The Maryville High School football team is 1-0 in state championship games when Austin Canfield starts at least a half at quarterback.
The rest of the story was compelling enough for Maryville College to bring the Rebel senior in as its quarterback of the future, Canfield declaring his intentions of joining the Scots this fall during ceremonies at the high school on Tuesday.
For much of spring and fall practice in 2010, Canfield dueled with junior Patton Robinette for the job to replace Philip Juhlin (Carson-Newman) under center. Robinette, a 6-foot-5, strong-armed passer recently offered by Vanderbilt, was such the prototype at quarterback for Maryville’s offense many considered the decision Rebel coach George Quarles had to make a slam dunk.
As late as the season opener with Alcoa, no decision had been made. Robinette got the start, but Canfield, displaying uncanny accuracy and cool when directing the Rebels, played plenty.
“From the beginning, I had to have the mindset I was going to work hard and do whatever was best for the team,” Canfield said.
Robinette eventually won the job outright, but Canfield never backed off, going on to finish his senior season 22-of-37 in eight games played for 284 yards and three touchdowns, against only one interception. More importantly, Quarles said, Canfield never let Robinette’s selection as the starter effect the former’s preparation from week to week.
“He never had a bad day at practice,” Quarles said. “Never did he show anything but class, that team-first mentality.”
That approach would make all the difference last December in Cookeville.
Robinette directed the Rebels to a 21-14 halftime lead over Smyrna in the Class 6A title game at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium. Robinette connected with senior Clarence Langley on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds to play in the half, but, unknown to the Rebel coaching staff at the time, the Maryville quarterback had sustained a concussion three plays earlier. When Robinette was unable to return for the second half, the state championship game was Canfield’s to win or lose.
Before the Rebels left the locker room, Canfield said Rebel linebacker and fellow senior Tommy Wilkinson made sure his mind was in the right place.
“He said, ‘This is what you’ve been working hard for all season. Just go out there and get it done,’” Canfield said.
Canfield’s only completion, a 15-yard toss to Stian Romberg, went for a key first down. By comparison, Robinette would finish only 2-of-3 for 43 yards and the one score in his half of play. With sophomore Nick Myers spelling Canfield to run the option, the Rebels kept the ball away from the Bulldogs enough to extract a 23-21 win and claim the school’s record-tying 12th state championship overall and fifth in the last seven years.
“Austin was in a tough situation all year,” Quarles said, “and he handled it like a champ. He was able to finish off the season and take the final snap.
“He’s the kind of player we’ve won a lot of games with. He’s smart. He understands the game, and he wants to be a coach. Austin will be a great representative for Maryville High School, and I think he’ll be a great player for Maryville College.”