Tigers use their talent right this time
In all likelihood, the electronic countdown running at the Cookeville exit is wrong, and we as a species have more than 18 days and a handful of hours remaining before the world ends.
And despite a 36-35 overtime loss to Whitehaven Saturday night, it wasn’t the end of the world come a few weeks early for Maryville fans.
There was no question before Saturday night which team in the Class 6A BlueCross Bowl had more talent.
In a rematch meeting of team from opposite ends of Interstate 40, the question was execution.
Hailing not so far from the house that Elvis built, Whitehaven had the talent advantage, as evidenced by its eight players with offers to spend this weekend next year awaiting college bowl game destinations, and if projections from the recruiting services prove true, that’s about one third of an SEC starting lineup in 2014 if the Tigers all went to the same place.
But then Whitehaven had that same talent in 2011 when they lost to Maryville.
Which brings us to the Rebels, hailing not so far from the park that Dolly built. Maryville might have been a little shorter on D-1 talent this time, than the first meeting in this musical rematch, but stars have never defined George Quarles teams.
Maryville has played in nine consecutive state title games, not because its produced the most personnel for college rosters, but because the Rebels’ pride is in executing each play as close to perfection as possible and getting the absolute most out of each player on the field each time. Quarles’ mastery extends into multiple coaching areas, but his staff’s ability to get the players to buy in and build their confidence to make the team sum much greater than adding up the individual weight of its parts.
Saturday was all the evidence a jury would need on that count.
Sometimes not even the best maestro can bring enough out of the orchestra.
Not when the other guy has learned to play.
A year ago, Whitehaven played a sweet rendition of jazz — with 11 guys playing 11 different songs together — and this year they played enough of the harmony and melody of a unified chorus behind Mark Dodson to give Maryville the blues.
When that song was over, Whitehaven had a No. 1 hit.
And while coach Rodney Saulsberry has said that emulating Maryville and its year-after-year success is the goal for his program, looking at a roster that graduates 14 multi-year starters alone, proving this goes beyond a one-hit wonder is something that remains to be seen. It took the pain of loss for the Tigers last season to regroup and take the next step in the program’s climb.
In 2008 it was a second-round loss that took them to the quarterfinals in 2009. It was a 2010 semifinal loss to Smyrna that empowered the Tigers to learn a new tune for 2011’s run to the title game. And it was that loss the forged the commitment to work in chorus for Saturday’s title.
Maryville is built — in title years and not — around the dedication to the team sound. There’s no guarantee the Rebels’ run of 15-game season will continue in 2013, but they’ll still sing and sound the same, even if it’s a new season with a new tune.
And it won’t be a tribute to REM with “The End of the World as We Know It,” because while Maryville may not feel fine this morning, it has 13 titles and six runner-up finishes. It has 19 title game appearances while the Tigers have made 19 trips to the playoffs. The Rebels know how to win in a title game. The also know how to lose in a title game and know how to forget both and move on to the next album.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times. Follow him on Twitter @TDT_Sports. He wrote from Cookeville.