Friday Night Preview: Catholic at Maryville

When: Thursday

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Records: Maryville (5-1, 3-0), Catholic (5-1, 3-0)

Television: Friday Night Gridiron (Charter)

Previous meeting: This one went down to the wire last season in Knoxville, the Rebels sealing victory, 28-21, on a Lee Bristol interception in the end zone after the Irish recovered an onsides kick with 17 seconds remaining. Maryville trailed, 14-7, at half but rallied on 228 yards passing and touchdown catches by Stian Romberg, Desmund Horne and Clarence Langley. Preston Burnett’s 51-yard catch in the closing seconds of the third quarter set up an 8-yard Philip Juhlin score that put the Rebels ahead for good.

Last week: Class 6A No. 2-ranked Maryville held Superman, Bearden senior and Tennessee commitment Devrin Young, to 80 yards rushing with the Bulldog star entering averaging over 200. Rebel freshman Shawn Prevo gouged the Bulldogs for four touchdowns, with backfield mate Jacob West adding a fifth, as Maryville rolled, 34-14, with the power game.

Class 5A No. 5-ranked Catholic pounded Lenoir City, 35-7, to set up this week’s big battle at Shields. Catholic rushed for 303 yards on 42 carries. Irish quarterback and Division I prospect quarterback Mike Wegzyn had touchdown passes of 41 and 22 yards to Vick Wharton.

Keep an eye on: Catholic’s got one of the biggest high school offensive lines in the world. Seniors Kyler Kerbyson and Joey Gaston are the most talked about, but the Irish have, at minimum, three linemen with major college offers. Wegzyn is supposed to be the real deal. His older brother, Matt, is a tight end at Tennessee. Throwing against the Rebels, though, generally isn’t the best approach. The Maryville defensive backfield of Dalton Curtis, Jay Yoakum, Brandon Johns and Romberg is as good as it gets. It’s in the front seven where most of the fighting will take place. With the line they have, the Irish would be a bit silly to try anything else but the run game, but they might. It can get a little dicey when you’ve got a passing quarterback trying to get a scholarship as well.

Ends Jared Miller and Joseph Watson have been super for Maryville defensively this season. Linebacker Tommy Wilkinson is a very mean young man, and the Rebels shut down the best back in the state last week. Offensively Maryville has become a throw-when-necessary team this season, but junior quarterback Patton Robinette is more than capable of opening the throttles on the passing game. Prevo and West have powered up a genuinely impressive ground game for the Rebels this season. The play-action pass is set up like crazy for this one. Look for it.

With Alcoa, Heritage and William Blount all idle this week, you might want to get there early just to find a place to stand. All grandstand seating will be gone a long time before kickoff.

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