When Cade Chambers found out he was Maryville’s QB1 — no longer 1A or 1B — he didn’t flinch.
Coach Derek Hunt didn’t either when he learned that one of the quarterbacks he leaned on last season was transferring.
Braden Carnes’ departure for Greenback last month could have left Maryville in a difficult spot. The Rebels turned an unconventional two-quarterback system into a successful approach during the 2018 season and had every reason to believe it could happen again in 2019.
With Carnes and Chambers alternating series, the Rebels won their 18th consecutive regional championship and played into the state semifinals for the 19th year in a row.
Those staggering numbers, however, were achieved thanks to the program being built on consistency, equality and balance — not a single player. It’s why they don’t expect to miss a beat with the quarterback spotlight shining only on Chambers in 2019.
“We knew if something ever happened to one of them, the other one was going to get all the snaps,” Hunt said. “Last year when Cade got hurt, Braden got all the snaps. We didn’t have to talk about it (when Carnes transferred) because he knew exactly what it was going to look like with him getting more snaps in practices and in games.”
Chambers and Carnes spent a lot of time together off the field, too, so they will remain friends. On Friday morning at the Knoxville Football Officials Association's 13th High School Football Media Day, Chambers said he hopes Carnes leads Greenback to a state championship and that he wins the Class A Mr. Football award.
Chambers also said one of his initial thoughts upon hearing Carnes’ news was one of excitement. He’s looking forward to carrying the torch for one of the state’s most successful teams.
“I just think of all the great quarterbacks who came before me,” he said. “It is a high standard you have to live up to as a Maryville quarterback.”
Chambers was up to the task throughout his junior season. He completed 71 of 95 passes (74.7%) for 1,046 yards. He threw 12 touchdown passes and three interceptions. He rushed for 278 yards and two more scores.
That’s part of the reason he has scholarship offers from Tennessee Tech, Austin Peay and Indiana State. He said he plans decide where he will go before the season begins.
Though he has the physical tools and experience to lead Maryville to another regional title and deep playoff run, one thing he’ll miss is being able to talk to Carnes on the sidelines during games.
It’s one thing for a coach to help him fix mistakes. It’s another to learn from a player who is seeing the same things he is from the same vantage point in the heat of the moment.
For instance, when the Rebels played Fulton last season Chambers missed a throw on a dig route. The two quarterbacks spoke about it on the sideline, and Carnes told Chambers to wait an extra half second.
The next time Chambers called that play he waited and then connected with Ashton Maples for a long gain.
Adjustments and execution are important for any quarterback, but linebacker Seth Orren said the intangibles Chambers brings to the field are even more important.
“Cade has always been confident in himself,” Orren said. “That is a huge reason why we trust him. Being confident in yourself makes you more capable to throw it better and run it better. People trust him, and having that trust really builds relationships with teammates.”
In addition to all of that, Chambers will have the luxury of leaning on Tennessee pledge Tee Hodge at running back and Division I-bound wide receivers A.J. Davis and Ashton Maples.
The Rebels also will not have to alter their offense. They ran the same plays no matter who played quarterback last season. It’s a level of comfort Hunt said is a result of the tradition they have built.
“It feels really good to know it’s going to be more of the same,” Hunt said. “At Maryville we try to be very balanced on offense. We try to play a team brand with a lot of guys involved so other teams can’t focus on one thing. That’s the way it’s always been.
“It’s comforting to know that when somebody does transfer or we have an injury we’re still doing the same stuff.”