COOKEVILLE — Ravenwood’s student section declared Maryville overrated 20 minutes before kickoff.
It didn’t take long for those students to be proved wrong.
A 69-yard reception by senior wide receiver A.J. Davis on the third play from scrimmage set the tone for a decimation of the Raptors en route to a 42-21 victory Saturday in the Class 6A BlueCross Bowl to claim Maryville’s 17th TSSAA state football championship.
“They were ranked over us in the state and our coaches kept telling us that they really didn’t respect us,” Davis told The Daily Times. “That was in the back of our minds and we just used that as motivation.”
It proved to be fuel for what was already a bonfire.
The Rebels (15-0) missed out on a trip to Tucker Stadium last season after suffering the worst loss in program history since 1957 to Oakland in the Class 6A semifinals.
Maryville avenged that loss by shutting out Oakland for the first time since 2012 last week, but that was just a hurdle in a season-long marathon for another Gold Ball.
Davis got the final sprint started by torching Ravenwood’s Cover 0 defense and senior running back and Tennessee commit Tee Hodge found pay dirt from one yard out three plays later to tally the first score in what would be an offensive clinic.
The Rebels logged 373 total yards and scored touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions to force the mercy rule late in the third quarter and cap their first undefeated season since 2014, which also ended with a victory over Ravenwood in the state championship game.
“We kind of set the standard at the beginning of the season that we wanted to win state, and we worked so hard for it,” Hodge said. “We played as a team. That’s the thing about us seniors. We don’t care who gets the credit. It’s just about getting the job done.”
It was fitting then that every significant play was made by somebody playing in the final high school football game of their career.
Quarterback Cade Chambers was named MVP after completing 13 of 18 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns and 76 yards and two more scores on the ground.
Davis hauled in six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, and fellow wide receiver Ashton Maples snagged a contested 11-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone in the second quarter. Hodge carried it 17 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Middle linebacker Mason Shelton recorded a strip sack deep in Ravenwood territory to hand Maryville a 14-0 lead, and he recovered a dropped snap by Ravenwood quarterback Brian Garcia on the opening drive of the second half that dashed any hope of a comeback. He finished with a team-high seven tackles (two for loss).
All of this occurred while Ravenwood’s student section stood in stunned silence.
The Raptors (13-2) boast six of the state’s top 100 prospects in the Class of 2020 and three of the top 20 in the Class of 2021 according to 247 Sports’ recruiting rankings, but that array of talent wasn’t nearly enough to prevent the Rebel student section from chanting “Start the buses” with two minutes remaining.
The key in that ignition probably could have been turned two minutes into the game.
“I think the reason we played so well is because of how motivated our kids were,” Maryville coach Derek Hunt said. “We talked about shocking them with your energy and effort early, but they were motivated, and that boils to down to them just loving each other.
“As a coach, we try to motivate them all the time and give them all these pieces to play hard, but when they start playing for each other, that’s an intrinsic motivation that I can’t touch.”