With Alcoa and Maryville looking to yet again repeat as state champions, everyone associated with both programs understands the blueprint for a successful season.
“You always got to go hard,” Tornado senior Vanderbilt Hambrick said. “Everything we do, we go a hundred percent and never give up. That’s why I think (the season) is usually a success. We always work hard and it pays off for us.”
It’s proven no different in past years for the defending Class 6A champion Rebels.
“On several levels, the hard work is really important,” Maryville coach George Quarles said. “If you are working in the weight room, then you are going to get stronger and prevent injury.
“Another benefit is the comradery you build. Your teammates are in the weight room with you, and you have to depend on and motivate each other. The conditioning is big as well. The reason we do a lot of the running stuff is so we’re in decent shape when the season starts.”
This year, it starts with a bang for both programs.
The Tornadoes and Rebels will kick off the 2011 season with the inaugural Airport Motor Mile Bowl on Aug. 20 at Maryville’s Shield Stadium. The defending 3A champion Tornadoes will meet Cleveland and nationally-heralded quarterback Chad Voytik in the doubleheader opener at 5 p.m. The Rebels and North Carolina commitment signal caller Patton Robinette follow against defending Division II champion Webb School of Knoxville at 8.
The Tornadoes and Rebels stage the annual Battle of Pistol Creek the following Saturday at Alcoa’s Goddard Field.
From late May and through June, the mindset of both the Rebels and Tornadoes were extremely similar. Both structured their workouts a bit differently, but getting the players stronger and better conditioned were the primary goals.
“For two weeks we went Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of just lifting, with five groups coming in between 6:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m.,” Quarles said. “The third week, the freshmen started lifting, and we began a five-day week as well. Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the same lifting schedule, and Tuesday and Thursday everybody ran at 6:30 a.m.”
The same held true for the Tornadoes.
“In the early summer weeks, we focus mainly on what most of the teams are working on, just the basics; lifting, running and conditioning,” Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said. “This gets guys stronger and better prepared for when our minicamps and practices start.”
“We work out a lot,” Hambrick said. “We do a lot of flipping tires, pulling ropes, running and conditioning as well.”
Two players that stayed in a football mentality to continue improving their games during the dead period were Robinette and the aforementioned Hambrick.
“Our coach wanted us to lift a ton over the dead period,” Hambrick said. “We lifted just about every day, and, in addition, he made out a schedule for us to follow that included different types of workouts.”
Robinette, an ESPN RISE Elite 11 finalist along with Voytik last week at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., said he focused on becoming acquainted with a new receiving corps.
“We got together and threw a couple nights a week and worked out on our own a lot,” the 6-foot-5 senior said. “Coach Quarles and everyone else instilled in us that you work hard and give your best effort every day. In return, you hopefully have success on the field.”
After the dead period, more football geared activities are implemented.
“After the dead period, we have the exact same schedule running and lifting wise in place,” Quarles said. “The big change is we throw. Quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and tight ends throw on Tuesday and Thursday nights.”
“It helps me with getting the ball to the right playmakers and making the right decisions,” Robinette said.
It’s here the seven-time defending state champion Tornadoes deviate from many teams.
“We do things a little bit differently than other teams,” Rankin said. “We start our minicamps once the dead period ends, which includes passing leagues and camps among other things. This is one of the first opportunities we have to get our team on the field, which is very helpful to us.”
Editor’s note: With this second installment, Blount Today takes a look at how the defending Class 3A champion Alcoa Tornadoes and defending 6A champion Maryville Rebels have been spending their summer vacations. A look at the Heritage Mountaineer and William Blount Governor summer programs was featured in the July 21 publication of Blount Today.