CLEVELAND — Seth Orren and Matt Brooks are already plotting on what steaks they are eating on Derek Hunt’s dime.
The third-year Maryville coach laid out a challenge that would net his defense a free dinner if the unit scored a touchdown.
Maryville cashed in on the deal for its opening score against Cleveland on Friday and added another defensive touchdown for good measure at the end of the first half — highlights of another dominant defensive performance that led the Rebels to a 49-14 victory over the Blue Raiders.
“He never set a budget,” Brooks joked. “It’s going to be a big bill at the end.”
The Rebels (3-0, 2-0 Region 2-6A) seized their meal ticket on a botched handoff during Cleveland’s second possession of the game that bounced right into the hands of Orren. The senior linebacker was the only player to see the ball and got a 15-yard head start before the offense realized he was going the other way for a 51-yard score.
It was the start of a landslide as Maryville scored 42 unanswered points in the first half, the final 35 of which all came in the second quarter.
Brooks capped the flurry by recovering a Tetoe Boyd fumble and racing down the sideline to score as time expired in the first half, making Hunt commit to a second dinner.
“Sometimes you have to speak it into existence,” Hunt told The Daily Times. “That’s what makes this fun. You give kids something to look forward to, and I’ll be danged if it doesn’t happen twice. I’ll come through because it’s worth it for me.”
While the defense enjoys the fruits of its labor, the offense is tasked with figuring out how to move forward without senior running back and Tennessee commit Tee Hodge if he is unable to play after suffering a right foot injury in the second quarter.
“I don’t know how serious it is,” Hunt said. “We’ll find out more later, but he was walking around, so if misses any time at all, it won’t be long. Obviously, our first priority is to take care of Tee.”
Junior running back Parker McGill ripped a 94-yard touchdown run shortly after Hodge was forced to the sideline and finished with 125 yards on eight carries. Senior quarterback Cade Chambers went 8-for-10 passing to improve his season completion percentage to 73.8 while throwing for 108 yards and two touchdowns on Friday.
Friday marked the third straight game in which Maryville stifled the opposing offense.
Cleveland (1-2, 0-1) logged 90 yards against the first-team defense before it called it a night after halftime. Nineteen of those yards came on the Blue Raiders’ first possession after the Rebels muffed the opening kickoff, and another 49 came on a completion that sailed between the hands of a Maryville defensive back before being caught.
“After the first drive, we got into our groove,” Orren said. “We hadn’t seen an offense like that yet so it was definitely a curveball, but once we saw it we realized how we have to handle different plays. We adjusted and moved on.”
With a Rivalry Thursday meeting against cross-county rival Alcoa six days away, Maryville made it a point of emphasis to focus on the task at hand before boarding the bus to Cleveland.
That was never a problem.
The Rebels had another mission to accomplish first.
“We planned on scoring a touchdown one way or another,” Orren said. “We get two instead.”