Three state title games can mean the world, even a Jurassic sized one.
The Rebel seniors who have been there as Maryville has won 58 of 59 games set the tone for an epic rally that erased a 21-point deficit and never faltered, just going back to work against a team more like Maryville than many anticipated.
It was T.D. Blackmon who made the offense’s patient resurgence stand up with two huge plays in the span of five snaps, and the sophomore linebacker’s name continues to climb in admiration as the Rebels’ next great one. But it was that senior leadership and bedrock belief in their system, their team, their teammates and their coaches that held the Rebels together when the Raptors were circling like some gruesome deleted scene from Jurassic Park.
Not one of them knew how they were going to get out of this Park full of Raptors, but all of them had faith that given three quarters, George Quarles & Co. would put Steven Spielberg to shame with the ending they’d orchestrate. And they were right.
After Ravenwood opened with the spirit of its pre-petroleum mascot to build that 28-7 advantage there were about 100 true believers, and they were all wearing white shirts and standing on the Maryville sideline.
But from the moment Maryville mounted that 18-play drive to end the first and second quarter, the dinosaurs in the room started looking more and more like fuel for a Maryville engine. The Rebels didn’t score but suddenly one side of the stands had hope again, and the other had little clue what was coming as the insurmountable lead was slowly and surely burned away to a tie game in the fourth quarter.
Ravenwood gambled in overtime, rolling the dice to win it now rather than play into Sunday morning with all the momentum seemingly on Maryville’s side despite the one-play scoring drive that set up the deciding PAT. It was as gutsy a call as there is to make. It may have been the right one, too. It didn’t work out for the Raptors, but the chances of Blackmon or any defender making the first interception of the game in that spot was low. Be it God, luck, the Great Pumpkin or the Q Factor, Blackmon was there for Maryville — to block the field goal try on a drive that ate the final 7:09 deliberately trying to deny Maryville another touch, then on the step-in-front pick to deny the 2-point conversion in OT.
It was about as likely as an asteroid strike, that Rebel rally, and just as impressive.
• Maryville won not just its 30th straight game but had its consecutive victory, by a double-digit margin, halted at 29. Only Blackmon and Oakland in the semifinals had come within two touchdowns of the Rebels during that two-season stretch until Saturday.
• It’s win No. 223 for Quarles, now at a 94.1 winning percentage with 14 losses, less than one per season. Maryville’s seniors graduate 59-1 with only the controversial penalty-call loss to Whitehaven in 2012 held against an otherwise clean slate.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times. You can follow him @TDT_Sports on Twitter. He wrote from Cookeville.