Remember the Titans

First-year team wins American Super Bowl; Lil’ Rebs claim fifth straight National title

A lot of the movie is Hollywood.

T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., had been integrated for six years before its Titans rolled to the 1971 Virginia state championship. Star linebacker Gerry Bertier wasn’t paralyzed in an automobile accident prior to the championship game. The 1971 national prep player of the year, with 142 tackles and 42 sacks that season, was injured coming home from the team’s postseason banquet.

The movie Titans trailed, 7-3, with less than two minutes remaining in the state championship game. Yeah, right. Williams waxed Lewis High School in that game, 27-0, with Lewis finishing with minus-5 yards of total offense.

While parts of the 2000 Disney film “Remember The Titans” is based on historical fact — the real-life Herman Boone was genuinely a heckuva coach — if you want to remember some Titans, try these guys on for size.

Running back Cory Childers ran wild in the second half, lighting up the scoreboard for three rushing touchdowns, and the Maryville Titans defeated the Friendsville Falcons, 20-7, in the American League Grasshopper Super Bowl Tuesday night at Everett Recreation Center.

The Titan victory is worthy of note for several reasons, not the least of which being the team is in its first year of play in the league for 7- and 8-year-olds.

Until this season, the PeeWee division Maryville Cubs and Midget league Maryville Bears were the only Parks and Recreation youth teams without a feeder system at the Grasshopper level. Too many players were starting with other programs and never returning.

“Many of these kids had never seen a football before, never mind never having played football,” Titans coach Jason Pride said. “At the start of the season, we didn’t have anybody who knew how to get in a three-point stance.”

That it would be the Falcons the Titans would defeat for the title was also significant. In three previous meetings this season, including a preseason scrimmage, the jamboree and the regular-season opener, Friendsville had emerged the victor each time.

There were signs early Tuesday was likely to be different. The Falcons had one of the league’s top players in quarterback Jimmy Dukes. A strong, ball-control team, Friendsville had suffered one fumble all season before the championship game.

Tuesday, the Falcons fumbled the ball away to the Titans on the first play of their first two possessions. Friendsville would surrender a third fumble later in the half.

That said a tough, stingy Friendsville defense, led by linebacker Rubert Oliver and corner back DeAndre Minor, had held firm, enabling the Falcons to reach halftime in a scoreless tie. With eight minute to play in the third, Childers changed all that.

Cutting behind a block from lineman Dalton Roulette over the left side, Childers streaked 40 yards down the sideline to give the Titans a 7-0 lead. One series later, again behind a big block from Roulette, Maryville’s touchdown machine cut loose on a 48-yard scoring run and a 14-0 advantage.

“We felt like they never adjusted to our unbalanced line,” Pride said. “We felt if we could get one man blocked, it would open that side up for Cory.”

Roulette sprung Childers for both big second-half scores all while playing the game with a broken hand.

“We were fortunate to even have him tonight,” Pride said, “and he played his best game of the year.”

Before the close of the third, Childers would strike for one more, punching through from a yard away to send the Titans into the fourth quarter with 20-0 lead.

“He’s fast,” Jennifer Childers, Cory’s mom, said. “He’s amazing.”

Friendsville, a young program itself, wasn’t about to go quietly.

“I don’t think Friendsville had won a game (before this season),” Falcons coach Derek Dukes said. “They won five this year, and we’re happy to be this far. Hopefully, we’re able to build a program for next year.”

Jimmy Dukes rallied his team with dazzling, 65-yard touchdown run with time waning. The Falcons would get no closer, though, with the Titans running out the clock the last minute of play to seal the championship.

National League

Maryville Lil’ Rebs 40, Alcoa Tornadoes 27

The Lil’ Rebs entered the National League Super Bowl with only a single blemish on this year’s record, a regular-season loss to the Tornadoes, who entered the contest unbeaten. Alcoa even had a coach any 7-year-old would dream of playing for in former Alcoa High School star Shannon Mitchell.

The 1989 All-State tight end remains the only product of a Blount County high school to play in the NFL’s big game, helping the San Diego Chargers reach Super Bowl XXIX in Miami in the mid 1990s.

Tuesday, Mitchell was coaching his son, also named Shannon. On the other sideline, the Lil’ Rebs had the coach who’d founded the Grasshopper league in Blount County more than a decade ago. David Hunt had directed Maryville to the last four National League championships. To avenge the regular season loss to Alcoa, Hunt said he had no choice but to keep it simple.

In the opening half, the Lil’ Rebs skipper had his full-house backfield set up within inches of the linemen in front of them, the intent of the super-tight formation being to make it difficult for the Tornadoes to find the ball carrier before it was too late.

“We run that little Rhino package,” Hunt said. “We have to run it right at Alcoa because they’re too fast.”

It worked, with Christian Markham, Aaron Thurmer and Kaleb Cardwell popping through off tackle for big gains in pushing Maryville to a three-touchdown lead at the half. When Alcoa adjusted in the second half, Hunt returned his backs to a more standard depth, giving them a running head start.

Putting seven players at the line of scrimmage on defense did much to stymie the Tornado offense while the Lil’ Rebs built a lead.

“It worked for us,” Hunt said. “We had to stop them in the backfield because they’re so talented.”

When Alcoa finally got going in the second half, it was simply too late.

Markham and Thurmer would both tally a pair of touchdowns, with Cardwell adding a fifth for Maryville. The Tornadoes got second-half touchdowns from Damien Love, Avery Kyle and D’Andre Johnson.

Mitchell was anything but down following the game. There’s no comparison between his Super Bowl appearance as a Charger and coaching his son in the big one.

“This was more fun,” he said. “These kids are special. They remind me of the group when we came through. If they stay together, they’re going to do some things.”

PeeWee Super Bowl champions

• American League

Maryville Cubs 20, Rockford 7

• National League

Heritage 18, Rockford 0

Midget Super Bowl champions

• American League

Fairview 27, Maryville Southerners 0

• National League

Maryville Rebs 34, Fairview 0

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