It has been more than a decade since the William Blount football team has given Maryville a run for its money.
Neither coach is putting much stock in that trend ahead of their season opener against one another, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. today at William Blount.
“What I have noticed from William Blount’s scrimmages is they have really improved each week,” Maryville coach Derek Hunt said. “The fact that they kind of hung with Alcoa at the jamboree speaks volumes to us from an opponent’s perspective.”
William Blount tied Alcoa — the four-time defending Class 3A state champion — 10-10 in last week’s Blount County Jamboree.
The Rebels defeated the Governors 55-10 last season, but William Blount is far from writing off the game as an automatic loss.
“They’re a bunch of high school kids. We’re a bunch of high school kids, so you always have a shot to compete and win,” William Blount coach Philip Shadowens said. “What always gives you a chance to win is you compete at a high level of intensity and effort, and you compete fundamentally and you’re sound at what you’re doing.”
Maryville is coming off a 12-2 season, which ended in the state semifinals. William Blount finished 3-7 — one win shy of making the playoffs.
Shadowens is well aware of the talent Maryville boasts. On offense, the Rebels will rely on quarterback Cade Chambers, wide receiver A.J. Davis and running back Tee Hodge — all three of whom are dynamic playmakers who contributed heavily last year.
Chambers threw for 1,046 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 278 yards and two more touchdowns in last season’s two-quarterback system. A Tennessee commit, Hodge rushed for 805 yards and 19 touchdowns on 131 carries while Davis had 71 catches for 867 yards and seven touchdowns.
“They have a talented quarterback, and we know their skill players are very, very talented kids,” Shadowens said. “So the thing you have to do is try to find ways to contain them and make them earn their way down the field — try to limit big plays.”
The Govs struggled on that front last season. The Rebels rushed for 155 yards and threw for 203.
Hodge wasted no time getting things started by returning the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Hunt said William Blount has done a good job putting pressure on teams this preseason, and that aggressive style of defense could pose a challenge.
“They bring pressure from different spots, and it has been really hard to predict,” Hunt said.
“This early in the season it can be a concern for all coaches. How well are we able to execute week one?”
William Blount will rely heavily on junior quarterback Trey Clemmer, who has been a starter since the latter half of his freshman year. Equipped with more experience, he will lead the young offense that has three sophomore wide receivers.
“He’s got a great arm, and he can move around well,” Hunt said. “He does a great job of keeping plays alive, getting out of the pocket and making throws. That’s a concern — being able to contain him and not let him just sit back there and try to find open receivers or it could be a tough night trying to get off the field.”
There is no question who the favorite is, but Hunt isn’t taking this game lightly. He said execution is going to be key.
“No team really has much of their identity staked out yet, so that can make it tough going into week one,” Hunt said. “I don’t have any doubt coach Shadowens will have his kids excited and ready to play.”