Bear of a schedule: SCHS to face big tests in ’13

Juggernaut Maryville, state top-10s D-B and Bearden make up non-conference slate
Nov. 22, 2012 @ 02:47 PM

The 1927 New York Yankees featured a lineup famously dubbed “Murderers’ Row” for their over-abundance of talent.

Eighty-six years later that name could be applied to the Sevier County Smoky Bears football team’s non-conference opponents.

Coach Steve Brewer released his team’s schedule for the 2013 season on Wednesday, and it’s a doozy.

While the Bears will still play in District 2-AAA, the Inter-Mountain Athletic Conference, gone are the traditionally one-sided matchups with William Blount and Halls — two out-of-conference teams the Bears have routed over the past four seasons.

In their place are the Maryville Rebels and Bearden Bulldogs, two teams — like other non-conference foe Dobyns-Bennett — that finished in the Associated Press’s final Top 10 vote statewide in 6A football.

The Bears will play their season-opener at home against the Bulldogs on Aug. 23.

After an open date and away games against Morristown East and Dobyns-Bennett, SCHS will return home for a two-game stretch against Morristown West and powerhouse Maryville (on Sept. 27).

The team will finish up with games against Cherokee, at Seymour, Cocke County, at Jefferson County and at South-Doyle.

Brewer said Wednesday morning that the Bears need to face a tougher level of competition on a regular basis for the team to reach their goals.

With the four-year deal with Halls and William Blount ending, Brewer said he was looking to improve the schedule and face stiffer competition to raise the bar for his players.

“We need to play teams like that if we ever hope to get past the first and second round (of the playoffs),” the coach said.

Sevier County has gone an incredible 39-8 over the past four seasons, but has managed just a 3-4 record in the playoffs over that time.

In 2009, the Bears lost a first-round matchup with Bearden after a perfect 10-0 regular season. In 2010, the team went 8-2 before falling to Farragut in an opening playoff match.

In 2011, the team did the best it’s done in years, finishing 9-1 in the regular season before reaching the third round of the playoffs, where Maryville handed them an embarrassing 41-7 defeat.

This past year the Bears were again 9-1 in the regular season, only to reach the second round of the postseason and fall to rival Dobyns-Bennett.

The move to scheduling tougher teams in non-conference games could hurt the Bears regular-season standings, which can ultimately play into the team’s playoff chances.

But that’s a risk Brewer said he was willing to take to make the team stronger.

“I like games (against tough competition),” he said. “It’s just that the system the way it is penalizing you for playing good football teams and losing.

“You just kind of have to forget about what TSSAA organizes. You just have to take steps to help your team get better and grow. Games like this will make us battle-tested.”

Under current TSSAA procedures to determine wild-cards for the playoffs, teams are ranked by overall wins first, regardless of the competition they play. Quadrant rankings are also based on overall record.

That means teams are often rewarded for playing out-of-conference games against easier teams, sometimes even schools one to two classes below their own.

Now the Bears will have what will likely be the toughest out-of-conference schedule for any IMAC team, and perhaps as tough as any team across the state.

That should give extra motivation for Brewer’s Bears off-season workouts and spring camp.

“If that doesn’t motivate you, something’s wrong,” Brewer said.