What: Class 6A playoffs opening round
Kickoff: 7 p.m.
Records: Maryville (9-1), Science Hill (6-4)
The season: The No. 1-ranked Rebels shook off a 35-31 loss to Alcoa in the opener and have been picking up speed ever since. Wins over West, 35-6, McMinn County, 41-0, and Heritage, 38-3, followed in rapid succession. Maryville then swept through District 4AAA unbeaten at 7-0, tuning up for the playoffs last week with a resounding, 45-0 torching of Lenoir City. It’s a more physical group of Rebels that seeks to return the program to the state championship game for a seventh consecutive season. A punishing ground game has shared equal billing with an always-stinging passing attack this season.
The Hilltoppers took it on the chin two weeks ago in a 49-6 loss to rival Dobyns-Bennett before closing the regular season with a 62-21 thumping of Sullivan Central. Science Hill and Maryville enter their first-round matchup with no common opponents this season.
Keep an eye on: The Rebels have worked diligently at the ground game this season, and the results have been a triumvirate attack of quarterback Patton Robinette and backs Shawn Prevo and Jacob West that’s racked up better than 1,500 yards rushing between them. Senior Robby Pederson is fast becoming a fourth option. Still no word on whether the Rebels will get top playmaking receiver Desmund Horne (ankle) back for this one. Fellow senior Preston Burnett has ably picked up the slack in Horne’s absence, but Maryville is sure to need him down the road should it advance.