FOOTBALL: Maryville's Brayden Hoy

Maryville’s Brayden Hoy (33) checks the bench for instructions between plays against Powell on Aug. 26.

Brayden Hoy was not that concerned as cramps coursed throughout his body the entire second half of Maryville’s season opener against Heritage on Aug. 20, even as he oozed puddles of sweat and intravenous fluids had little effect.

It was not until it started happening again the following week against Powell that worry set in.

“It was really scary because I didn’t know if I was ever going to get to play again, whether it be this year, college or whatever,” Hoy told The Daily Times. “That’s really all I do, to be honest. I go to school and I play football.

“Looking back after it happened, you realize the depth of it and how dangerous it could be.”

The cause of the severe cramps that sidelined the senior linebacker is still unknown. The creatine kinase levels in his blood were high, as were his kidney and liver function, but multiple doctors were unable to pinpoint a diagnosis.

Hoy was sidelined for three games while searching for answers, missing out on meetings with Farragut, Alcoa and Bearden before being cleared to return against Science Hill on Sept. 24.

“It hasn’t happened much, but I don’t like as a coach when we’re waiting on lab results or we’re waiting on blood work to figure out what’s going on with one of our kids,” Hunt said. “You’re used to X-rays and MRIs, and as long as it’s not their head, you know it doesn’t matter what the results are, they’re going to be OK. But when you’re talking about blood work, you just don’t know.

“That was the scariest part about this thing: the unknown of what’s going on.”

The eeriness has not gone away, but at the moment, Hoy is focused on extending his career to the final week of the season when Maryville (13-0) hosts Oakland (13-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class 6A semifinals.

“There definitely is a big part of me that wonders what it was and if it’s going to come back in the future, whatever that may look like, whether if I’m playing in college or just health in general — working out and keeping my body in shape,” Hoy said. “It still lingers with me, but I think as time goes on, if something happens we’ll try and figure it out, and if nothing happens, I’m sure it’ll go away.”

Being a player-coach

The frustration Hoy felt as he sat on the trainer’s table at Heritage’s Jack Renfro Stadium stemmed from all that went into being able to start for the Rebels that night.

He suffered a bulging disc in his back during the summer that caused him to lose 20 pounds. He gained it all back before the season started only to be sidelined 24 minutes into his final campaign.

“He did everything he thought he needed to do to, he prepared as hard as he could prepare and then all of a sudden here is this tragedy that’s thrown on him,” Maryville linebackers coach Kenny Cobble said. “He didn’t have any answers. It’s not like he got hurt and he could come to grips with that.

“You hate to see him go through that, and you hurt for him, but gosh, he was so resilient. He just kept finding a way to be positive. He stayed tuned in and it’s worked out.”

Hoy knew there was no guarantee he would be able to suit up again, so he searched for a way to remain connected to the team.

He found it in his replacement, junior linebacker Jacob Richmond.

“I kind of felt like I had to take coaching or mentorship-like role, especially for Jacob because he had never started a varsity football game before or even played much varsity football before,” Hoy said. “That was what I was able to do to embrace it and block out all that bad things that were going through my head.

“I think it helped me a lot to have him and try and help him. I wasn’t able to do much in practice, but I could go home and watch film, take notes and talk him through stuff, and having that relationship and seeing how much better he’s gotten helped me get through it.”

Richmond logged 10 tackles, returned a fumble 41 yards for a touchdown and intercepted a Caden Buckles pass to help Maryville win the 93rd Battle of Pistol Creek against rival Alcoa on Sept. 10 in his second career start. In total, he tallied 23 tackles during Hoy’s three-game absence.

The two still alternate defensive series as a precaution to avoid overexerting Hoy.

Hoy believes he can offer more, but he understands the situation — both with his health and the fact Richmond has earned his playing time.

“He’s just selfless,” Cobble said. “Coach Hunt says it all the time, ‘We’re at our best when we don’t care who gets the credit,’ and here he is during his senior year in a situation where it would have been very easy for him to check out, but there he was dialed in and studying and encouraging others.

“What we hope our kids take from this program when they leave after four years is that they’re a part of something bigger. Life is going to throw these huge curves, but he kept stepping up to the plate and knocking it out of the park. It’s a testament to him and his family.”

The edge

Hoy stomped up and down the Maryville sideline, perturbed by the defense’s performance against Farragut a week ago in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

The Rebels held the Admirals to 273 total yards (91 rushing, 182 passing) and did not give up a single play of more than 20 yards, but they struggled to get off the field. Farragut converted six of its 14 third-down attempts and went 3-for-5 on fourth down as it possessed the ball for 30 of the 48 minutes.

To Hoy, it was unacceptable and he made it known. If nothing else, that attitude is what Maryville missed most when he was relegated to the sideline.

“He plays with an edge,” Cobble said. “Defensively, the whole thing is about battling for ground, and he really has a drive and a competitiveness about him that he doesn’t want to give up anything.

“I think that’s infectious, and I think you see other kids take that same mentality of, ‘We don’t want to give up anything.’ Is that realistic? No, but man, if you’re driving toward that, it can make you pretty darn good.”

Hoy experienced some cramps against Science Hill, but there have not been any since. He has totaled 24 tackles over the past eight games, 10 of which have come through the first three rounds of the postseason, a sign he is getting close to being the playmaker the Rebels thought he would be entering the season.

Hoy senses it, too, even with the hint of doubt that has followed him since the unknown that took away the first half of his season.

“I felt great in that (Science Hill) game,” Hoy said. “That was one of the best games I’ve played this year and last year. I had that adrenaline pumping ready to get back in, and I felt good.

“I feel like I’ve gotten so much better since that game, and now I’m playing the best football I’ve ever played.”

Follow @Troy_Provost on Twitter for more from sports editor Troy Provost-Heron. He can be contacted at troy.provost-heron@

thedailytimes.com.

Sports Writer

Troy takes a lead on high school sports coverage and is the beat writer for UT men's basketball for The Daily Times. He's also a regular contributor for The Daily Times on The Sports Page radio show.

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