Rebels capitalize late in nationally televised rivalry game
By John Brice | (email@example.com)
Nick Myers had used the left corner of the end zone for an ESPN-worthy touchdown pass to Logan Winders on Sunday, and the right corner for a backbreaking scoring toss to T.J. Kimble.
Then, Maryville’s junior quarterback handed off the ball to Shawn Prevo and watched Prevo churn into paydirt once more for the final strike in the Rebels’ come-from-behind, 42-24 win against arch-rival Alcoa before a standing-room-only crowd at Shields Stadium and an ESPN2 national television audience.
“I really came out there wanting to beat these guys really bad and make a statement to them and other teams and show them how good we are,” said Prevo, who had 188 all-purpose yards and scored the Rebels’ first and last touchdowns in the program’s 31st-straight win. “I was grinding really hard on that last one, actually. That was to put them away.”
A cleanly contested game that was tied at 21-all through three quarters turned on big plays, turnovers and a Rebels’ defense that yielded more than 350 yards’ offense but bowed its back when most needed.
Alcoa marched to a first-and-10 at Maryville’s 21 with less than 10 minutes to play but had to settle for Austin Wallace’s 34-yard field goal. The Rebels answered with a 55-yard march, initiated by Prevo’s 33-yard kickoff return and capped by Myers’ 1-yard plunge into the end zone. Trenton Shuler also had some key rushing yards and was praised for his blocking.
Maryville then turned two Alcoa turnovers — a fumbled kickoff and Haden Townsend’s interception of Peyton Wall — into a pair of touchdowns to secure the triumph.
“We talked about it Saturday and said, the team that handles success and adversity the best is the one that’s going to come out on top,” said MHS coach George Quarles. “Nobody panicked. I thought our kids handled it, very resilient and kept fighting till the end.
“These kids have a belief in themselves that’s off the charts; they think they can beat anybody, and there’s something to that stuff.”
The Tornadoes similarly did not wilt but simply had devastating miscues at the worst time. Trailing 28-24, Alcoa would have had possession of the ball with 4:40 in the game had its return team not lost the kickoff. Myers hit Kimble to close out that 18-yard, two-play drive on the heels of Danny Finch’s fumble recovery. Townsend’s interception set up Prevo’s sixth rushing touchdown in two games and capped the day’s scoring.
“We fought them for 13 rounds,” said Alcoa coach Gary Rankin. “We just couldn’t finish for 14 or 15. Mentally, the thing on the kickoff should have never happened. I’m proud of our kids. We fought them for a long time.”
Myers would garner MVP honors in the contest after delivering four of defending Class 6A champion Maryville’s six touchdowns and commanding an offense that was turnover-free a week after yielding four takeaways in a season-opening win against Cleveland.
“The first drive, we were all just psyched-out to be out there and we wanted to score on that first drive bad,” Myers said. “Once we did, it just kind of got the ball rolling. We had a couple three-and-outs, and we’ve got to fix that.
“But (Quarles) stressed (committing) no turnovers this week, and the defense helped us out great with turnovers.”
Alcoa never panicked early and threatened to assert command near the close of the first half. Having scored 14 unanswered points on a Wall to Malik Love 64-yard touchdown pass and a 6-yard scamper by Ezekial Koko, the Tornadoes assumed possession on Maryville’s side of the field but saw that drive quickly disintegrate.
“I think we made progress throughout the game against the run, even in the second quarter,” said veteran MHS defensive coordinator Jimmy Gaylor. “We gave up two huge passing plays (Mustafa Anthony’s 47-yard reception from Wall set up the Tornadoes’ third touchdown), which just shouldn’t happen. But we’re fortunate we’ve got an offense that can make up for some mistakes that the defense makes and maybe we can make a play to help them out down the road. I thought we did that with the fumble and interception.
“And holding to a field goal, you don’t want to give up any points, but when they get to the 20-yard line they can run four running plays and be hard to stop. It was good that we held them to that field goal.”
The Rebels inherited possession with less than two minutes in the second but needed to convert just one third down and use only one timeout as Myers, on a broken play no less, scrambled to his left and fired into the end zone for a lunging Winders. Officials congregated and ruled the play a touchdown, determining that Winders had possession in bounds and scored before losing control of the ball out of bounds.
“I was convinced I was in, but it was a busted play in the first place,” said Winders. “I should have ran the route down the middle, but Nick made a good play getting out of the box and put it to where I could go get it. I’m glad I got there.
“We definitely grew up a lot this week, especially on the line. I feel like we’re coming together because everybody was doubting us after we lost all of our starters except Greg (Jones). I was just hoping that would all blend together and the way they’ve done the last couple of weeks has been awesome. They’ve gotten push off the line and the running game has been a lot better.”
Much went well for Alcoa, which had only one punt — a third quick kick — in the game and saw its ground attack amass nearly 200 yards while Wall connected for 175 passing yards. Jaquez Tyson powered in for Alcoa’s final touchdown, and Jarod Crenshaw had 51 hard-earned yards on just eight carries.
The Tornadoes’ three turnovers — Maryville’s Taylor Spivey nearly scooped and scored on a key fumble return — all came in the second half.
“We did a good job mixing our offense early and kept them off-balance a little bit,” Rankin said. “But it’s a four-quarter game.
“I hope so (that the two programs showcased Tennessee football on the national broadcast). Until the eight-minute mark, it was a great game.”
Maryville travels to Knox West Friday to open District 4-AAA play against the team that may or may not have Lenoir City transfer Camion Patrick on the field. Alcoa hosts Loudon Friday in its 4-AA opener.