Alcoa, Maryville to open 2011 with rare doubleheader

Alcoa and Maryville face off at Shields Stadium earlier this season. The Tornadoes and Rebels will host Webb and a school to be named later to open the 2011 season in the Alcoa-Maryville Kickoff Classic the next August at Shields Stadium.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Alcoa and Maryville face off at Shields Stadium earlier this season. The Tornadoes and Rebels will host Webb and a school to be named later to open the 2011 season in the Alcoa-Maryville Kickoff Classic the next August at Shields Stadium.

It’s been 33 years since the last time they did this.

The Alcoa and Maryville high school football teams will jumpstart the 2011 season with a rare doubleheader, the two state powers combining with Webb School of Knoxville and a fourth school to be named in the inaugural Alcoa-Maryville Kickoff Classic on Aug. 20 at Maryville’s Shields Stadium.

The Tornadoes and Spartans will meet first in the Saturday afternoon Week Zero contest, with the Rebels and the fourth school following. The four teams will move to Alcoa’s Goddard Field in 2012, with the Rebels drawing the Spartans, the Tornadoes the other member of the foursome.

The annual Alcoa/Maryville clash follows in Week 1 each year, the kickoff classic providing an enticing sneak peak at both teams Alcoa athletics director Josh Stephens hopes will prove a must-have ticket.

“I just think it’s going to be a great day for high school football in our area,” he said.

The last time the Tornadoes and Rebels staged a twinbill was the 1977 Class A and AA state championship games, respectively, at Goddard Field. There won’t be as much riding on the outcomes this time, but the championship pedigree Webb adds to the showing should make for some intense football.

“We wanted to get good, quality opponents,” Maryville coach and athletics director George Quarles said. “Webb was a state champion last year and has a good chance of winning it again this year.”

Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said the event should prove a win-win for all parties concerned.

“I think it’s a good thing for our county,” he said. “It should be a bunch of good games, four outstanding programs, so it’ll be a pretty good battle.”

The defending champion Spartans meet St. George’s in the Division II Class A title game next Thursday at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.

“The teams were a big part of it,” Quarles said, “that and the fact we’re basically going to get two home games. You don’t have to travel. You get to stay in Blount County. I think it could be really, really big.”

The Rebels and Tornadoes hold the record for the most Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association state crowns won in the playoff era with 11 each.

Alcoa hosts Elizabethton in a Class 3A semifinal on Friday, with Maryville hosting Oak Ridge in a 6A semifinal across town.

Both kickoffs are 7 p.m.

“Hopefully, we can all make it back (to Cookeville),” Stephens said. “We could have three state champions playing on one field (next August).”

The idea for a season opening doubleheader was sparked by Blount Today Advertising Director Marty Millsaps, Stephens said. The Tornadoes concluded a two-year contract as participants in the City-County Bowl in Bell County, Ky., this season. When Alcoa met the hosts and defending Kentucky 4A champion Bobcats in the 2009, Stephens said Millsaps suggested: “You guys (the Rebels and Tornadoes) ought to think about doing this yourselves.”

Intrigued, Stephens said he ran the idea by Quarles.

“He was all for it,” Stephens said. “I knew if George believed I could pull it off, he’d support it. The thing was finding two teams who would come to play.”

That’s easier said than done for two programs that have done as much winning as the Rebels and Tornadoes have the last 10 years.

Maryville’s 10-7 loss to Hillsboro in the 2008 state championship game snapped a state-record 74-game win streak the Rebels had going. The Tornadoes laid waste to Bell County and Middlesboro the last two seasons, blowing out their hosts by a combined 106-14 margin.

Alcoa welcomes the Cyclones to town on Friday as a six-time defending state champion and riding a 41-game win streak of its own.

“We were really excited to play in this,” Webb coach and athletics director David Meske said. “It’s going to four great football teams. It’s going to be back-to-back games. Our kids are pretty excited about it.”

Webb will return a talented starting backfield next season, including the ever-dangerous Blanche brothers, Caleb, a junior, and Aaron, a sophomore. With sophomore starter Bryan Berube also back, the Spartans will pack plenty of firepower.

“It’ll be quite the challenge for us,” Rankin said, “quite the challenge.”

The classic is just the kind of showcase event Webb has wanted to add to the schedule, Meske said.

“We’re really looking forward to this,” he said.

Stephens put in a great many hours in making the inaugural classic a reality, Quarles said.

“Josh deserves a lot of credit for this,” he said. “He’s the one that’s done all the work.”

Alcoa and Maryville will be the home team in each game each year, a scenario that comes complete with an interesting wrinkle. In the 2011, the Tornado bench will be in front of the home grandstand at Shields Stadium. The following year, it’ll be the Rebels’ turn to tread a most unfamiliar sideline at Goddard Field.

“We’re rivals, and we play each other every year,” Stephens said, “but we really do pull for each other - except for that one game.”

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