play in the third.
When a Chris Simpson pass fell incomplete on first down, with Todd Hollingsworth dropping Cantrell after a 1-yard gain on second down, the Cougars went for broke and threw deep. Shiver picked off the Simpson pass at the Rebel 43. It took four plays for Maryville to go the distance.
Shuler raced 24 yards off right tackle on first down, moving the Rebels within striking distance at the Maplewood 33. Two plays later, Burnette toss a lateral to Shiver at the left side of the formation. With Rebel receiving ace Tyler Clendenen pulling the Cougar secondary to that side upfield, Shiver turned and lofted a spiral down the left sideline to a wide open Shuler, who cradled the 30-yard pass for a 28-13 lead with two minutes to play in the third.
“I couldn’t have done it without the blocking,” Shiver said. “I couldn’t have done it without Thomas. I couldn’t have done it without Burnette.”
The touchdown pass was Shiver’s third in a state championship game and fifth overall.
“His passer rating is probably through the roof,” Quarles said. “We don’t always hit those in practice, but it seems like in the game he comes up big.”
A fourth consecutive title within its grasp, Maryville called on its defense to make one last big stop in the fourth. Maplewood pushed hard to close, driving 42 yards in 11 plays to confront a fourth-and-5 at the Rebel 32 with three minutes remaining. Simpson tucked the ball under his arm and got 4 of the yards, only to be stopped just short by Maryville junior Justin Smith at the Rebel 28.
The Cougars were a fierce opponent, Smith said.
“They were big and strong and they blocked until the play was over,” he said. “That running back (Cantrell) wasn’t going to go down.”
Luke Cox, seven tackles, Jeffery Booker, Zach Mobius and Shiver, five each, paced a Maryville defense that came up big when most needed. A record 11th title waiting, the Rebels consumed the final seven minutes with a 14-play drive that culminated with reserve quarterback Aaron Chamberlain taking a knee on the game’s final two snaps.