All that sweet-looking Nike gear can’t be that warm.
The 2010 high school football season played to a frosty finale last Saturday night at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium.
Amid cutting winds and freezing rain mixed with light snow, Maryville’s Rebels, clad only in some awfully thin garments, when you really think about it, held off Smyrna, 23-21, in arguably the most exciting game of BlueCross Bowl championship weekend.
“This one is special,” Maryville coach George Quarles said, “no question about it.”
The Class 6A championship was a record-tying 12th for the Rebels, equaling the mark established by rival Alcoa only the day before in a 56-14 trouncing of Goodpasture. The 3A championship was a record seventh consecutive for the Tornadoes, and it was pretty doggone cold on Friday, too.
High school football can often ask a steep price of the kids that play it, and it’s no different if, like the Tornadoes and Rebels, you’re one of the final 16 teams that make it to state or, like Heritage’s Mountaineers and William Blount Governors, your season ended five weeks ago.
And yet, at times, they amaze us.
Heritage didn’t make it to state, but there wasn’t another player in the county who put together a two-game run like Mountaineer junior Chase Cline did earlier this season. Running for 200 yards in a game is a huge deal. Cline did it on back-to-back Fridays.
William Blount quarterback Zach Witt had his appendix removed less than a month before the start of the season. While medical science has made the procedure seem routine, like having your tonsils out, it’s never something to be taken lightly when they remove factory-original equipment from your body.
In the season opener with Sevier County in Week Zero, Witt was under center.
The guys we knew about met, and then exceeded, expectations. Alcoa coach Gary Rankin talked in serious tones prior to the season of the impact senior Darrell Warren would have on the Tornado running game. We sort of believed him. Hard to argue with a coach who’d won eight state titles in 13 championship game appearances prior to Friday.
Warren, who’d spent his previous three seasons at defensive end, pulled double duty as the Tornado starting tailback in 2010 and ran for 1,258 yards and 36 touchdowns. He was named BlueCross Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player on Friday after a four-touchdown performance. He even played some linebacker on occasion this season.
Recently, the Class AA Mr. Football lineman announced a verbal commitment with Chattanooga, where he’ll be joined by backfield mate and fellow senior Taharin Tyson. Warren, Tyson and junior Vanderbilt Hambrick, a finalist for Mr. Football back, would each breech the 1,000-yard barrier this season as Alcoa, with a 312-yard effort on the ground against Goodpasture, finished with a stunning 4,495 yards rushing.
Losing seniors like quarterback Austin Tallant, receiver Steven Isom, Mr. Football finalist lineman Derek Evans, Tyson, Warren and the rest will most certainly tax Alcoa’s chances of winning a stupefying eighth straight next season, that is, until, you give a little thought to what’s coming back.
Hambrick electrified Tornado fans — and few defenses too — with his 16-yards per carry this season, but championships are still won with defense, and there Alcoa has an emerging star.
Sophomore linebacker Jarod Crenshaw was named BlueCross Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player after equaling Tallant with a game-high 10 tackles, a 9-yard sack and a forced fumble. The game’s statistician credited the strip of Goodpasture running back Carter Tompkins to Isom, but it was Crenshaw.
Fellow sophomore linebacker Landon Turbyfill recovered Carter’s fumble and returned it 13 yards to the Goodpasture 17. Warren blasted in from a yard away over right guard five plays later as Alcoa opened the lead to 21-0 with three minutes yet to play in the first quarter.
Crenshaw, most valuable player of Smoky Mountain Athletic Conference middle school championship game two years ago, hasn’t gotten the notoriety players like Hambrick and Tornado sophomore running back/linebacker Ezekial Koko have this season. The state championship game is an awfully nice place to announce your arrival.
“I knew defense was where I could shine the most,” Crenshaw said. “I just had to get recognized somehow. I just practiced hard and (defensive coordinator Brian) Nix prepared us well.
“Coach Rankin told me it was big for a sophomore to get (the defensive most valuable player award).”
The last Tornado to be so honored as a sophomore — former Mr. Football Tyler Robinson in 2007 — is now the starting tight end at Kentucky.
Is an eighth consecutive championship possible for the Tornadoes next season?
“It’ll be a lot of pressure, but I think we can do it,” Hambrick said. “It’s not just me.”
The Governors and Mountaineers also showcased a few newcomers to keep an eye on next season. William Blount sophomore quarterback Tim Green is an awfully quick kid with a super accurate arm.
Governor coach David Gregory will be entering his third year at the helm in 2011, a significant season for any football coach. His juniors next season he’s now seen since they were eighth-graders.
Green was slinging the ball around the field at Union Grove back then. Rising Governor sophomore Marty Rogers was on his way to becoming the first Blount County player to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards during his middle school career. Do-it-all threat Peyton Wall arrives from Union Grove next fall.
Clark Jones started on the offense line as a Governor freshman this season, and you won’t find a better potential college prospect in the trenches anywhere in town.
Next season will also be Brint Russell’s third campaign with the Mountaineers. A true innovator, he’s assembled an impressive young coaching staff. With rising junior Jalyn Haley looking more and more this season like the burner he portended at Eagleton Middle two years ago, Russell may have the backfield compliment Cline needs to go out with a bang next season.
Pressed into service late in the year due to injury, rising senior Chase Everett looks the kind of leader and passer at quarterback who could ramp up to speed in a hurry.
Then there’s Maryville.
The Rebels don’t hold off Smyrna without seniors Stian Romberg, Clarence Langley, Preston Burnett, Brandon Guy, Tommy Wilkinson, Jared Miller, Desmund Horne and Mr. Football kicker of the year Zach Sharp.
Langley collected a critical 21-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds to play in the half, providing the Rebels with what would prove a huge, 21-14 lead when quarterback Patton Robinette was unable to return in the second half because of a concussion. Sharp’s three extra-point kicks pass with little thought until you realize they were the difference in the final score.
Maryville’s lone score in the second half came on safety when junior defensive end and BlueCross Bowl Defensive Most Valuable Player Joseph Watson tackled Smyrna Mr. Football finalist and Pittsburgh commitment Jeremiah Bryson in the end zone for a safety.
Next season, if the Rebels return to Cookeville seeking No. 13, it won’t be close.
Class 6A football met Maryville freshman running Shawn Prevo this season. He ran for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the championship game, missing out on offensive most valuable player honors only because Bryson rushed for 132 yards to go with two touchdowns.
Maryville returns rising senior Jacob West to partner with Prevo again next season. Arriving next season from the middle school to join them will be rising freshman Dylan Shinsky. One word: awesome. You’ll see.
There’s a receiver coming, too. Cody Carroll certainly isn’t going to make up for the loss of Horne, Burnett and Romberg all by himself, but the rising sophomore won’t be an unknown for very long. If you’ve followed Rebel football enough over the years to remember a juke-machine wide out named David Sweetland, Carroll is him all over again.
Why all that matters is Robinette.
Senior Austin Canfield and sophomore Nick Myers performed admirably in the second half at quarterback as Maryville hung on Saturday. The Rebels were a building storm, though, when Robinette left. At 6-foot-5, there aren’t many high school quarterbacks that run like he does. There are fewer further still with his kind of arm.
Put with a linebacking corps that includes rising juniors Will Murrin and Trace Fuller that will be ready to take its places, and next season could easily, easily, be the old Maryville rising.
To the seniors at Alcoa, Heritage, Maryville and William Blount, the Blount Today sports team sends its sincerest thanks for the chance to watch you play. We don’t know how we’re going to get along without Romberg, a staff favorite, but, somehow, we’ll manage.
To those of you coming back in the fall and those of you arriving, see you at jamboree next August.