In a world where all streaks and records were meant to be broken, Maryville’s 22-year winning streak against region opponents seemed to be the exception.
A 28-24 loss to Cleveland on Friday put an end to that unfathomable streak, and maybe it should not have come as a surprise. Simply put, the Rebels have not looked like the juggernaut of years past throughout the season.
Maryville is known for an offense that is both efficient and explosive — a rare combination that could give the best defensive coach a migraine.
However, this iteration of the Rebels lacks the consistent balance necessary to match past success. Five second-half passes against Cleveland — three of which came during their final possession with less than 30 seconds remaining — showed Maryville’s lack of trust in its own passing attack, which stems from the untenable situation senior quarterback Matthew Clemmer finds himself in.
The William Blount transfer has been unfairly tasked with upholding the standard set by the likes of Dylan Hopkins, Cade Chambers and Carson Jones without the preparation each of those former stars were afforded.
The sudden transition at quarterback has placed the brunt of the offense on the shoulders of senior running back Noah Vaughn, who has already rushed for 1,166 yards, but even his immense talent has not been enough at times. He rushed for 170 yards in a loss to rival Alcoa and tallied 161 yards versus Cleveland.
It is easy to place the blame on the quarterback — especially at a place like Maryville where the position is synonymous with success — but Clemmer did not commit nine penalties for 94 yards versus the Blue Raiders. He was warming up for a potential game-winning drive when Maryville roughed the kicker on fourth-and-4 to set up Cleveland’s decisive touchdown.
This was a loss shared by every player on the sideline and every coach wearing a headset — all of whom seemed at a loss for words afterward.
The silver lining is what occurred following Maryville’s last region defeat.
After losing to Knoxville Halls and falling to 0-4 in George Quarles’ second season, the Rebels rattled off 11 straight wins en route to the program’s fifth TSSAA state championship.
Two decades of dominance began in that moment.
Some will say that era is coming to an end given the Rebels’ two consecutive losses to Oakland in the Class 6A semifinals and a pair of losses this season, but that is unfounded.
Maryville still has plenty of time to turn its season around like it did in 2000, but it also finds itself on the outside looking in when it comes to the topic of state tournament contenders.
The version of the Rebels that graced Benny Monroe Stadium would be the first to admit it.
“We’re not good enough to overcome second-and-20 and us getting them to third down and then giving them a first down because of a 15-yard penalty,” Maryville coach Derek Hunt told The Daily Times. “There might have been teams in the past at Maryville that were good enough to overcome some of those things, but this team has to play with extreme discipline and execute at the highest level.”