Sevier County gets rematch with Maryville
It’s the final score of Sevier County’s first meeting with Maryville back on Sept. 27. This week it’s been taped up throughout the Smoky Bears’ locker room. Nearly two months after that loss, the Bears are getting a second chance against the state’s top-ranked team.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for since we lost to them,” said Sevier County quarterback Luke Manning. “This is what our team’s been working for, to get another shot at Maryville.”
This time the Class 6A heavyweights are playing for a trip to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s state semifinals. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Shields Stadium.
Sevier County (11-1) hasn’t lost since that first meeting and is coming off perhaps its most convincing win of the season, a 63-20 rout of Science Hill last week. But Bears coach Steve Brewer said his team understands the challenge is “huge” this week.
“For our guys to play them (the first time) and see the level those guys play at, to me that’s a lesson,” Brewer said. “We clearly saw how they play this game. Hopefully we did learn from that. We’ll see what kind of a lesson we might’ve learned.”
While Maryville (12-0) is unbeaten, coach George Quarles said his team knows the value of a loss as a teaching tool. He talked to the Rebels this week about how they felt after a tough scrimmage against Ensworth this summer.
“We reminded the kids of the Ensworth scrimmage and just how bad we were beaten,” Quarles said. “We’re a much better team now because of that. We made that comparison. (Sevier County is) much better now.”
Brewer said his team didn’t execute very well in the first game against the Rebels. Sevier County is also much healthier now after dealing with a spate of injuries during the season. Quarles said he’s impressed by what a healthy Bears team has been able to do, particularly last week against the Hilltoppers.
Staying in this game early will be critical with two teams that like to erase all doubt by halftime. The Bears want to avoid the same fate as Science Hill, which saw Sevier County put last week’s game away with 56 points in the first half. The Bears trailed Maryville 38-6 at halftime in the first meeting.
“Maryville’s really good as far as not making any mistakes,” said Sevier County defensive end Seth Arwood. “We’re going to have to compete on the same level as they do. We’ve got to show up big and show up early.”
That’s rarely been a problem in the Bears’ 11 victories. Nearly 20 different players have found the end zone for Sevier County, with new players stepping in when starters have gone down with injuries. Brewer said this team doesn’t care who scores, just as long as Sevier County is celebrating a win at the end of the day.
That focus on team inspires a lot of belief that the Bears can reverse that 55-6 score from September with every player doing their job. It’s just execution that was lacking in the first game.
“I just feel like everybody believes,” Manning said. “Everybody on the team believes that we can do it. It’s not going to be an easy job by any means. We’ve got a really tough Maryville team that goes to the state championship just about every year. But I still have confidence in my teammates and myself and my coaches to call the right plays and to execute well.”