Hammontree’s return to Maryville all too familiar
Many moons ago when coach Tim Hammontree wore Rebel Red rather than Heritage’s version of the same color, his Maryville squad hosted an imposing Cleveland team.
The Raiders scored on the first play of every possession in the first quarter, leaving the home stadium eerily quiet.
In an oddly reminiscent scenario on Friday night, Hammontree found himself again at the receiving end of an offensive explosion in which the defending state champion Rebels scored on the first play of each of their first three possessions and threw in a safety for a 16-0 lead.
The final result of 51-0 was not far removed from the rout of 1993, though this time the opposing coaches were more attuned to each other and to the development of their teams.
Although the Cleveland game was a couple of seasons before George Quarles became an assistant with the Rebels, he knew the reference immediately.
The Maryville football program has come a long way since that 70-28 blowout more years ago that most folks care to remember, and Quarles credits Hammontree with getting the positive momentum flowing.
“It’s awkward facing Tim,” Quarles said. “He needs to get a lot of credit for the things that have happened to Maryville High School the last several years.
“When he brought me here in 1995, he’s the one who got it rolling, and we’ve been fortunate to keep it rolling.”
An understatement if there ever was one.
There’s little doubt that Heritage adopted Hammontree as its new football coach with his success at Maryville in mind. As Quarles suggests, Hammontree proved his ability to ratchet a program up to a higher level of competition, and that is certainly what the Mountaineers need now and into the future.
Heritage assistant coach Chuck Prugh, who was a standout at Maryville when Hammontree was coaching there, knows that kind of success doesn’t come overnight.
“Maryville is not much different than when I was here,” Prugh said. “There are a lot of players out here who are disciplined and know what to do and how to do it, so it’s really a model of what we’re trying to teach our kids.
“Our players knew that playing 6A football with 35 guys — what kinds of things that are likely to happen. The seniors have taken it upon themselves to say we can let it go on like this or we can be the group to help these young guys set the school on a different path.”
For Hammontree and his staff, the main ingredient is hard work.
“There is no substitute for work. If we can pull every bit of the energy out of these guys, they will be successful in some form,” Hammontree said.
The message is a simple one but the benefits require time and patience. And on Friday night, the Mountaineers had to look no further than the opposite sideline for a prime example of how that work can pay off.
Dr. Leonard Butts is sports editor emeritus and currently tutoring writing at Pellissippi State.