Dobyns-Bennett trumped Maryville in time of possession — more than doubling the amount of time Maryville had the ball — but that did not stop the Rebels from flexing their offensive might.
Maryville’s offense was on the field for 14 minutes, 19 seconds, but logged 333 total yards and scored on four of their six offensive possessions in a near-perfect performance that punched the Rebels ticket to the Class 6A semifinals for the 21st consecutive season with a 35-28 victory over Dobyns-Bennett on Friday inside Shields Stadium.
“It took us almost all season to kind of find our identity,” Maryville coach Derek Hunt told The Daily Times. “We have a lot of playmakers, and we played fast tonight. That’s what we tell our kids that we want to do. We executed at a high level, and man, I couldn’t be happier with the way our offense played.
Maryville will face Oakland at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) Friday in Murfreesboro for a spot in the Class 6A BlueCross Bowl. Oakland defeated region-rival Riverdale 39-14. Region 6 champion Brentwood will visit Region 7 champion Bartlett in the other semi.
The Rebels received the opening kickoff and went 72 yards in 12 plays, scoring on a 9-yard pass from senior quarterback Carson Jones to senior wide receiver Nick Dagel to cap a 3-minute, 52-second drive.
It was not indicative of what was to come.
None of Maryville’s other three touchdown drives lasted longer than 63 seconds, and that quick-score capability was never more important than right before the half.
The Rebels allowed season-highs in yards (450), points (28) and allowed four scoring drives of double-digit plays (11 plays, 13, 11 and 16), but one of the few stops they did make allowed Jones to orchestrate a 98-yard scoring drive that gave Maryville a 28-14 lead at the intermission.
Junior wide receiver and safety DJ Burks kickstarted the pivotal possession with a 33-yard catch-and-run. Jones followed that with completions of 15 and 27 yards to Dagel and junior wide receiver Markel Fortenberry, respectively, before tossing a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone to Dagel, who was able to get both feet in bounds for the score.
“We just wanted to push it down the field,” Jones said. “We had a chance to score, and we made a bunch of really good plays through the air. That was a tough play out there, but Dagel made a really good catch with that one-tapper in the end zone.”
Jones was on the money most of the night, completing 14 of his 20 passes for a season-high 259 yards and three touchdowns, taking advantage of a D-B defense that primarily runs man-to-man coverage. The Rebels had five completions of more than 20 yards.
“The way they play man defense, it’s hard to run the ball on them because they’re really good in the box,” Hunt said. “If you can’t make those plays on the perimeter, then you won’t beat them. That was obviously our game plan, and Carson played really well.
“Our offensive line protected him well, and then we made catches on the perimeter and chunked them for big gains.”
Dobyns-Bennett cut Maryville’s lead to seven with a Phillip Armitage rushing touchdown to open the second half, but Maryville senior running back Parker McGill responded with a 40-yard touchdown scamper 63 seconds later.
The Rebels had an opportunity to put the game away on its next offensive possession, but a low snap just outside the red zone forced the drive to stall.
A quick kick pinned Dobyns-Bennett at its own 1-yard line and a 16-play, 99-yard touchdown drive followed. The ensuing onside kick fell through the arms of a Dobyns-Bennett player and Maryville recovered.
The Rebels last offensive possession featured three kneel downs to send it to a seventh consecutive semifinal bout with Oakland.
“I’m so proud of our kids because so many people, and it started back in January, said, ‘Well they’re losing (17 starters), Maryville is going to be down this year,’” Hunt said. “Even when we got into the season and were winning games, it’s like, ‘Well, wait until they get to the playoffs.’
“To battle the doubt mentally, to deal with COVID-19 and still get back to the semifinals, I’m overcome with emotion because I’m really proud of our football team for way they’ve handled this season and proved people wrong.”